Sunday, January 23, 2011

Keith Olbermann Leaves MSNBC and Progressives Lose a Voice

I am not entirely shocked by Olbermann's departure from MSNBC this week. The timing is perplexing, but not so much the thought that Olbermann would be leaving. The writing, so to speak, was on the wall.

Another reason that it was not a shock is because it backs up my belief that establishing Progressive voices and a Progressive media infrastructure in this Country seems almost impossible. This has been the case for the past few decades. It is difficult for Progressive media to really take root.

I suspect that part of the reason for Olbermann's difficulty...and the problem with MSNBC as a whole has to do with the fact that it is hard to embark on a truth-telling enterprise using a purely corporate for-profit model. There are too many divergent and conflicting viewpoints & interests among stakeholders, which guarantees the butting of heads.

The Olbermann fiasco also exposes what most who have been paying attention already knew.... but exposes it for more to see - that there is a clear double standard in news/political media in this Country. Progressives and even Centrists (like most at CNN) are held to one standard, while Fox News, and Conservative talk radio (collectively the Republican media) is held to a completely different standard. In an organization like MSNBC/NBC (and now Comcast)... There is no loyalty to truth... all loyalty is reserved for shareholders. At NBC, there are so many different people to answer to. The ideology of board members, the company President, VP's, Department managers, executive producers etc, may not match up with the world view of the host. In fact, I would venture to guess that many of those higher ups are Republicans. So it is hard to create the conditions for good synergy. The experiment was doomed from the start. This is the fundamental cause of the double standard. This is why everything that a Keith Olbermann, a Rick Sanchez , a Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz...or any other Progressive host says is examined down to the atom level. Company execs are overly sensitive about everything and are in a constant state of paranoia, because they don't want to get in trouble with shareholders or with the bullies of the media - the Right wing Republican media- which dominates the airwaves.

Progressives like Keith Olbermann are sent packing (often fired immediately) for minor - even trivial - issues, while Fox and Conservative talk radio hosts are allowed to make the most outlandish, ugly, racist & offensive comments as a matter of routine...and are allowed to stick around. Why? Because at Fox and with AM radio, the synergy is impressive. Everyone from Rupert Murdoch to Roger Ailes, and the executive producers down to the hosts are, more often than not, generally on the same page ideologically. Everyone has bought into the belief system of the organization. All of the stakeholders support the mission.

This double standard puts Progressive media at a distinct disadvantage. This is why there should be an effort to build Progressive media from the ground up. Progressives need their own media infrastructure that does not leave those like Keith Olbermann (and his supporters) beholden to the interests of a corporation.

Countdown was one of the few political news programs that I really enjoyed watching on a regular basis. Although I would prefer to see something more along the lines of a 60 minutes... (call me old school). We need more serious, trusted, investigative reporting. But I enjoyed Keith Olbermann's contribution.

I have a funny feeling that he won't be the only host leaving. When you get rid of the Captain of the ship.... the man who had the top political program in the line-up... well that to me is an indication that the execs at NBC may be looking at other changes. Part of it may be a reaction to the results of the November elections. MSNBC is one of those networks that reshapes itself based on the changing winds. Again... it goes back to the corporate business model... there is nothing that drives any ideological belief mission based on values like honor, truth, etc... the only belief system driving these cable networks is the belief system of making money.

Here are his final remarks on Countdown. According to whispers on the twittersphere.... he may be interested in going back into sports broadcasting..... wow. Interesting. But I can't say I would blame him if he did decide to go back into sports. The American voting public is a source of disappointment & hopelessness for me... not to mention the politicians who are supposed to serve in the public interests. I can definitely see why people would want to get out of politics.


Anonymous said...

You are so right on.

Anonymous said...

You are so right on.

rikyrah said...

this wasn't about Progressives not being profitable....Olbermann's was the highest rated show on the network, hence, he was getting them the most money for their ad dollar. so, don't give me the bullshyt that all folks care about is making money. he was making them, that's not the issue. it was about his ideology, plain and simple.

rikyrah said...

just another reminder, if it was all about money....Beck's show has lost HOW many sponsors, and is not profitable in England....yet, he's not being pulled.


MonicaRW said...

Great article!

Meanwhile we want to get Keith Olbermann back on CNN ASAP. Please check out and join our FB Fan Page:

The Angry Independent said...

I agree... but my point was... even if the program/host were making money, company bosses may be sensitive to board members who may not like something an Olbermann or a Maddow said personally. They may be more willing to bow to those kinds of pressures. They want to keep certain people happy.... if that means removing certain hosts.. then they may be more willing to do so.

Plus... we are going into campaign season. The powers that be may want certain hosts out of the way, so that there will be less media support for Progressive candidates, especially the President. The boards of directors for these companies may be thinking long term.... yes, a show may be successful, but with a Republican in the White House, they could make exponentially more money for themselves with fewer/weaker regulations on their business activities and reduced corporate taxes (and permanent tax breaks for the rich). There is a lot to be gained from shutting down a voice like Olbermann, even if his programs were providing short term benefit. The long term gain from keeping him silent may be much more. That's what I meant when I stated...they are only concerned with money/interests of their corporations, rather than providing truthful commentary/analysis with their political programs. It's probably a combination of both political ideology and corporate interests (long term... banking on hopes that a Republican could win in 2012) working together.

And it appears that this may have actually been the case regarding Comcast (from what I can tell).

But no one knows with absolute certainty. Something crazy must be going on because the bosses at MSNBC/NBC/Comcast are not following conventional logic (which says keep the guy who has a successful program).