By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Unpopular political positions and a penchant for promoting New Age quackery is suspected as being the reason for the continued decline in the ratings of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which have now reached record lows.
According to a rewport by Fox News, the average audience for Oprah’s show fell under seven million last season, down from its peak of nine million in 2005. This drop represents a seven per cent slip from the previous year, and its fourth straight year of decline. In fact, one week during July of this year, her show had its lowest ratings since it debuted in 1985.
Analysts believe the economy is partly to blame, saying that Oprah’s relentlessly upbeat philosophy may be causing a disconnect between her and an audience of predominantly white, female, middle class viewers who are struggling to cope with rising unemployment and home foreclosures.
Many also believe she has fueled the decline by alienating conservative viewers with her liberal, pro-Obama position, which tarnished her traditional non-partisan reputation. After her endorsement of Sen. Obama during the 2008 campaign, her website was flooded with angry e-mails.
Oprah recently defended herself for her overly-enthusiastic endorsement of Obama and insisted that she is no longer dabbling in politics.
“My job was to make people, or allow people, to be introduced to Obama, who might not have been, at the time,” she said. “I wanted him elected, and I think I did that.
“I have not said one thing about this political situation and don’t intend to. Everybody knows that I was a big campaigner for Obama and I still am. I think he’s doing a great job. I think that it’s the toughest job in the world with the economy and health care and all of that.”
She has also been alienating her largely Christian audience with endorsements of off-the-wall New Age gimmicks and mind control books such as A Course in Miracles and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and by telling fans that Jesus “can’t possibly be the only way.”
“You can’t be oblivious to the decline in ratings,” said Sheri Salata, executive producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show. “Even if it is the dominant show, you have to look at what the value is. I am sure that the people around her are aware of the trends or the perception of trends.”
While her show remains the country’s most popular talk show, Winfrey has not yet said if she will renew her contract, which expires in September, 2011.
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