Glenn Beck and Fox called things off yesterday, and while Beck himself would like to frame it as him "transitioning into a role as a producer, speculation is swirling that he was fired, quit, or was forced out for bad ratings. Let's take a look at some of the rumors about Beck's departure and see if we can make some sense of them.
Beck is too darned crazy. Beck articulated this the best on his own radio show, as reported on his own Web site, in response to David Carr's New York Times piece about him perhaps leaving the network: "Glenn Beck is crazy. He’s dangerous. And nobody’s watching because he’s crazy and dangerous. And now he’s so crazy and dangerous that even Fox that’s crazy and dangerous can’t even have him or his crazy and the dangerous fans around.” That would seem to sum it up, but New York Daily News's Joanna Molloy isn't buying it. "Murdoch and Ailes didn't oust Beck when he said financier George Soros helped Nazis steal from fellow Jews when he was a 14-year-old hiding in Hungary. Or in February, when Beck likened Reform rabbis to proponents of radical Islam. No, it was only after the increasingly kooky conservative started losing money as big-name advertising dried up that Murdoch and Ailes decide to give Beck the bum's rush."
Beck's ratings are dropping: Perhaps for the reason stated above, Beck's ratings have been sliding steadily since his summer rally in Washington, D.C. That's been the conclusion of most media watchers, such as the Associated Press's David Bauder, who called Beck a "quick burn" for Fox. "Beck's 5 p.m. ET show averaged 2.7 million viewers during the first three months of 2010, and was at just under 2 million for the same period this year, the Nielsen Co. said. His decline was sharper among younger viewers sought by advertisers." Beck, for his part, has pointed out that his ratings still remain comparatively high. His Web site notes: "he is beating every single show on CNN, Headline News, and MSNBC (including primetime)."
Ratings don't matter when your advertisers pull out. Back in 2009, Beck said President Barack Obama had a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture." That caused more than a few advertisers to boycott the show, and it's never really recovered. At one point, it was reported that the boycott was costing Fox News $600,000 per week. As Bauder notes, it kind of doesn't matter whether Beck quit or got fired. Both worked for Fox: " 'Half of the headlines say he's been canceled,' Ailes said. 'The other half say he quit. We're pretty happy with both of them.' "
It's time for Beck to spread his wings and fly. At Salon, Alex Pareene suggests Beck's departure was inevitable, and may be the best thing for the host. "Because Beck makes most of his money outside of Fox, and because his show does not make very much money for Fox, this was basically inevitable. Now Beck will start his own cable channel or Internet video news channel or possibly star in a cartoon about himself."