Keith Olbermann is MSNBC’s hottest property. His ratings eclipse those of the rest of the lineup. So clearly he is a significant draw for an audience that MSNBC has been struggling to expand and they would reward him commensurate to his contribution.
“MSNBC is removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as the anchors of live political events, bowing to growing criticism that they are too opinionated to be seen as neutral in the heat of the presidential campaign. “
This is another example of the media being so petrified of disapproval from right-wing critics that they act in opposition to their own interests. By effectively demoting their top talent, MSNBC is agreeing with critics that their coverage is slanted and that Olbermann is a journalistic liability. This action is remarkably stupid and short-sighted. Why would NBC want to denigrate their own reporting and insult their most popular program host? Apparently all is takes is a letter or two from the White House or the Republican National Committee to make NBC execs tremble.
To put this in perspective, try to imagine Fox News making a similar schedule adjustment in response to complaints from liberal sources. Obviously they get such complaints by the thousands on a daily basis. And not just from liberals, but from respected, independent journalistic institutions and professionals. Yet Brit Hume, Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto, etc. – not to mention Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity – all have safe jobs and have never been chastised in the slightest for their brazen bias and partisan pandering.
What’s more, the contrast in tone between the left and right media is disturbing, to say the least. Liberals are accused primarily of partisanship and favoritism. But rightists are are guilty of far more hostile activity. Recall Fox News’ Liz Trotta who joked that Barack Obama should be assassinated along with Osama Bin Laden. And then there’s that continuous thread of racism that permeates Fox News. These ethical violations, however, are not sufficient to warrant corrective action on the part of the conservative press.
In addition to dissing Olbermann, muting an alternative perspective, and likely suppressing their ratings (and, thus, their income), NBC is also giving ammunition to their competitors, who will not praise this as a step toward neutral reporting, but cite it as evidence of bias. So MSNBC gains nothing from their capitulation. Fox News is already reporting on these events as having taken place due to MSNBC’s lack of neutrality. That Fox can even say that, without a hint of irony, demonstrates how low the media neutrality bar has sunk.
The timing of this announcement couldn’t be worse. With the party conventions over, the general election commencing formally, and debates coming soon, NBC has chosen to very publicly tarnish their own brand. This could only happen at a network that is faulted as being liberal by the entrenched media establishment. And yet, the myth that the media is liberal will persist despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
The real problem is that it is only the few liberal islands in the media sea that are punished for expressing their views. The monopolistic corporations who control the media, and their benefactors on the conservative side of the political spectrum, are the dictators of what the news audience will see and hear. They will always bend to the right and, sadly, cowards like those at NBC will choke the breadth of opinion from the airwaves to the point of suffocation.