Fox News considers a post-Beck era

FOX NEWS CONSIDERS A POST-BECK ERA…. About a month ago, Joe Klein noted that he’d heard rumors “from more than a couple of conservative sources” that Fox News executives had been told that Glenn Beck had become too big an embarrassment to the right and the Republican network. “The speculation,” Klein noted, “is that Beck is on thin ice.”

It seemed hard to believe at the time, but the New York TimesDavid Carr reports today that the notion of Beck and Fox News parting ways no longer seems implausible.

He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined. But the erosion [in Beck’s ratings] is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent — that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck. […]

How could a breakup between Mr. Beck and Fox News — a bond that seemed made in pre-Apocalyptic heaven — come to pass? They were never great friends to start with: Mr. Beck came to Fox with a huge radio show and had been on CNN Headline News, so he did not owe his entire career to Fox and frequently went off-message. The sniping between Fox News executives and Mr. Beck’s team began soon after he went on the air in 2009.

Many on the news side of Fox have wondered whether his chronic outrageousness — he suggested that the president has “a deep-seated hatred for white people” — have made it difficult for Fox to hang onto its credibility as a news network.

Putting aside the fact that Fox News has no credibility regardless of the nut in the 5 p.m. timeslot, it’s at least somewhat encouraging that Beck is facing a little pressure.

It’s possible, if not likely, that the network’s talk isn’t entirely genuine. If Fox News is poised to enter contract negotiations with Beck, it’s in the network’s interests to leak word that it’s prepared to live without him. These rumors may well be an extension of a larger negotiating strategy, intended to keep Beck from demanding too much money.

But if so, that’s only part of it. As we talked about over the weekend, Beck really has faltered over the last year — he’s lost more than a third of television viewers in just a year; his radio show has been dropped in several major media markets after its ratings faltered; advertisers have abandoned him in droves; sales of his most recent book fell far short of his other titles from recent years; and high-profile conservative leaders have no qualms about calling him out for spewing nonsense.

Indeed, the point about advertisers is likely of particular interest to the Republican network. Beck still draws a couple of million viewers daily, but as Eric Boehlert noted, the host can’t get and keep any nationally recognized advertisers.

If Beck were to part ways with Fox News, he’d likely remain a ridiculous media personality, relying on his other media ventures — he’d still have a radio show, a website, and a new book every other month — to pump poison into the discourse.

But he’d lost his highest-profile perch, and I have a hunch other networks wouldn’t want anything to do with him.