* * * Psyche! * * *
A cable news bombshell was dropped this evening, but not the one in the headline above. And anyone who clicked on this article thinking it might be true should take a minute or two to have a little chuckle at your own expense.
The actual breaking news is that Keith Olbermann closed his program tonight with the announcement that it would be his last. That’s pretty shocking in and of itself. Countdown is the highest rated program on MSNBC. It has been the launching pad for the rest of the network’s primetime lineup and its ratings cornerstone. It isn’t often that a network will jettison its top fare without some compelling justification. Although it should be noted that MSNBC did it once before when they canceled the number-one-rated Phil Donahue Show. At that time it was conservative politics that precipitated the cancellation. One can only hope that it is not the same case here.
There has already been rampant speculation as to the reason for this split, most of it centering on the just-approved acquisition of NBC by the notoriously conservative folks at Comcast. I find it unlikely that the new management stepped in to abruptly set Olbermann adrift before they have even moved into their offices. But since speculation is the special of the day, I’ll add mine. Olbermann’s au revoir began with him noting that…
“I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I’ve been told: That this is going to be the last edition of your show.”
Keith Olbermann has always been an artful author who chooses his words carefully. In saying that he was “told” that this show was his last, it is fair to say that the decision to leave was not his own. So what sort of issue could get a popular news anchor canned on such short notice? Generally it is either something he did recently, or something he was about to do. And since there doesn’t appear to be any event in the recent past that might have gotten him in trouble, it is more likely that there was some conflict with where Olbermann wanted to go in the future. My guess is that he wanted to cover a major event in the world of television news: The Comcast acquisition of NBC.
If Olbermann were to produce a report on this merger, I would expect that he would insist on addressing the passionate opposition to it. Most progressive media reformers have been lobbying mightily to prevent the merger from going through. Coincidentally, today happens to be the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous support for corporations over people in the Citizen’s United decision. There may have been an irresistible temptation for Olbermann to comment on the loss of rights for average Americans resulting from the CU case in the context of a media merger which puts even more power into the hands of a giant corporation. And if Olbermann pitched this story to his bosses who are presently jockeying to keep their jobs post-merger, they may have forbade him to do the report. And that could possibly have led to a heated disagreement and a parting of ways.
[NOTE: Sign this petition from MoveOn to Support a Constitutional Amendment to Reverse Citizens United: Corporations Are Not People]
Of course, this is just conjecture. No one will know what the real low down is until the parties involved spill the beans and, as of now, no one’s talking. However, it would be in line with the management philosophy of Olbermann’s boss, Phil Griffin, who is an admirer of Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News.
The biggest unanswered question after why is where. What will happen to Olbermann going forward. CNN stands as the biggest potential beneficiary. If the 3rd place network were able to snap him up it would deliver another million or so loyal viewers. But the hardest part of this to understand is how Olbermann, a caring, passionate, honest, progressive voice has lost his job, while Glenn Beck, a hostile, lying, egomaniacal, rodeo clown remains employed even after telling his viewers that to stop progressives “You’re going to have to shoot them in the head.”