Why is Glenn Beck leaving his Fox News show?
Glenn Beck, a Fox News fixture since January 2009, announces that his daily talk show will end this year. Analysts suggest viewers and advertisers tired of his conspiracy theories and antics.
Alex Brandon / AP / File
It‚Äôs the end of an era: Glenn Beck is leaving his daily talk show on Fox News later this year, he and Fox announced Wednesday. The show, called ‚ÄúGlenn Beck,‚ÄĚ had seen a precipitous decline in ratings over the last year, and Mr. Beck‚Äôs departure was not unexpected.
Not long ago, the populist rabble-rouser of the right and self-described ‚Äúrodeo clown‚ÄĚ was flying high. Beck began at Fox a little more than two years ago, in January 2009, having jumped from CNN Headline News. Coincidentally, that was right before the birth of the tea party, and he quickly became one of the movement‚Äôs leading advocates. In March 2009, he launched the successful 9-12 Project, which sought to promote patriotic values. And last August, he drew tens of thousands of people from around the country to a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, called ‚ÄúRestoring Honor.‚ÄĚ
But over the last year, ‚ÄúGlenn Beck‚ÄĚ has lost more than a million viewers from its 5:00 p.m. show, going from an average 2.9 million in January 2010 to 1.8 million in January 2011, according to The New Republic. Beck‚Äôs radio show has been dropped in several big cities, including New York and Philadelphia. TV advertisers started fleeing, including Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Wal-Mart.
What went wrong? Analysts suggest that Beck‚Äôs antics got to be too much ‚Äď the tears, the conspiracy theories, the ‚ÄúObama is a socialist‚ÄĚ drumbeat.
‚ÄúIn recent months, it seems, Beck‚Äôs theories became so outlandish that even conservatives ‚Äď both viewers and media personalities ‚Äď were having a hard time stomaching them,‚ÄĚ writes TNR‚Äôs James Downie.
He cites a theory by unauthorized Beck biographer Alexander Zaitchik, who says that Beck was caught in a vicious circle: ‚ÄúTo keep viewers coming back, he had to keep creating new, more intricate theories. Last November, in a two-part special that indirectly invoked anti-Semitism, he accused liberal Jewish financier George Soros of orchestrating the fall of foreign governments for financial gain. During the Egyptian Revolution, Beck sided with Hosni Mubarak, alleging that his fall was ‚Äėcontrolled by the socialist communists and the Muslim Brotherhood.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
In another recent example, Beck warned viewers not to use Google, saying it‚Äôs ‚Äúdeep in bed with the government.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a spectacle,‚ÄĚ says Jeffrey Jones, a professor of media and politics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. ‚ÄúHe wears viking helmets, he pours gasoline on things. It wouldn‚Äôt surprise me that what was once a fresh voice has now become a routine, that audiences might be saying, ‚ÄėWell, I‚Äôve seen that before.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
Professor Jones also suggests that it takes a fair amount of mental energy to unpack Beck‚Äôs various conspiracy theories, and some viewers may have tired of that.
‚ÄúAny time you have a red-hot show, you have to go mainstream in order to sustain yourself,‚ÄĚ says Walter Podrazik, co-author of the book ‚ÄúWatching TV.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe catch with ardent followers is that they‚Äôll go ardently follow something else after a short while.‚ÄĚ
In a New York Times interview two years ago, Beck said he identified with the Howard Beale character in the movie ‚ÄúNetwork,‚ÄĚ about a ‚Äúmad prophet‚ÄĚ news anchor who rants: ‚ÄúWe're as mad as hell, and we're not going to take this anymore." Anyone who has watched the film knows that things don‚Äôt end well for Mr. Beale.
But Beck, it appears, is landing on his feet. He and Fox are not breaking up completely. In a joint statement, Fox and Beck‚Äôs production company, Mercury Radio Arts, said that they will work together to produce TV projects that will air on Fox News and other Fox platforms. Beck also still has his radio show, his writing, and Beck University, an online education program.