There’s emerging evidence to suggest that, as the legitimate advertisers disappear, Glenn Beck’s TV show may be relying more and more on financial life support from rich right-wingers — with plenty of extra help from us taxpayers — to stay on the air.
Media Matters is keeping daily track of the show’s remaining advertisers. For Tuesday, September 8, the list looked like this:
The Foundation for a Better Life
News Corp. (The Wall Street Journal)
Clarity Media Group (The Weekly Standard)
National Geographic Society (National Geographic Channel)
Independent Women Forum
Zero Technologies (ZeroWater)
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At this late date, with upwards of 60 advertisers gone (almost all of them for-profit corporations), it’s safe to assume that these remaining holdouts are there as a matter of principle, and will be funding Beck as long he stays on the air. (One likes to imagine that the National Geographic Society was so preoccupied with taking pictures that it sort of accidentally wandered onto the list; and will immediately march right back off it once it stops to change lenses, looks around, and suddenly realizes where it is.) Progressives might get some traction leaning on Carbonite (which sells online computer backups) and ZeroWater; but for the most part, Color of Change has now emptied the barrel. There’s not much left to do at this stage but watch and make sure nobody tries to sneak back in.
What’s interesting now, though, is who’s moving into all that empty space. Rupert Murdoch, who owns FOX, also owns The Wall Street Journal. From his perspective, using the unsalable time on Beck’s show to promote another of his properties is good synergy — but it’s also a way of tapping the WSJ’s ad budget to prop up Beck until (he hopes) this blows over. Murdoch’s stubborn, but he’s not known for patience — and odds are good he won’t be willing to do that indefinitely.
Even more interesting is the appearance of the Foundation for a Better Life and the Independent Women’s Forum. According to Sourcewatch, the Foundation for A Better Life is a 501(c)3 funded by far-right-wing oil and media baron Philip Anschutz. The Independent Women’s Forum is a conservative anti-feminist group that opposes affirmative action, gender equity programs like Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act; and which has close ties to Americans for Prosperity. Both are non-profit 501(c)3 corporations. In addition, last week’s roster included the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, which is one of the leading organizations backing the teabagger movement.
What are these people doing here? It’s quite possible they’re hanging around to provide Beck with big infusions of free money, helping him out until things return to “normal” (as if anything in Beck’s wobbly, deranged orb could ever be described as normal). Non-profit 501(c)3s (full disclosure: The Institute for America’s Future is also one) are interesting because they can be used as pass-throughs. Rich conservatives who want to funnel money to Beck can make a tax-free donation to FBL or IWF; and then those organizations use the taxpayer-subsidized funds to buy the ads, which they mark down as regular operating expenses. PACs don’t give tax breaks, but they can also act as pass-throughs.
It’s not clear how long these specific groups have been advertising on Beck’s show, or how much of the show’s current airtime they’re collectively covering. But if ads from other Murdoch enterprises, conservative 501(c)3s, and PACs continue to grow as a share of the total, it will be clear a sign that Beck has fallen from his perch as the crown prince of FOX, and is well on is way to becoming a charity case who can only stay on the air as long as the big infusions of wingnut welfare continue.
And they can’t keep it up for long. The donors on the right are being hit hard by the downturn, too; and keeping a national TV show up and running can very quickly hoover up a lot of money that could be going to support other conservative causes. It may be another few months before they come to terms with the inevitable and pull the feeding tube — but the more of these kinds of advertisers we see on Beck’s show, the closer we are to the reckoning.
Update: Just got a tweet from 1sky: FOX owns a majority share in the National Geographic Channel, and is probably giving them advertising time on a basis similar to the Wall Street Journal. So they’re not leaving, either.