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Glenn Beck Poisoning Fox News' Golden Goose

Reported by Ellen - March 15, 2010 -

Howard Kurtz has an interesting column in today's Washington Post (H/T Think Progress) called, "The Beck Factor: Staffers say comments taint their work," in which he notes that Beck has not only caused deep divisions (read: resentment and hostility) within Fox News' ranks but has caused problems with their image and, most importantly, cost the network major advertisers.

Kurtz writes:

By calling President Obama a racist and branding progressivism a "cancer," Beck has achieved a lightning-rod status that is unusual even for the network owned by Rupert Murdoch. And that, in turn, has complicated the channel's efforts to neutralize White House criticism that Fox is not really a news organization. Beck has become a constant topic of conversation among Fox journalists, some of whom say they believe he uses distorted or inflammatory rhetoric that undermines their credibility.

Kurtz then lets these little bombs drop without further follow up:

Ailes has occasionally spoken to Beck about the negative tone of his 5 p.m. program. And Beck, in turn, sometimes seeks Ailes's advice... Publicly, there is plenty of praise. While Beck declined to be interviewed, Chris Balfe, president of Beck's company, Mercury Radio Arts, says that "Glenn and Roger have a fantastic relationship. That's the reason he went to Fox, because of Roger." He adds: "Roger definitely gives Glenn advice on a lot of different things he thinks Glenn could be doing better or differently."

How often does Ailes give this kind of "advice" to his other hosts? One suspects it's not often. Sadly, Kurtz' curiosity did not seem to be aroused by the fact that the CEO of the network regularly feels the need to intervene in one of their flagship shows.

Kurtz also notes other clashes between Beck and Fox News brass:

Last fall Beck wanted to accept an invitation from Jay Leno's prime-time show, but Fox management was opposed. Beck kept pushing and finally got permission to appear on the program in December. A Fox News spokesperson says the network simply wanted Beck to wait until the reverberations from his racism charge against Obama had faded. The executive suite was also rankled last week when Beck spent two minutes of airtime to promote his one-man show at Broadway's Nokia Theater on Tuesday. ...Fox staffers note that veteran producer Gresham Striegel left the network after clashing with Beck and say the host has surrounded himself with loyalists from Mercury, some of whom remain on that company's payroll... Beck has caused such anguish at Fox that some of its journalists celebrated the failure of last week's interview with embattled ex-congressman Eric Massa, which Beck pronounced a waste of time.

Most importantly, of course, is the revenue that Beck has cost Fox:

More than 200 companies have joined a boycott of Beck's program, making it difficult for Fox to sell ads. The time has instead been sold to smaller firms offering such products as Kaopectate, Carbonite, 1-800-PetMeds and Goldline International. A handful of advertisers, such as Apple, have abandoned Fox altogether. Network executives say they believe they could charge higher rates if the host were more widely acceptable to advertisers.

It's hard to see how this path can lead to a happy ending. As Aunty Em noted, in a prediction that 2010 will not be a good one for Beck, Beck needs to keep coming up with new targets to smear with his histrionic invective. While it may keep his ratings up, that will do nothing for the larger interests of Fox News (their revenue and their credibility) which are already at odds with Beck. Under these circumstances, how much longer until Fox News' golden goose juggernaut openly recognizes that Beck is just laying eggs?