Jubilant Crowds Rejoice As Murdoch Steps Down

News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has resigned and left New York City for his resort in Montauk ending his fifty year reign as a media monarch.

The era of Murdoch has officially ended and citizens the world over are celebrating. There has been no word yet as to the whereabouts of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, but reports indicate that the news enterprise is being handed over to leaders within the Public Broadcasting System.

The announcement, delivered during Fox & Friends, set off a frenzy of celebration, with protesters shouting “America is free! No more lies! No more lies!”

PBS issued a communique pledging to carry out a variety of media reforms in a statement notable for its commitment to diversity, independence, and free speech. PBS’s statement alluded to the delegation of power to local broadcasters and it suggested that NPR would supervise implementation of the reforms.

Responding to the rapidly unfolding events, the White House released a statement saying that they are monitoring the situation closely and the President will speak directly to the issue very soon. The spokesman added that, “We are hopeful for a positive outcome and we congratulate the American people for their stunning and well-deserved victory.”

A thrilled Keith Olbermann said, “The American people have won. But it is now up to us to insure that journalistic ethics are restored and maintained.” Senator Al Franken, a former comedian and radio broadcaster, stopped to comment on his way to an emergency White House briefing and told reporters, “Ha ha ha ha ha. Oh God. Ha ha.”

Glenn Beck was reached at his gold-brick bunker in South Dakota surrounded by an armory and barrels of non-fluoridated water. But when asked for a comment he shouted from a crack in the door. “Marxists. Oh Mommy, Marxists. The Archduke Ferdinand Caliphate has begun. I won’t talk to the Jew media. Leave my property and take George Soros with you.” He then commenced firing genetically modified corn seeds at the press causing numerous tiny bruises, but no serious injuries.

The State Department was in disarray as news reports continued to update the situation. As diplomats scurried from ….. Oh wait a minute. There is new information coming in over the wire right now. What’s that? What is…..It wasn’t Murdoch, it was Mubarak?

Umm…..Never mind.

Keith Olbermann Warming Up To Al Gore? [Update] YES!

A press release this afternoon revealed that Keith Olbermann would be announcing his next career move Tuesday morning in a conference call with the press. That release served as the starters pistol for a pack of media dogs to try to figure out what was up before the appointed time.

The New York Times appears to have won the race with a story that quotes anonymous sources saying that Olbermann will announce a pact with Al Gore’s Current TV. The details are sketchy, but they include an on-air presence for MSNBC’s former star attraction, as well as an equity stake in the company.

Current has had trouble getting traction as a network whose brand identity is rather mysterious. The network certainly didn’t take on the role that many had expected when it was first announced that Al Gore was starting a cable channel. Many assumed that it would be a liberal answer to Fox News, but that never transpired. Instead, it attempted to invent a new genre that melded television and the Internet.

This could be an interesting arrangement. If Olbermann is coming aboard to launch a news division (Current Affairs?), he could restore some of the original excitement that buzzed around the network when it launched. It would not have to be a wholesale reorganization. They could just add a couple of personalities and, if I had my way, a media analysis program that reviewed the other broadcast and cable news outfits (Alternating Current?). And there’s a place for comedy as well. Any of these programming options would work within Current’s current ambiguous identity.

Current TV is presently seen in about 65 million U.S. homes. That’s about 20% less than MSNBC. For Olbermann this might look like a step backwards, but for Current it could be the catalyst that would help them break through to the upper tiers of cablecasting. They could leverage his star power to get more carriage and better channel positioning. And Keith would be able to extend his presence to the Internet with a full service news and entertainment site along the lines of the Huffington Post. Speaking of which, now that HuffPo has accepted gobs of cash to be part of a bigger media corporation, the Internet is in need of a new independent source for progressive news. And HuffPo’s sale demonstrates the potential value of the genre.

The Olbermann FactorNeedless to say, this is all wildly speculative. Tomorrow morning’s announcement may surprise everyone and have nothing to do with Current. Or it may involve Current but in ways not expected. We’ll know soon enough. But there is one scenario that I think we can safely rule out. Olbermann will not be returning to Fox. Rupert Murdoch recently said that he doesn’t want to fire him twice. But you really have to question Murdoch’s judgment when it is Olbermann whom he has called “crazy,” not Glenn Beck.

The news is official. Olbermann will be joining Current TV and bringing Countdown with him. In addition to that he will assume the title of Chief News Officer, implying a larger role in the production of news programming for the network. That is what I proposed above and it looks like they took my advice (leave me to my fantasies). Now, hopefully they can put together a compelling schedule and push the network onto more cable systems and into more homes.

