Tuesday, 05 April 2011

Beck May Leave Fox News and Pursue Own Channel

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Speculation over the length of conservative pundit Glenn Beck’s tenure at Fox News has pervaded media circles and conservative blogs almost since the first days of his appearance on the news channel. As Beck’s contract is set to expire in December of this year, it appears more likely that Beck may leave Fox News and possibly start his own channel.

The New York Times writes:

Were Mr. Beck to set off on his own, it would be a landmark moment for the media industry, reflecting a shift in the balance of power between media institutions and the personal brands of people they employ.

Speculators point to reports that senior Fox News executive Joel Cheatwood will be joining Glenn Beck’s growing media company, Mercury Radio Arts. The company has recently added staff, increased its Web productions, and is now charging a monthly subscription for access to his shows.

While the possibility of a contract renewal with Fox News is certainly still present, tensions between the talk show host and the news station have escalated.

Much of the dissension stems from Beck’s movement away from neoconservatism and towards constitutional conservatism (sometimes called paleoconservatism).

Politico reports, “Beck’s behavior has increasingly drawn fire from conservatives concerned about his influence in their movement, while facing mounting speculation about the future of his Fox News television show.”

Additionally, Beck ostracized conservatives when he posted an in-depth criticism on The Blaze of conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe’s sting video showing NPR executives disparaging conservatives. According to Beck, the video took the comments of the NPR executives out of context.

When asked if Fox News planned to renew the contract, a Fox spokeswoman responded, “It’s not up until December,” and refused to comment further.

Similarly, when Beck was asked whether he would leave the network, his response was elusive. “Roger Ailes has built the most important voice in America today-Fox News-and it is an honor to do my show there every night. I have no intention whatsoever of doing the show I am doing now on Fox anywhere else.”

Sources close to Beck report that he has been interested in a cable channel of his own for over a year, but Beck cannot actively do so until the expiration of his contract. Beck may face difficulties pursuing a cable channel takeover, however, as advertisers have rejected him since the start of a boycott in 2009.

Beck still has a number of options from which to choose. The New York Times explains:

Two of the options Mr. Beck has contemplated, according to people who have spoken about it with him, are a partial or wholesale takeover of a cable channel, or an expansion of his subscription video service on the Web.

With more and more TV shows being accessed online, the Times considers a third option:

Mr. Beck’s other option is to expand Insider Extreme, the subscription portion of his Web site, glennbeck.com, by hosting an exclusive show there and by adding other content.

Insider Extreme already simulcasts Mr. Beck’s three-hour radio show; shows a fourth hour hosted by his sidekicks; shows a daily show hosted by S. E. Cupp, a conservative commentator; and occasionally features documentaries.

Mr. Beck is also in business with Dr. Keith Ablow, a well-known psychiatrist; they sometimes co-host free webcasts.

According to estimates from Forbes magazine, Beck earned twice as much with his Web operations than through Fox News.

Those close to Beck assert that his aspirations are not to compete with Fox News, but to maximize the value of Beck’s loyal fans. Beck’s fans have already proven to follow Beck to his news and opinion Web site, theblaze.com, as well as to his stage shows.

Media consultant Larry Kramer compares Beck’s potential ambitions to those of Oprah Winfrey and Howard Stern. Kramer states that Beck could come up with “some form of hybrid,” which is how Oprah formed OWN. Kramer adds, however, that Beck “is not Oprah yet.”

Likewise, Howard Stern may prove to be an example Beck follows, with Stern moving to satellite radio, where his audience is smaller, but his profits have proven to be higher.

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