By Andrew Kreig / Director's Blog
What really caused Keith Olbermann’s stunning announcement Friday evening that the show would be his last on MSNBC? Most of the first stories quoted unnamed sources, who said the forced departure was for confidential reasons and had nothing to do with approval by federal regulators last week to approve Comcast’s control over NBC Universal, which owns MSNBC. That’s not good enough for something this important.
So, let’s establish what we know and make a few obvious inferences. In the world of public affairs, a Friday night announcement shows that those in control wanted to limit news coverage. No wonder. MSNBC fired its top-rated news host Olbermann, right, despite the network’s struggle with bad ratings across its line-up. During the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, MSNBC did the same thing in February 2003 when it ousted Phil Donahue, its top-rated news show host and also a skeptic about a need for the Iraq war. Conventional wisdom is that news organizations are motivated by maximizing viewers, readers and advertisers, within the bounds of reasonable journalism. And even those of us with experience resisting unwarranted pressures from corporate affiliates on our news organizations still hope for leaders to advocate the best and highest-rated shows whenever possible.
"Keith Olbermann's abrupt departure from MSNBC should be another wake-up call to American progressives about the fragile foothold that liberal-oriented fare now has for only a few hours on one corporate cable network," wrote Parry. "Though Olbermann hosted MSNBC's top-rated news show, 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann,' he disappeared from the network with only the briefest of good-byes. But it was a reminder that GE, a charter member of the military-industrial complex and a major international conglomerate, had bigger corporate interests at play than the ratings for MSNBC's evening programming."
Kelly envisions an additional result, given unexpectedly strong protests over recent days. "I think we might be looking at increased sales of Pepto Bismol near NBC headquarters, plus another film production of something like last year's 'Fair Game' about Valerie Plame or 'Network.' A Spielberg, Redford, Eastwood or Clooney may be telling the story one day on the big screen."
MSNBC Countdown, Final Show with Keith Obermann, Jan. 21, 2011. (Video: 3:50 minutes)
Daily Howler, Our’n and Their’n [This item is the second one down in the media criticism column, and is about Keith Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC], Bob Somerby, Jan. 25, 2011. Eight years is a long run for any TV program, O’Donnell said, in the course of a long, fawning tribute. (O’Donnell has inherited Olbermann’s 8 PM time slot in MSNBC’s weeknight line-up.) A person may feel that Olbermann’s program was vastly superior to O’Reilly’s. But what could O’Donnell possibly have meant when he said that “no one in television history has ever done anything like” what Olbermann did? More ominously: Who could be dumb enough to hear O’Donnell without puzzling about this very strange statement?
New York Times, Olbermann Split Came After Years of Tension, Bill Carter and Brian Stelter, Jan. 23, MSNBC never had any doubt about what it was getting when it made Keith Olbermann the face of the network in 2003: a highly talented broadcaster, a distinctive and outspoken voice and a mercurial personality with a track record of attacking his superiors and making early exits.
OpEd News, Firing Keith Olbermann: The Tyranny of the media oligarchs, Prof. Sam Hamod, Jan.24, 2011. Keith Olbermann is gone from TV; his truthful comments snuffed out by another of the oligarchs -- the new wedding of NBC and Comcast. We all knew if this wedding took place, it would be bad for America, but none of us knew that the right wing would act so fast and so blatantly against the highest rated show on MSNBC. We are under the control of the four oligarchs in America, and democracy be damned as far as they are concerned. They are: media moguls, corporations and their lobbyists, Congress and the President.
OpEd News/Consortium News, The Disappearance of Keith Olbermann, Robert Parry, Jan. 22, 2011. It was a reminder that GE, a charter member of the military-industrial complex and a major international conglomerate, had bigger corporate interests at play than the ratings for MSNBC's evening programming.
Consortium News, Hard Lessons from Election 2010, Robert Parry, Nov. 10, 2010. The Left’s primary media outlet is now the evening programming at MSNBC, which is currently owned by General Electric, a major defense contractor, and which will soon be transferred to Comcast that – like GE – has other corporate priorities in Washington that Republicans can either aid or obstruct. The recent suspension and humiliation of MSNBC’s biggest star, Keith Olbermann, for making three personal donations to Democratic candidates without first getting corporate approval, indicates the true pecking order within NBC and GE. Olbermann and the other liberal hosts are essentially on borrowed time, much the way Phil Donahue was before getting axed in the run-up to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, when MSNBC wanted to position itself as a “patriotic” war booster. Because of the magnitude and intensity of the Right's media, Republicans can confidently sell a wide variety of propaganda themes to the American people. The themes might not make much sense, but they develop a ring of truth because they get repeated so often.