Keith Olbermann To Launch Internet Venture?

Not 24 hours has elapsed since Keith Olbermann shocked the cable news world by announcing that Countdown has reached ignition and been lifted off the MSNBC schedule. And due to the vague explanations offered by the principals, the public is left to their imagination as to what happened.

Today The Wrap is reporting that the move was entirely driven by Olbermann’s desire to become an Internet media baron:

“With two years left on his $7 million a year contract, Olbermann was seeking a full exit package but he really has his eye on creating his own media empire in the style of Huffington Post.”

Why not? It seems like everybody’s doing it.

Back in the day Matt Drudge, a small-time scandal monger, began publishing his conjecture-laden tabloid, The Drudge Report. Then his spawn, the terminally choleric Andrew Breitbart, followed with his BigWhatever network of outright lie sites. Tucker Carlson, the Biggest Loser (who may hold the Guinness record for the number of times he’s been canceled) launched his Daily Caller. Former MSNBC chief Dan Abrams founded Mediaite. Even Glenn Beck jumped on the bandwagon and lit up The Blaze, an appropriate masthead for a purveyor of incendiary rhetoric.

Still the leader in this parade of personality-driven press is The Huffington Post. If Olbermann chooses this model for an online presence it could be profoundly rewarding. He has a built-in following that already resides in cyberspace. He would have no problem attracting investors. He could cover the issues that interest him most and would be free to appear on any television network to discuss the stories he breaks online.

One minor point, last year Tucker Carlson boasted that he had acquired the domain name, keitholbermann.com. It was a typically puerile act on Carlson’s part that was also brazenly hypocritical. Read the whole sordid story here. Olbermann may have to retrieve his name from Carlson, but that shouldn’t be difficult under the current regulations of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the agency governing such matters.

I, for one, would be thrilled to see the launch of the Olbermann Observer Online. But as with everything else that has been written about his future since the surprise announcement, this story is not verified by any authoritative source. Howard Kurtz is saying the separation was the inevitable result of frayed relations between Olbermann and MSNBC management (i.e. the reprehensible Phil Griffin). And the suggestion that Olbermann initiated the departure doesn’t square with his statement that he was “told” that last night was “going to be the last edition” of his show.

MSNBC has already announced schedule changes to shore up the Olbermann hole. Lawrence O’Donnell is moving up to Olbermann’s 8:00pm slot. Ed Schultz will go to primetime to replace O’Donnell at 10:00pm. And Cenk Uygur will fill in for Schultz at 6:00pm.

If it were up to me I’d make additional daytime adjustments as well. There is no reason for two episodes of Chris Matthews’ Hardball in the afternoon. His ratings certainly don’t warrant the real estate. I’d let him have 7:00pm and give the 5:00pm slot to recently retired congressman Alan Grayson, where he would be on opposite Glenn Beck. That’s a ratings war I’d love to see.

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.”

Hostile Intent: Right-Wing Media Doth Protest Too Much

Rarely have I seen such a desperate attempt to evade reality as has occurred since the shooting rampage in Tuscon. It would seem to be a fairly non-controversial notion that when a politician is targeted for assassination, the language that contributes to hostile discord ought to be carefully considered and avoided. The last thing anyone should want is another Jared Loughner. However, just raising that issue has caused politicians and pundits on the right to stiffen their backs and go on offense. They are taking such talk very personally. Could it be because they are harboring a latent guilt?

While the left has been responding to an horrific act of violence with calls to tone down the rhetoric, many on the right have assumed an attack posture. Keith Olbermann delivered a commentary yesterday wherein he included himself amongst those who have crossed the line. He apologized. There has been scarce reciprocation on the right. In fact, they have dug in their heels to assert that they will continue as if nothing has happened. Sarah Palin’s camp even contends that their notorious “Hit List” didn’t represent a gunsight’s crosshairs, but those on map. That might have been a little more plausible if Palin herself hadn’t referred to it as a bullseye.

So it should come as no surprise that Fox News would employ their propaganda web site, Fox Nation, to muddy the waters and absolve the right of any wrongdoing while tarnishing the left for observing the obvious. The Fox Nation presently has eleven articles that place the left in a bad light and/or polish the right’s reputation. Methinks they doth protest too much.

