Follow the Money: Glenn Beck Is Not Leaving Fox, He's Ending an Ad Boycott

Last Updated Apr 7, 2011 10:04 AM EDT

Glenn Beck is not really leaving News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox News Channel, as everybody is reporting, and that's key to understanding what is really happening between Beck and Fox. In fact, Beck's "transition off of his daily TV program" is an elegant solution to the advertising boycott that has plagued Beck's show since he first announced that President Obama had a "hatred for white people" and was "a racist" in August 2009.

It's worth reading Beck's actual statement. It says that he and Fox svp Joel Cheatwood will work at Beck's production company, Mercury Radio Arts, to produce new shows for Fox. The fact that Cheatwood is leaving with Fox chief Roger Ailes' blessing is crucial: Cheatwood is, arguably, the most influential producer and stylist in modern news television. The son of an itinerant tent preacher -- I'm not making this up -- he essentially invented the tabloid news style while a young man at Miami's WSVN in the 1980s. Whatever Edward R. Murrow achieved in elevating standards of journalism through the 1960s, Cheatwood dedicated his life to undoing. In person he's a nice guy (I spent a couple of hours with him once). Professionally, he is Satan.

So while there won't be a "Glenn Beck" show per se, there will be shows by Glenn Beck, produced by Fox's top producer, on Fox News. In other words, this is a shuffling of job titles, not a substantive removal of Fox's most controversial pundit.

That shuffling solves Fox's big problem with Beck: the 300 companies who declined to advertise on his show over the last two years because they believe -- rightly -- that calling the president a racist is beyond the pale. Beck has hosted Fox's best-rated show, but Fox has earned little ad revenue from its success.

In the long term, that's an intolerable position for a publicly traded company. That boycott will come to an end as soon as Beck broadcasts his last regular show, and all those advertisers will be free to return to any new show produced by Beck and Cheatwood.

Thus Fox gets to have its Beck and eat its ads.

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