Former cable TV host seeks to conquer the Web

A controversial right-wing commentator who is leaving cable television at the end of the month plans to take his daily show to the Web and charge a monthly subscription for it in an experimental move.

Glenn Beck, who has built up a loyal conservative following during the past two-and-a-half years on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel, announced on Tuesday that his new online venture, GBTV, will launch on September 12.

GBTV.com will charge $4.95 a month for access to Beck's two-hour daily show, his New York-based production company, Mercury Radio Arts, said.

It will charge $9.95 a month for GBTV Plus, which will include a simulcast of Beck's radio program, documentaries and special events in addition to his daily show.

US consumers have become increasingly comfortable paying for entertainment on the Web such as movies through Netflix but it remains to be seen whether Beck can convince them to open their wallets and pay for his show online.

Beck, whose "Glenn Beck" show on Fox News Channel attracted up to three million viewers at its peak, believes they will and said in a statement that "GBTV is the future."

"The confines of traditional media no longer apply," he said. "GBTV is about getting active in the community, participating in stories, and finding new ways to deliver news, information and entertainment directly to the audience."

Christopher Balfe, president of Mercury Radio Arts, said "lots of people are talking about the digital content revolution, but few are willing to risk it all and place a huge bet on the future.

"With GBTV, Mercury is doing just that," Balfe said.

The new show will be live-streamed in high-definition at GBTV.com or available on demand, Mercury Radio Arts said.

It will be available on various platforms - from computers to iPhones to iPads - and will be streamed live on weekdays for two hours from a set being built in midtown Manhattan.

GBTV will rely on support from both subscriptions and advertisers and Beck, speaking on his radio show, said that because his network will not be entirely reliant on sponsors there would be less concern about interference.

Beck, whose final show on the Fox News Channel airs on June 30, had an often stormy relationship with the News Corp.-owned station.

"We're tired of a middleman," Beck said. "(GBTV) is not mass. This is for a group of Americans that know what they believe, know where they're headed, and want to move forward and they don't want to waste their time.

"That's what GBTV is," he said.

Beck has legions of conservative fans but has stirred controversy among Democrats and liberals with his strong opposition to President Barack Obama.

Beck notably accused Obama, America's first black president, of having a "deep-seated hatred for white people," remarks which led to calls for a boycott of his show by African-American groups.

In August, he attracted controversy for staging a "Restoring Honor" rally featuring right-wing icons such as former Alaska governor Sarah Palin on the 47th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

The rally was held at the Lincoln Memorial, where King spoke, and many of those in attendance belonged to the conservative Tea Party movement, which some African-American groups have accused of being racist.

Beck said the date of the event was coincidental and the rally was intended to be non-political.

In January, a group of rabbis published an open letter urging Fox to reprimand Beck for what they called repeated use of inappropriate references about Nazism and the Holocaust on his show.

Beck, according to the rabbis, has made "literally hundreds of on-air references to the Holocaust and Nazis when characterizing people with whom he disagrees," and has compared US leaders he does not like to Nazis.

Beck is not the only high-profile US media figure taking a gamble and leaving an established platform this year.

Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey abandoned broadcast television last month to turn her attention to running her own cable television network, OWN.

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