As my colleague Ted Johnson has documented, an organized sponsor boycott against Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck has left his program a little light in the sales department, with ad pods populated mostly by cut-rate direct-response advertisers.
Yet any thoughts that the campaign against Beck will significantly harm his status at Fox — other than giving Beck an opportunity to paint himself as a victim, and thus fortify bonds with his audience — seems highly unlikely.
For starters, the revenue from Beck’s program itself seems increasingly irrelevant, inasmuch as his gaudy ratings at 5 p.m. ET have helped boost Fox’s entire lineup, creating a hammock between Beck and “The O’Reilly Factor” that has elevated the hours between them. Whatever Fox might sacrifice by losing sponsors within Beck’s show, that’s almost surely being offset by the higher rates the channel can charge elsewhere throughout the day.
So while the boycott by colorofchange.org has been effective in calling attention to the excesses of Beck’s rhetoric, the impact of that could ultimately be negligible. Sounding increasingly like a modern-day Joan of Arc, Beck has made it pretty clear he has no intention of toning down his program on either radio or TV. Fox, meanwhile, is acting like it has no control over what Beck says (the same strategy CNN has employed in dealing with criticism of Lou Dobbs), and all the attention is simply rallying more people to watch him. Heck, even former Alaska governor Sarah Palin put in a plug for Beck on her Facebook page.
In other words, Beck’s implications that he is under siege has the feel of deft play-acting, since his lucrative career hardly appears to be in any jeopardy — unless, perhaps, he begins to believe his own hyperbole.