The Headlines:

  • Durbin Using Tragic Shooting to Silence Conservative Speech
  • A Colossal Failure of Journalism: Jared Loughner is crazy
  • Tucson Shooter and the Violent Rhetoric in the “Communist Manifesto”
  • AZ Dem Blames “Afghan Vet” for Shooting
  • DESPICABLE: NYT’s Krugman Blames Republicans For Giffords Shooting
  • NOW Blames Shooting on ‘Extreme’ Conservatives Opposing ‘Progressive Solutions’
  • PATHETIC: James Clyburn Blames Sharon Angle for Giffords Shooting
  • Tuscon Sheriff Politicizes Press Conference, Blames Talk Radio
  • Journalists Urged Caution After Ft. Hood, Now Race to Blame Palin After Arizona Shootings
  • Kurtz: Don’t Drag Palin Into this Horrific Mess
  • Dems Urge Obama to Pin Shooting on Tea Partiers

And it doesn’t stop there. On Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment, Jim Hoft, one of the most ignorant writers on a web site heralded for its ignorance, makes the ludicrous claim that “Democrats Plotted to Blame Tea Party for Slaughter.” Hoft’s justification for this “breaking” news flash was this paragraph from an article on Politico:

“One veteran Democratic operative, who blames overheated rhetoric for the shooting, said President Barack Obama should carefully but forcefully do what his predecessor did. ‘They need to deftly pin this on the tea partiers.'”

Did I mention that Hoft was ignorant? He is inferring from a single, anonymous source that a “plot” was in progress. And his inference is based on an opinion, not a plan. The source is suggesting what he thinks Obama ought to do, not what Obama, or any other Democrat, is actually doing. So there is no plot, just one guy with an opinion. And if this “operative” actually had access to the White House, or any group that could carry out this alleged plot, he would have given this advice to the President instead of a reporter from Politico.

What Hoft left out was the part where Politico reported this analysis from a senior Republican senator:

“There is a need for some reflection here – what is too far now?” said the senator. “What was too far when Oklahoma City happened is accepted now. There’s been a desensitizing. These town halls and cable TV and talk radio, everybody’s trying to outdo each other.”

The vast majority of tea party activists, this senator said, ought not be impugned.

“They’re talking about things most mainstream Americans are talking about, like spending and debt,” the Republican said, before adding that politicians of all stripes need to emphasize in the coming days that “tone matters.”

“And the Republican Party in particular needs to reinforce that,” the senator said.

I wonder why Hoft didn’t accuse this GOP senator of engaging in a plot to tone down the rhetoric as advised by most of the left. However, he did make the flat assertion that Loughner was “hardly a tea partier.” Apparently Hoft was unfamiliar with Loughner’s anti-government views, his opposition to immigrants and immigration reform, his advocacy of guns, and his opposition to the “2nd Constitution,” a rightist theme that regards the 14th Amendment’s securing of equality and birthright citizenship as unconstitutional. These are all views consistent with the Tea Party.

The truth is that the right is the only side that could plausibly be characterized as plotting anything. Hoft’s own column for Breitbart is evidence of that. And did the Fox Nationalists really need eleven articles to push their narrative? Then there is Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation, who explicitly urged his followers blame liberals for the attack on Rep. Giffords. He wrote to his followers that…

“The hard left is going to try and silence the Tea Party movement by blaming us for this. […] The left is coming and will hit us hard on this. We need to push back harder with the simple truth. The shooter was a liberal lunatic. Emphasis on both words.”

The right is on a mission to wash their hands of any accountability for violence that is all too predictable. It would be much easier if they were to take the position of the GOP senator above who understands that this is the time to be thoughtful about what we say and the impact it may have on the mentally wobbly. Unfortunately, that is not the path the right is headed down.

It has been over 32 hours since the shooting in Tuscon and Glenn Beck, arguably the worst offender at being offensive, has not made a single public statement. There is nothing on his web site – no tweets – not even an expression of condolences. And you can rest assured that he will return to the air Monday with a delusional conspiracy theory for what he thinks happened in that Safeway parking lot. I can hear it now…..

Beck: Over the weekend there was a horrible crime committed against a United States Congresswoman. She is still clinging to life, but a judge, a young girl, and several others were killed.

Now, if you were watching the liberal media you may have come away thinking that this was the work of a conservative or a Tea Party member. I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s the truth. Here’s what only I have been able to uncover through dogged research. Here’s what the media is afraid to tell you. Rep. Giffords was killed in order to silence me and other conservative broadcasters. That’s right. This was a liberal plot to create an environment where people would be calling for harsh rhetoric to be stopped.

