It seemed like a good idea: To get a program canceled, go after the advertisers. But such logic doesn’t seem to apply in Murdochland.
A yearlong attempt to have advertisers boycott Fox News’ Glenn Beck Program—by organizations including StopBeck, People for the American Way and MediaMatters.org—has actually resulted in more than 100 advertisers fleeing the highly rated program. But try telling that to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch. Fielding questions during a News Corp. shareholder meeting this month, Murdoch flatly denied that the advertisers had pulled out of the controversial show even though many have been quoted on the record. “That’s not true,” said Murdoch. “Maybe four or five have been moved over to [Bill] O’Reilly’s program. [But] no one has taken any money off the channel.”
Well, the last part of his statement, at least, was true. None of the advertisers have left Fox News, and the general consensus is that the net’s not losing any money. That’s because advertisers don’t buy time on specific programs, so those who opt out of Glenn Beck wind up elsewhere on the channel. “I don’t think the overall performance of the cable operations has been hit,” said David Bank, managing director of global media and Internet research for RBC Capital Markets.
The frustrated organizations behind the boycott, since joined by the Tides Foundation—whose CEO Drummond Pike was targeted by an armed self-styled Glenn Beck follower in July—are now stepping things up by calling on advertisers to pull out of Fox News itself. The response? Not so good.
So far, the only advertiser that would even discuss it on record is Zurich Financial Services, whose rep Sean Kevelighan said they’re “reviewing the situation.” (Despite reports that Apple pulled out, Kantar Media’s data shows the company continues to advertise on Fox News.)
This isn’t surprising. Advertisers could plead ignorance about buys, including Beck’s show, but pulling out of the channel is a far bigger statement.
It’s unclear, however, if all the orgs involved in the protest truly understand what they’re up against. When asked if such a boycott is unprecedented, Tides Foundation’s Pike said, “This isn’t my world.”
In the media world, however, a lack of advertisers for a high-rated show doesn’t always mean failure—and getting advertisers to take a stand on a divisive issue is near impossible.