In the few weeks that have transpired since Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist, the campaign to persuade advertisers from patronizing his program has grown phenomenally. Today there are over 60 companies that have withdrawn from his show because they do not want their brands associated with the hatred and hostility for which Beck is known. And these are significant national advertisers like Wal-Mart and Procter & Gamble. Color of Change, the group spearheading the action, is continuing to apply pressure.
But now the campaign has expanded into the international arena. The Guardian UK is reporting that Waitrose, Britain’s most upmarket supermarket chain, has pulled all of their advertising, not just from Beck, but from all of the Fox News Channel.
“We take the placement of our ads in individual programmes very seriously, ensuring the content of these programmes is deemed appropriate for a brand with our values,” said a customer services spokesman. “Since being notified of our presence within the Glenn Beck programme, we have withdrawn all Waitrose advertising from the Fox News channel with immediate effect and for all future TV advertising campaigns.”
Fox News airs in Europe on Sky satellite television. Sky itself is part of the international media empire owned by Rupert Murdoch who, of course, also owns Fox News. Sky’s chairman is Murdoch’s son James, who is the likely heir to the News Corp. throne.
Notable in this announcement is that Waitrose explicitly states that their ads will be withheld from all of Fox News. Previously, Fox has claimed that they were not suffering any revenue loss because ads removed from Beck were simply shifting to other programs. They can no longer make that claim.
I have maintained that Fox’s claim regarding their revenue never held water because advertisers shifting to other programs would only displace the ads those programs already had. There is only so much inventory (i.e. air time) in TV. Therefore, at best it would neutral, assuming that Beck brought in replacement ads, which he didn’t. He was left with low-paying direct marketers and locals that can’t possibly raise the same revenue as Geico and Best Buy. What’s more, a recent study revealed that Beck’s show is losing about $500,000 a week. So even with his ratings increasing, Fox is incapable of converting them into dollars.
At some point Fox will have to decide whether covering for Beck is worth it. Eventually the taint will rub off on the network (more so than presently). There will be more Waitrose’s. Does Fox want to be regarded as so committed to promoting Beck’s beastly behavior that they will do so no matter how much money or reputation they lose?