by Ben Cohen
Rupert Murdoch is a smart man. In the U.K, Murdoch aligns his newspapers with the popular political party and helps them enact their policies by giving them favorable coverage. For the past 12 years, he supported the Labour Party. Now they are out of favor, Murdoch switched seamlessly to the Conservatives. Desperate to gain a grip on the Chinese media market, Murdoch saddled up to the Communist Party and even married a Chinese woman.
In short, Murdoch doesn't care about Left or Right. He cares about money.
In the United States, his news channel is doing just about everything it can to irritate the current President, and it is beginning to effect his business.
When news show host Glenn Beck explicitly called Barack Obama a racist, it caused a media hailstorm and an advertising exodus from his show that reached as far as the U.K (Beck's show is broadcast on Murdoch's 'Sky News' channel). On a recent political talk show tour, President Obama sat down with 5 networks none of which were Fox. The Murdoch owned network was humiliatingly replaced with the Spanish language channel Univison. In another spat, the White House press secretary publicly criticized the network for not airing Obama's healthcare speech, a move it would never have considered with any other network.
While Glenn Beck is not the lone voice of dissent within Fox News (O'Reilly, Hannity and Malkin are similarly offensive), he does epitomize what is wrong with the network, and just how out of sync it is with the mainstream. His continued assault on the President which consists of a remarkable slew of accusations and innuendo (Obama is a socialist/communist/Nazi/racist), does not reflect well on the network, regardless of how right wing it is. As David Sassoon notes:
For now, Murdoch is making a short-term buck on Beck's race-baiting.
Longer-term, it's a losing corporate strategy. The color of demographic
change is trending darker, and companies will be forced to be sensitive
not to offend their own workforce or their customers by supporting
race-baiting speech with advertising dollars.
Advertisers pulling their brands from Beck's show is a signal that there are boundaries that cannot be crossed. It is a warning to Fox that their bottom line will be effected if it continues to promote such hateful speech, and that a growing cross section of the public are turning their backs on the Fox brand.
And the bottom line for Murdoch is that he cannot tolerate it for long.
Glenn Beck is unlikely to moderate his position unless his corporate paymasters instruct him to do so. And if they do, he'll lose the base of fringe Right idiots who tune into his show on a nightly basis. Murdoch most likely understands this, and is probably crunching numbers to see how viable Beck is to Fox News in the long run. In financial terms, Beck could most aptly be compared to a derivative; Indecipherable and immensely profitable in the short term, but ultimately a ticking time bomb and fast track to disaster.