Top down, bottom up, and inside out. The progressives are thinking all the time about how to stifle our message, and they know that by making a martyr of Rep. Giffords they can demand that we shut our mouths and crawl off into a corner. They can accuse us of inciting people to violence. And they think that will cause us to keep quiet about their plans to destroy America and demolish our moral culture. That’s why they sent their mole, Loughner, to the supermarket on Saturday. Some of my voices…I mean sources…are telling me that Loughner was seen with Van Jones and Cass Sunstein going over plans to take over the media.

But we aren’t going to let that happen, are we? We will remain strong because we know that only by eliminating our enemies can we live in peace.

Now, remember, I don’t want anyone to engage in violence. Even though the progressives are determined to see your future, and that of your children, blown apart and ruined for all eternity, you must not react violently. That’s what they want you to do. So even though they are going to put an end to the American Dream and cause our society and our economy to break down so badly that we will be praying for death rather than live in the socialist hell they want to create, do not become violent. Got it. Just get ready to suffer and prepare your kids for suffering like they have never known. Watching the whole world sink into depression and slavery is certainly no reason to resort to violence, is it? Well, is it? If you believe, like I do, that America is exceptional and worth preserving, then you know what to do.

And by the way, be sure to pick up a copy of my new book, “Reading Between the Lies.”

You read it here first.

[Update] Beck lived up to my speculation. On his Monday Fox News program he said:

“The solution, in this case, is to silence the opposition […] shut down the right […] How do you shut them down? You say it’s hate speech.”

As I suspected, Beck exploited the massacre to whine about the tragedy as a conspiracy to silence him and his rightist comrades.

[Update II] The right is now openly defending hate speech. Jack Shafer, editor at large of Slate.com, posted an article titled: In Defense of Inflamed Rhetoric
The awesome stupidity of the calls to tamp down political speech in the wake of the Giffords shooting.

Shafer’s article is really a demonstration of his own awesome stupidity. He argues that there haven’t been enough episodes of violence to justify the criticism of incendiary language. He is ignoring the numerous examples – from Dr. Tiller to Byron Williams to the Holocaust Museum to the Marine recruiting station to the gas line tampering at a congressman’s home. How many examples does Shafer need before he becomes concerned? But the real stupidity in his column is this passage:

“Any call to cool “inflammatory” speech is a call to police all speech, and I can’t think of anybody in government, politics, business, or the press that I would trust with that power.”

Nobody – repeat NOBODY – has suggested that inflammatory speech be criminalized. This is an invention of Shafer’s twitchy imagination. The matter is in the hands of the speakers, politicians and pundits, to be responsible and/or accountable. Free speech is not a shield from criticism of what is said. It extends to the critics as well. And when Shafer says that “violent imagery is a good thing” he illustrates just how idiotic and counterproductive right-wing hate mongers (like himself) can be.

[Acclaim for News Corpse] Keith Olbermann tweeted: “Deft and accurate summary of Right Wing Media in full-fledged panic and utter denial.” Thanks Keith.

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.

Rachel Maddow On Keith Olbermann: Here’s The Larger Point…

Keith Olbermann’s suspension from MSNBC for making a couple of political donations without getting prior approval from the network bosses has set media tongues to wagging. However, the real story here is not what Olbermann did, but what other hosts and networks (i.e. Fox News) do regularly without shame or consequence. Rachel Maddow summarizes it nicely:

Here’s the larger point, though, that’s going mysteriously missing from the right-wing cackling and old media cluck-cluck-clucking: I know everyone likes to say, “Oh, cable news, it’s all the same. Fox and MSNBC — mirror images of each other. But if you look at the long history of Fox hosts not just giving money to candidates, but actively endorsing campaigns and raising millions of dollars for politicians and political parties — whether it’s Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck or Mike Huckabee — and you’ll see that we can lay that old false equivalency to rest forever. There are multiple people being paid by Fox News to essentially run for office as Republican candidates. If you count not just their hosts but their contributors, you’re looking at a significant portion of the entire Republican lineup of potential contenders for 2012. They can do that because there’s no rule against that at Fox. Their network is run as a political operation. Ours isn’t.

The deep collusion between Fox News and the GOP is there for all to see if they just open their eyes. The sad thing is that most of the audience, even Fox fans, are aware of this cozy relationship. In fact, Fox’s audience actually approves of it, insists upon on, and takes pride in it. It’s the media that is willfully and woefully blind.

