Could Glenn Beck, the weeping, wailing superstar of American right-wing broadcasting, be about to walk out on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News? In media circles, it is the hottest topic of the hour, as intense sniping from both sides stirs speculation that the hyperactive and hypersensitive Mr Beck could be about to end their two-year relationship – and even create a rival TV channel of his own.
It is becoming clear that the presenter's ambitions stretch much further than his nightly Glenn Beck Show, a mix of conspiratorial monologue decrying the US fall into socialism and guest slots featuring the stars of the Tea Party firmament, which has become a staple of the Fox News prime-time line-up.
Already, a loyal audience has trooped to bookstores to buy Mr Beck's prodigious literary output, from America's March to Socialism: Why We're One Step Closer to Giant Missile Parades to Arguing With Idiots: How To Stop Small Minds and Big Government. His nationally syndicated radio talk show is the third most popular in the nation. And he has been hiring new staff for his internet broadcasting venture, Mercury Radio Arts, which runs a subscription service for political junkies who want more Beck-inspired shows and documentaries.
And Mr Beck's next move has become one of the most hotly anticipated questions now that talks on renewing his contract with Fox are coming into view. His current deal runs out in December. Rumours yesterday suggested Mr Beck is toying with the idea of taking over a cable TV channel to run his shows and related programming in the future.
Mr Beck made a half-hearted attempt to quell speculation yesterday, after news that he had sounded out friends about taking over a cable station or expanding his online subscription service into a fully fledged online TV channel. "Roger Ailes [president of Fox News] has built the most important voice in America today – Fox News – and it is an honour to do my show there every night. I have no intention whatsoever of doing the show I am doing now on Fox anywhere else," he said.
Deteriorating relations between Mr Beck and Fox have, however, been the stuff of industry gossip for months. His sky-high public profile is not matched by profits from the show, which struggles to attract big-name advertisers. In 2009, when Mr Beck called President Barack Obama a racist with "a deep-seated hatred of white people", large companies including Geico insurance and Procter & Gamble pulled their ads.
Last year, Mr Beck persuade tens of thousands of followers to a Tea Party-style "Rally to Restore Honour" in Washington, prompting Comedy Central satirist Jon Stewart to lampoon the event and stage his own, much bigger, Rally to Restore Sanity in the run-up to the mid-term elections.