America is a land where speech is free -- that is, until an advertiser puts a price on it. In the case of News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox News Channel host Glen Beck, that price is expressed in the form of 57 advertisers which have stopped spending money to reach the viewers of Beck's show. Are these advertisers making the right business decision? And should Fox News dump Beck?

It all boils down to something hard to measure, which is whether a company wants to have its reputation associated with the kind of free speech that Beck exercises on his show. It may be that some of those advertisers do not agree with the contention that the only way to save America is for Osama bin Laden to detonate a major weapon in the U.S., as one guest recently argued on Beck's show. (The clip is below.)

Since I wrote about the advertiser exodus last month, more companies have joined the list, bringing the total to 57. According to Colorof Change.org, the 11 new companies leaving Beck's show include: Binder & Binder, Capital One (COF), The Dannon Company (GPDNF), Discover Financial Services (DFS), HSBC (HBC), ICAN Benefit Group Insurance, Infiniti, Jelmar (manufacturer of CLR All-Purpose Cleaner), Jordan McKenna Debt Counseling Network, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) and Simplex Healthcare (creator of the Diabetes Care Club).

MBUSA dumped Beck because it disagrees with his values. It told ColorofChange.org that it "considers its commitment to Diversity and Inclusion [sic] an integral part of its corporate culture and business strategy. We believe that MBUSA's success is dependent on embracing the various cultures, nationalities and convictions of our associates and market that translate into meeting consumer needs and expectations for relevant products and services."

How horrible is it that a company would stop advertising to a show's three million viewers just because its host called President Obama a racist? Meanwhile, if Beck keeps drawing such high ratings, Fox News will keep him on the air as long as the remaining advertisers generate enough revenue to offset the cost to produce Beck's show.

That's what free markets and freedom of speech are all about.

Peter Cohan is a management consultant, Babson professor and author of eight books including, You Can't Order Change. Follow him on Twitter. He has no financial interest in the securities mentioned.


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