Saturday, January 22, 2011


Whenever I write a post calling on the (non-Murdoch) press to take some responsible journalistic action or other, a commenter will inevitably tell me that what I'm proposing is impossible -- I shouldn't expect "the corporate media" to do anything that's good for the country.

Well, Keith Olbermann has now abruptly left his MSNBC show -- and it was an act of journalistic responsibility, in a nation in which the Murdoch media sets the terms of every debate, to keep Olbermann on the air offering at least a bit of balance, however inadequate. (Idiots glibly refer to Fox and MSNBC as twins, but Fox is still vastly more popular, and is right-wing 24/7.)

Whatever you think of GE, whatever corporate crimes it's committed, it kept Olbermann on the air for years. And now Comcast takes over NBC and GE departs -- and so does Olbermann. Moral: yeah, "the corporate media" sucks, but there are corporations and there are corporations. Some are worse than others.

I know, I know -- Howie Kurtz insists that this wasn't Comcast's doing:

A knowledgeable official said the move had nothing to do with Comcast taking control of NBC next week, although the cable giant was informed when it received final federal approval for the purchase that Olbermann would be leaving the cable channel.

But Business Insider's Glynnis MacNicol finds such denials unconvincing. So do Colby Hall of Mediaite -- a site founded by Olbermann's former MSNBC colleague Dan Abrams:

In some ways this news wasn't terribly surprising as the relationship between MSNBC and the Countdown host had soured in the last year or so. Its clear that Comcast had consulted with NBC about Olbermann and expressed concerns about the firebrand anchor.

...As many have already noted, the FCC finally approved the sale of the majority of NBC-Universal from GE to Comcast. Today was Jeff Zucker's last day at the helm, having sent a memo bidding adieu to his staff. Sources close to the situation have told Mediaite that there is no question that Comcast had expressed concerns about Olbermann....

The virtual war in which Olbermann was engaged with his bosses at MSNBC and NBC News could not have been something that Comcast wanted a part of. And while thus far there is no specific evidence that Comcast had a direct hand in this development there no almost no question that Comcast provided some sort of support to NBC to end Olbermann's contract, an action that Jeff Zucker might not have supported.

Olbermann's relationships with pre-Comcast management were increasingly strained -- but he stayed on the air. Now he's gone. And can you really imagine him returning in any capacity in which he'll have similar levels of visibility? Who'd hire him to do anything like Countdown? CNN? I don't think so. Who else? That channel Dan Rather went to that nobody watches?

So he's probably just ... gone. The one guy who really got up the noses of Ailes and Murdoch (sorry, Rachel, Larry, and Ed) is probably just gone for good. Blame that on "the corporate media," I suppose. But a corporation did give him a shot, for a while at least, and that was a not-evil thing.


A Mediate update:

It appears that the end of the Olbermann era at MSNBC was not "ordered" by Comcast, nor was it a move to tone down the network's politics. Instead, sources inside the network say it came down to the more mundane world of office politics -- Olbermann was a difficult employee, who clashed with bosses, colleagues and underlings alike, and with the Comcast-related departure of Jeff Zucker, and the rise of Maddow and O'Donnell, the landscape shifted, making an Olbermann exit suddenly seem well-timed.

So it wasn't Comcast ... except to the extent that it was. Right. Got it.

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