By Jeff Labrecque
Updated March 07, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST

Image Credit: Michael Caulfield Archive/WireImage.comEvery few months or so, when Glenn Beck’s truly impressive ratings soften, critics of Fox’s most controversial conservative start writing and re-writing his obituary. Most recently, it’s the New York Times, which speculates that the honeymoon may finally be coming to a close when Beck’s contract expires at the end of the year. True, Beck’s shed about a million viewers per night in the past year, but it’s worth noting that he still draws a bigger audience then all his timeslot rivals — combined. Lost in the debate over whether Beck is informed, credible, (or sane?) is the undeniable fact that he’s more popular at his particular job than just about anyone else in the entertainment industry is at theirs. So the question has to be asked: Why exactly would Fox be eager to part ways with the man who draws about two million viewers every day at 5 p.m., while Chris Matthews and Wolf Blitzer are scrambling for about a third of that figure? Referring to anonymous sources at Fox, the Times‘ David Carr hints that Fox is preparing for life after Beck because his frequent “off message” rants — like calling our bi-racial president a racist — have dented the network’s credibility and, more importantly perhaps, their advertising revenue. A spokesperson for the network declined to discuss Beck’s future but pointed to the Times quotes from Joel Cheatwood, Fox’s senior v.p. for development, who said that Beck’s bond with his core audience remained strong, though he has suggested ways for Beck to make the show more up-beat. “What you see on television with Glenn is the real guy,” Cheatwood said, referring to the host’s up and down on-air moods. “And that is a double-edged sword. If he is upset about something, you see it.”

Could this really be just Fox negotiating? (Through the New York Times, of all places!) Beck’s spokesperson refused to comment on that scenario, but several other news media types consider that a strong possibility.

Perhaps Beck and Fox will part ways at the end of the year, but you won’t lose too many bets gambling on overwhelming raw data. Beck’s bottom line with Fox is simply better than anyone else’s. It’s also probably better than anyone else’s bottom line at Fox at 5 p.m., and Beck’s bottom line with someplace else. So rest easy, Jon Stewart: I’m betting Beck on Fox will be with us for a long time.