Trump Freaks Out Over Cable Companies Dropping the Failing One America News Network (OAN)

Never let it be said that Donald Trump doesn’t know where his priorities lie. While the rest of the civilized world is consumed by the heinous war crimes being committed by Trump’s BFF Vladimir Putin against the innocent people of Ukraine, Trump is busting his prodigious gut over the dire prospects for his favorite disinformation and Russian propaganda disseminator, One America News Network (OAN).

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In a tweet posted by his Twitter ban defying spokes-shill, Trump unleashed a totally delusional diatribe against cable companies that he said were “terminating a very popular and wonderful news network (OAN).” His extended, run-on rant whined that…

“Time Warner, the owner of Fake News CNN, has just announced that they will be terminating a very popular and wonderful news network (OAN). Between heavily indebted Time Warner, and Radical Left Comcast, which runs Xfinity, there is a virtual monopoly on news, thereby making what you hear from the LameStream Media largely FAKE, hence the name FAKE NEWS! I believe the people of this Country should protest the decision to eliminate OAN, a very important voice. Likewise, Comcast is terrible and expensive. Let them know that you’re sick and tired of FAKE NEWS! In this modern age of technology, they are no longer necessary. Demand that OAN be allowed to stay on the air. It is far bigger and more popular than anyone knows, and importantly, it represents the voice of a very large group of people!”

Holy Shih Tzu! There is a lot of crazy to unwrap there. Let’s begin with the fact that there is no such thing as “Time Warner.” It ceased to exist in 2016 when it was acquired by Charter Communications and folded into Spectrum. Furthermore, the former cable company Time Warner (now Spectrum) was not the owner of CNN. That’s WarnerMedia, which was just acquired by Discovery Networks. So Trump is, as usual, pitifully ignorant of the business he is raging against.

Trump goes on to claim that OAN is “a very popular and wonderful news network [and] is far bigger and more popular than anyone knows.” Really? If no one knows how popular it is, than it is, by definition, unpopular. OAN’s audience is actually so small that it isn’t even tracked by Nielsen.

Moving on, how can Trump say that there is a “virtual monopoly on news” when Fox News is the highest rated cable news network? And what about right-wing outlets like Newsmax, Sinclair, and News Nation? Trump’s tedious wailing about “fake” news is just his description of any news with which he disagrees. If the fake label belongs anywhere, it is with OAN and Fox, where facts have been discarded in favor of propaganda.

What’s more, you have to wonder why Trump is so outraged over the loss of OAN as a part of the “LameStream Media” when he says in the same statement that “they are no longer necessary.” If that’s true, then why should anyone bother to take Trump’s advice to protest the decision and “demand that OAN be allowed to stay on the air”? Someone should tell Trump that OAN is already “allowed” to be on the air. They just need to offer a product that justifies its carriage financially. Under free market capitalism, which Republicans used to pretend to advocate, cable companies are also allowed to make business decisions as to which channels they carry.

Finally, this entire episode of Trump’s Daily Tantrum was totally contrived in his diseased brain. OAN has not been carried on Charter (Spectrum) or Comcast for years. It’s puzzling what triggered this outburst because there isn’t any news on this subject except for a report that OAN has filed a wholly meritless lawsuit to contest DirecTV’s decision not to renew their contract.

Perhaps OAN hopes to recoup some what they expect lose in the lawsuits pending against them. OAN is currently being sued by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic software for propagating Trump’s lies about election fraud. Separately, they are being sued by two former Georgia election workers who are victims of Trump’s election deceptions that were prominently pushed by OAN.

Trump, meanwhile, is behaving in his typically deranged and utterly hypocritical manner. The rabid “cancel culture” critic has been bellowing for boycotts of DirecTV and other media companies that aren’t sufficiently worshipful. He’s been similarly barking at social media platforms, many of which have banned him for concocting and spreading dangerous lies. Perhaps he thinks people will just switch to his own Twitter rip off. But given the disastrous launch of Trump’s hysterically named TRUTH Social, that isn’t likely to happen either. SAD!

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Trump’s Attack on the Free Press Escalates with Help from His Shadow Cabinet: Fox News

Having just returned from embarrassing America overseas, Donald Trump is resuming his obsessive campaign against the free press and the Constitution. This preoccupation with what he calls “the enemy of the people” is being pursued in lieu of honoring fallen troops on this Veterans Day, directing aid to the victims of the California fires, or performing any other routine presidential duties.

Donald Trump, Censorship

One thing that Trump can be expected to never neglect is his “Executive Time,” otherwise known as tweeting and watching Fox News. And on Monday that’s precisely what has been occupying his short attention span. In particular was a tweet wherein Trump complained about the alleged antitrust violations of the media megalith Comcast/NBCU:

Note that Trump is quoting from a comment by Fox Business contributor Charlie Gasparino, because Trump is incapable of having an original thought. Trump (via Gasparino) is terribly concerned about a report that the “American Cable Association has big problems with Comcast.” For those unfamiliar with the television video distribution market, the ACA is a lobbying group that represents small cable and broadband providers. It isn’t especially surprising that they are troubled by the business practices of a giant competitor.

