Host will stay with Fox for future projects

After weeks of speculation about his future and Fox News’ commitment to him, controversial host Glenn Beck will give up his weekday perch on the channel by year’s end to focus on his other lucrative media ventures.

Beck’s announced departure comes as his afternoon program has faced ratings declines and advertiser defections, after the host made headlines for controversial statements and support of extreme ideological positions on a range of issues. Notably, even some prominent conservatives have expressed misgivings about Beck’s increasingly apocalyptic-sounding views.

Beck’s current Fox contract ends in December, and no replacement was announced. Beck and Fox News positioned his exit from the daily lineup as a “transition” for the personality, saying Fox would work with Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts production shingle on future TV and digital projects.

It was previously announced that Joel Cheatwood — Fox News’ senior veep of development, who has worked closely with Beck — will join Mercury Radio Arts later this month as exec veep and serve as a “liaison” for the shingle with Fox News.

Joining Fox just as President Obama took office in January 2009, Beck once appeared to be a leading light among Fox News personalities. His 5 p.m. ET program has averaged about 2.2 million viewers every weekday, per Nielsen data, which provided a strong lead-in to the Fox programs that followed.

Ratings, however, have dipped considerably in recent months. In addition, Beck stirred controversy by calling the president “a racist,” which triggered an orchestrated campaign that has cut into the advertising base for his program.

More recently, Beck’s on-air attack against billionaire George Soros — a well-known donor to Democrats, and a Holocaust survivor — unleashed charges of anti-Semitism from the group Jewish Funds for Justice, as did Beck’s characterization of Reform Judaism as “almost like radicalized Islam.” (Beck later apologized.)

Since its inception, Beck has used the Fox News platform to build businesses in other arenas, including his recently launched news website Using his show as a base, he also orchestrated a Washington “Restoring Honor” event last summer that drew an estimated 100,000 attendees.

Now, “Glenn Beck” isn’t the host’s main source of income — between his radio contracts, live shows and publishing contracts, Beck’s $2 million-a-year contract with Fox News comprises a small percentage of the $32 million he made in 2009-10, according to Forbes, with books ($12 million) and radio ($10 million) accounting for the lion’s share.

Beck’s on-air statements have created friction for Fox News. Nevertheless, the channel and even top News Corp. management have generally stood behind him, insisting that his program was a formidable asset to the network despite the boycott campaign.

“Glenn Beck is a powerful communicator, a creative entrepreneur and a true success by anybody’s standards,” said Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. “I look forward to continuing to work with him.”

In the same release, Beck said “America owes a lot” to Ailes and Fox News, and said he was grateful for the lessons he’d learned from the Fox News CEO.

Beck addressed the issue of his pending exit on Wednesday’s program, comparing himself to Paul Revere.

“He got off his horse at some point and fought in the Revolution,” he said, adding, “I believe we’re heading into deep and treacherous waters. I will continue to tell the story … but I have other things to do.” But he also emphasized: “Fox is one of the only places you will find truth.”

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