Glenn Beck and Fox New have parted ways.
But why now?
After weeks of rumours, and stories, and very public jockeying, the news arrived today arguably somewhat sooner than expected — Beck’s contract with Fox doesn’t end until the end of the year.
The phrasing of the announcement, an exercise in PR speak if there ever was one, suggests the decision was arrived at somewhat sooner than expected, and that the ramped up rhetoric in the last few weeks was in anticipation this might happen.
Here’s what the announcement doesn’t answer: When will Glenn Beck get off the air.
Here’s what else it doesn’t answer: Whose decision it was to jump.
On the surface, the tone of the announcement strikes as entirely friendly. There are many mentions made of Beck’s strong ratings — and make no mistake, they remain strong, stunningly so for a 5PM show. And Beck and Ailes are both quoted saying nice things about each other.
Also revealed is the news that Beck’s company Mercury Radio and Fox will work together to produce a “variety of television projects for air on the FOX News Channel as well as content for other platforms including FOX News’ digital properties.”
This suggests, at least superficially, that Fox is aware of the influence Beck wields and is not eager to burn bridges.
As noted by the NYT a few weeks ago Beck has been introducing original programming on his Insider Website, so an extension of this onto FOX also makes sense for Beck.
Whether or not it happens may be another question.
One person who has worked with Ailes before told us that when Ailes says ” I look forward to continuing to work with him” what he really means is “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”
They also relayed to us the rumour (entirely unconfirmed) that it was Wendi Murdoch who was most uncomfortable with Beck and pressured husband Rupert to make a move.
But what is really going on? You don’t leave a platform like Fox, nor lose a ratings powerhouse like Beck willy nilly.
There are no shortage of people leaping in to take credit and point the finger squarely at Beck.
Media Matters, who devotes the majority of their extensive anti-Fox coverage to all things Beck, immediately released a statement from founder saying that “The Only Surprise Is That It Took Fox News Months To Reach This Decision.”
The Jewish Funds for Justice, the group that ran the ad in the Wall St. Journal signed by all rabbis that was then denounced by the Anti-Defamation League, thinks Beck got fired because “he has been rejected by Jews.” In a word, no.
Beck and Fox are parting ways because Beck had too much power and Fox couldn’t control him.
It’s not exactly a secret that Beck was unhappy with many aspects of Fox’s tightly controlled (and not always friendly) media machine and was eager to be free of it.
As I’ve noted numerous times, Beck employs his own PR firm outside of Fox’s famous PR team. It is they, not Fox (who, in my experience, have rarely to never reached out on behalf of Beck, particularly after he began announcing things like his 100 Year Plan and really started gaining steam) who deal with Beck’s many public relations.
Fox likes to wield absolute control over their stars. Glenn Beck, whose office is outside the Fox building, and whose many media holdings put him on track to become some sort of media mogul in his own right, has increasingly been outside of their control.
It’s perhaps not a coincidence that Fox News’ website has been noticeably stepping up its game ever since Beck’s site The Blaze launched last year.
People are very focused on Beck’s loss of advertisers and the crazier statements he’s made (the one that pops up with most frequency is the time he called Obama a racist, even though that happened way back in July of 2009) as the impetus for this parting. And surely they were contributing factors.
But tune into Fox and Friends in the morning and you will quickly hear plenty of people say incredibly offensive things on Fox every single day — the difference is that should Fox want to rein them in they are generally able to do so. Less so with Beck.
So to say this was a mutual decision is likely far more accurate.
For Beck it’s almost a lateral move — this is no Keith Olbermann we are talking about, Beck has an entire media empire waiting for him and will likely become his own case study in what a new media world might look like once stars become less dependent on traditional cable platforms.
For Fox it means they no longer have to answer for someone who doesn’t like to answer to them.
What remains uncertain is when that move will take place. By all accounts the details of Beck’s “transition” have yet to be hammered out and no one is quite certain when Beck will depart. Will he still be on in a week? Good question. One thing is for certain, Fox will not see ratings like that for a long time to come.