To be clear, there are legitimate reasons to oppose Big Media enterprises like Comcast or AT&T/Time Warner or Verizon. But rest assured that Trump has no idea what those reasons are. He is narrowly focused on only what affects him personally. That’s why he opposes the AT&T/Time Warner merger (TW owns CNN). And it’s why he’s whining about Comcast/NBCU today (they own NBC/MSNBC). The fact that such mergers wind up giving consumers fewer choices and that cost more money never enters Trump’s ego-driven, cartoon brain.

Fortunately, the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee is planning to hold hearings on Trump’s flagrantly self-serving assaults on the media. Among other things, they should prove that Trump couldn’t care less about antitrust laws. You’ll notice that he never complains about Disney, which owns ABC and just bought most of the assets of the parent corporation of Fox News (but not including Fox News). And he strongly supported the planned Sinclair/Tribune merger, which was blocked by his own Justice Department. Those are both rabidly right-wing media firms that shill for Trump on a 24/7 basis. Never mind that the merger would have resulted in a conglomerate that owned more local television stations than any other in America.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

So while fires rage in California, our foreign allies are laughing at us, our veterans are neglected, our cities are tormented by mass shootings, our economy is declining, and democracy is being subverted by Republican Nationalist Party efforts to suppress voting in Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and elsewhere, Trump is keeping his powder (and his orange bird’s nest of a wig) dry by staying indoors and live-tweeting Fox News. And the rancid smell of his panic is only going to become more pungent as the January inauguration of the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives gets closer.

Stupid Tea Party Tricks: FreedomWorks Launches Pointless Boycott Against Comcast

The Tea Party has been involved in too many idiotic escapades to count. One of their more memorable proposals was to fly a plane over the Superbowl with a banner reading “Impeach Obama.” Apparently they were not aware that the game would be played in a domed stadium and that it’s illegal to fly over it anyway. Or recall their assertion that ultra-conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist is a Muslim infiltrator. Their proof? He has a beard. And who could forget the call for Americans to rise up and burn their ObamaCare cards. No matter that ObamaCare cards do not exist, FreedomWorks will be printing them up and providing them to Tea Party pyromaniacs.

Tea Party Comcast Boycott
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The very same FreedomWorks is now embarking on a massive campaign to punish Comcast because their MSNBC subsidiary employees Al Sharpton. They have produced a comically amateurish video (below) declaring it “a disgrace that Sharpton has his own TV show.” They sent an email to their 2.3 million suckers…er…members urging them to cancel their cable service if Comcast is their provider. The email states that…

“By paying your Comcast cable bill, your money is helping to pay for Al Sharpton’s salary…Comcast cable subscribers can take action against Roberts and his biased media empire by changing their cable TV service provider. By exercising marketplace choice, consumers can prevent their money from supporting media propaganda.”

If you get the idea that FreedomWorks didn’t think this through very well, you’re quite right. After all, Sharpton works for MSNBC, not Comcast. Any cable customers who cancel their subscriptions will have zero effect on Sharpton’s employment status. Those customers were encouraged by FreedomWorks to switch from Comcast to DirecTV, AT&T, or some other provider. However, all of those providers also offer MSNBC, so the revenue generated to the cable network will be exactly the same. Should they opt to do without cable programming, their boycott will do just as much harm to Fox News, and every other channel, as to MSNBC.

So this threat is as impotent as Rush Limbaugh sans Viagra. When liberals mounted a successful boycott against Fox News’ Glenn Beck, they targeted Beck’s advertisers. The same tactic has drained the bank account of Limbaugh and his radio affiliates. But going after Comcast won’t have any more impact on Sharpton’s MSNBC program than it will on Donald Trump’s unreality show on NBC.

There are plenty of good reasons to boycott Comcast: It is an anti-competitive conglomerate that exploits its market power; it unfairly discriminates against progressive advertisers; it improperly uses data it collects on its customers, invading their privacy. If Tea Partiers want to shun Comcast for any of those reasons, I’m with them. But this attack on Sharpton (of whom I am not a fan), is utterly absurd. However, it is another clear indicator of just how dumb the Tea Party community can be.

Keith Olbermann Quits MSNBC, Joins Fox News

* * * Psyche! * * *

Keith OlbermannA 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]

Phill GriffinOf 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.”

It’s Time For Some REAL Liberal Media

The American media landscape has long been dominated by giant, multinational corporations whose interests have never been aligned with those of the people they purport to serve. It doesn’t take a great mental exertion to observe the divergent aspirations of a population that is concerned with jobs, education, health care, and the welfare of their families, and a business enterprise that is concerned with profits, deregulation, protected markets, and returning value to shareholders. A corporate-managed news operation simply cannot represent the interests of their Wall Street board and their Elm Street audience at the same time.

Over the years there have been some heated debates about the absence of a media platform that represents real people’s issues, particularly from a liberal perspective. The right has had Fox News for 14 years, but nothing remotely similar exists for the left. To the extent that MSNBC comes close, it is still not equivalent. MSNBC never took the explicit role of advocating for party politics in the all-consuming way that Fox does for the GOP. Not that I would want a liberal media outfit to take up with the Democrats. I’m just noting the distinction.

The recent controversy over the suspension of Keith Olbermann for making a few donations to Democratic candidates illustrates the inadequacy of having to rely on another right-wing, corporate parent to satisfy our media appetite. And it magnifies the differences between Fox and MSNBC. Fox would never contemplate removing their most successful anchors from the air over something like that. Fox doesn’t even contemplate reprimanding their anchors when they brazenly lie, overtly incite violence, or call our president a racist. But MSNBC had no qualms about imposing a severe and embarrassing punishment on someone whose political leanings were already well known. As Sen. Bernie Sanders said about the NBC/Comcast deal:

“We do not need another media giant run by a Republican supporter of George W. Bush. That is the lesson we should learn from the Keith Olbermann suspension.”

In the past, I have not been particularly enthusiastic about the idea of building a liberal media enterprise. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because it would be prohibitively expensive to do it right. Air America is a sad example of what happens without sufficient support and capitol. There are many additional reasons to be pessimistic about such an enterprise, i.e. it would be a risky venture that would require a long-term commitment. Rupert Murdoch deficit-financed Fox News for at least five years; radio and cable channel access is scarce and difficult to acquire; bona fide talent, both on the air and in the executive suites, is hard to recruit; and building any business from scratch is fraught with fiscal danger and obstacles.

However, we may have an opportunity today that has not been available in the past. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator is in the process of acquiring NBC/Universal. It is a merger that has raised red flags for many media watchdogs who are concerned about the concentration of power that has been getting progressively worse year after year. And Comcast is a conservative-run business that would further tilt the press to the right. Free Press and other reform groups are actively lobbying to oppose approval of the merger by federal agencies. And therein lies our opportunity.

Comcast wants very much to smooth the path for approval of their acquisition of NBC/U. So perhaps they could be persuaded to trade something of value for an agreement to drop opposition. What I would propose is that Comcast agree to divest itself of NBC News prior to the merger. Specifics of such a transaction would have to be worked out but would center around the divestiture of NBC’s news operations, the MSNBC cable network, CNBC, and the related Internet properties. Comcast would still get the NBC broadcast network, the lucrative USA cable network, Bravo, SyFy, and Telemundo. These networks form the basis of the syndication strategy for the NBC entertainment group. And, of course, they would also still have the NBC television station group and the Universal Studios and theme parks.

What makes this proposal viable is that the new media group splitting off is already a profitable business. It would not face the risks associated with building a business from scratch. It already has cable access to most of the country. And it is already staffed with proven talent and executives. MSNBC and CNBC are both profitable in their present form and would likely continue to be.

For this to work there would need to be an acquiring entity and financing. The money could come from a consortium that might include people like Ted Turner, Al Gore, George Soros, Steve Case, David Geffen, and/or Bill Gates. There’s no shortage of available billionaires. And ideally there would be an existing media enterprise that this could be folded into. Some examples might be Tribune, Gannett, or the Washington Post Company.

A requirement for agreeing to this would be a promise to appoint credible, progressive, experienced executives to run the news operations. It would be imperative that the management team be committed to quality, ethical journalism. It would have to be the sort of business that valued investigative projects and was unafraid of controversy. And it must be open to partnering with relevant and respectable media reform groups like Free Press, the Poynter Institute, the Schumann Center, the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, Media Matters, etc.

By forming a new company in this fashion we would benefit by producing honest, progressive news content; by establishing a baseline for journalistic ethics; by not having to suffer the indignities of hare-brained lackeys like Phil Griffin, the man who suspended Olbermann and is likely already sucking up to his future conservative bosses at Comcast; and by preventing another media merger that would have exacerbated the problem of concentrated power in the press. And as for Comcast, they would benefit by easing their path to the acquisition of NBC/U. There may never be a better opportunity to negotiate a deal that could produce a real liberal media outlet – for a change. And that wouldn’t be a bad name for the channel: Real Media: For a Change.

None of this will be easy. The proposed merger is already a complex arrangement that could fall apart if someone pulls the wrong thread. But it would be worth exploring. If MSNBC is presently the only allegedly liberal news channel on the dial, then it shouldn’t have to cower in the shadow of right-wing masters who can slap them down if they get too uppity. They should have the freedom to express themselves without fear of reprisal. And if that environment can be created through a spinoff of the NBC news division, then it may be worth it to let the rest of the Comcast transaction go forward.

The Case For The Comcast/NBC Merger

There has been, and will be, much discussion about the proposed merger between entertainment giants NBC/Universal and Comcast. Now that an agreement has been formally entered into, the discussions will likely become even more heated. Media reform advocates like FreePress are already organizing opposition to the deal. Free market capitalists want it to go through without interference from the government.

However, the government has a legitimate role to play to insure fair competition and to advance the interests of the public. Hearings will be held by the FCC, the FTC, and several congressional committees over the next year before the marriage can be consummated. Opponents will make the argument that a combined Comcast/NBCU would dominate access to entertainment programming and news on both cable and the Internet. Estimates show that Comcast, already the largest US provider of cable service and Internet access, would control up to 25% of all content. Comcast, on the other hand, will promise not to abuse their market position. If you’re naive enough to take their word for that, you might not think it’s such a bad deal. Unfortunately, Comcast has not been a particularly conscientious steward of the power they already have. And approving the merger would surely propel competitors to similarly bulk up to face the new, more scopious Comcast.

Ordinarily, I am a knee jerk opponent to any kind of media consolidation. The scope and reach of the Five Families of media (GE, Disney, Viacom, News Corp, and Time Warner) already wield far too much influence over everything we see, hear and read. I have long advocated breaking up these anti-competitive conglomerates and re-introducing real competition, independence, and diversity into the media marketplace. I still believe that deconsolidation is an achievable objective, though fairly far off on the time line.

In the meantime, what does this merger present to the current marketplace? Is Comcast really a worse partner for NBCU than GE, the world’s biggest defense contractor? Conflicts of interest in program content and distribution cause considerable harm, but is it any less harmful than conflicts that involve the production of military goods and weapons? GE’s reach extends even further into consumer products, financial services, information systems and health care technology. That’s a pretty broad scope for potential conflicts.

The Comcast merger offers some opportunities if implemented responsibly. Regulatory agencies can impose restrictions to prevent market abuse that would apply to all players, not just Comcast. They could mandate open access to airwaves and cable lines. They could codify network neutrality. They could promote localism to enhance the community service obligations that networks routinely ignore.

Comcast is already making noises about how they want to be better corporate citizens. They contend that they will comply with reasonable conditions set for the merger by the FCC and others. They promise that the corporate office will not influence news reporting at NBC or MSNBC. They vow to keep their content available to competing services like DirecTV. They have even taken a position in support of health care reform, explicitly repudiating the position of the US Chamber of Commerce, of which they are a member.

Of course, These may all be tactics designed to curry favor with the administration in hopes of clearing a path for approval of the merger. If so, that could also be an opportunity. The agencies and congressional committees reviewing the matter could extract significant concessions and make them binding for all of the monopolistic media enterprises.

Another somewhat more amusing benefit is the new relationship that would be forged between Fox and the NBC News unit. Bill O’Reilly and others at Fox have taken great pleasure in demonizing NBC and its current parent GE. For the most part they go after the executives because they are afraid to utter Keith Olbermann’s name aloud. O’Reilly has called GE’s CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, “a despicable human being” and has spewed impotent threats, saying…

“That Immelt man answers to me. . . . That’s why I’m in this business right now, to get guys like that.”

Um, OK. If you say so. So who will O’Reilly bash now? If he were to go off on Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, he might find himself regretting it. Comcast may decide that Fox News would be better off on a more expensive, upper tier, cable package. That could significantly reduce the number of homes that Fox would reach. Such a move would impact their ratings as well as their revenue from both advertising and cable subscription fees. Comcast might also decide that its new asset, MSNBC, would be a better fit on their basic cable packages, which it is not currently on in many markets. That obstacle to access has been a longstanding impediment to MSNBC’s ratings performance.

Like all bullies, O’Reilly is likely to keep his fat mouth shut about Roberts and Comcast. When there is really something at stake, he will cower in the corner and stick with his War on Christmas shtick. O’Reilly would never send Stuttering Jesse Watters to ambush Roberts. He’d rather stay comfy in his studio holding hands with Dick Morris as they demonstrate how little they know about any subject they address. And Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch would probably bury O’Reilly if he were to damage their relationship with the nation’s biggest cable operator. So maybe O’Reilly might actually have to confront Olbermann man to man. Although he would certainly lose that contest too.

In conclusion, I can’t get excited about another merger of big media megaliths. But I can’t really muster a great deal of antagonism about this one. I don’t see it as worse than the status quo, and I do see an opportunity to tighten regulatory oversight for the whole industry. That is, if the regulators and the administration have the will. Stayed tuned.