Much of the old-school press goes out of their way to defend Fox as if it were a credible source of news. They did so after former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn correctly called Fox “the communications arm of the Republican Party.” They did so after a false allegation was raised regarding Fox being denied access to a White House event. They did so when controversy erupted surrounding the seating arrangements in the White House briefing room after the departure of Helen Thomas.

When will the Conventional Media recognize that Fox is NOT a news network? When will they report the truth about the collusion between Fox and their partisan pals in the GOP? When will they wise up to the fact that while they are propping up Fox, Fox is slandering them? I previously wrote an article that asked the question: Who’s Afraid Of Fox News? (The answer: The Rest Of The Media!). Fox regularly smears their competitors in the most hostile terms yet rarely has to take a return punch. Their very slogan, “Fair and Balanced,” is an insult that implies their rivals are unfair and biased.

So when do they fight back? To date they have exhibited the courage of a flock of ostriches. The “larger point” that Maddow raises has been looming over the mediasphere for years and it is far past time for them to defend themselves, to defend ethical journalism, and to advance the interests of the public they purport to serve. If the Olbermann affair can shine a light on the brazen politicking of Fox News and incite an uprising of truth-telling with regard to it, this whole messy melodrama might actually end up being worth it.

Phil Griffin: MSNBC’s Embeded Fox News Groupie

I was reminded of an article I wrote last May by a Twitterer who apparently knows my work better than I do. Below are a few choice excerpts that paint a clearer picture of the man that just put Keith Olbermann on suspension.

Phil Griffin Of MSNBC ♥’s Roger Ailes Of Fox News

Roger AilesPhil Griffin, president of MSNBC, was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune and provided an outstanding example of the sort of clueless, illogical, journalistic myopia that is rotting away the American press. When asked about his rival Roger Ailes at Fox News, he gave an almost fawning response that makes one wonder if they are really rivals at all.

“He’s changed media. Everybody does news differently because Roger’s changed the world. Roger early on figured it out and was brilliant.”

Indeed. Roger Ailes changed media – for the worse! His “brilliant” idea was to transform the news into a rancorous, talk-radio style, shoutfest that manufactured conflict and spun every story as far to the right as their ideological wheel could turn. The inspiration behind Fox’s brand loyalty is talk-radio, soap operas, and tabloid news vendors like the National Enquirer.


If Griffin really believes that his mission is to emulate Fox from the opposite end of the political spectrum, he will only succeed in further debasing the media. In addition, he will miss the opportunity to effectively compete in the cable news marketplace. He needs to realize that, not being a news network, Fox is no more his competition than is Nickelodeon (which I’ve said before is a better source than Fox for news and plays to a smarter audience).


If Griffin were to apply basic fundamentals of entertainment to a more journalistically ethical approach he could attract a much larger and more loyal audience. He needs to give news consumers a little more credit for being discriminating, skeptical, curious, and capable of understanding the issues that bear directly on their lives. The last thing we need is more of the cheapening of journalism that Ailes has proffered. And we certainly should not be honoring him for the damage he has already done.

Why does MSNBC have a president who idolizes Roger Ailes? He should not be a role model for anyone who reveres journalism and public service. If there is any justice in this world Olbermann will be back on the air next week and Griffin will be suspended for incompetence and a debilitating lack of vision.

Keith Olbermann Suspended For Acting Like Fox

MSNBC released this notice today regarding their primetime host, Keith Olbermann:

“Msnbc TV host Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely on Friday for making campaign donations to three Democratic congressional candidates, apparently in violation of NBC News ethics policy. “

Upon learning of Olbermann’s contributions MSNBC took swift and decisive action to reprimand the talk show host. Some people may argue about whether the punishment is too severe, but I have to commend the network for maintaining a strict policy of ethical conduct. If Olbermann worked for Fox News he would be getting a bonus for this.

No matter what your political leanings (forward or otherwise), you must be accountable for your actions and you must adhere to the standards established by your employer and the journalism community. For the record, here is the policy MSNBC has for its staff:

“Anyone working for NBC News who takes part in civic or other outside activities may find that these activities jeopardize his or her standing as an impartial journalist because they may create the appearance of a conflict of interest. Such activities may include participation in or contributions to political campaigns or groups that espouse controversial positions. You should report any such potential conflicts in advance to, and obtain prior approval of, the president of NBC News or his designee.”

Olbermann apparently did not obtain the required approval for his contributions. Of course, it is difficult to see how his donations would have “jeopardize[d] his…standing as an impartial journalist,” in as much as he has never portrayed himself as either impartial or a journalist. What’s more, MSNBC has not been consistent in the execution of their policy as they have permitted Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan to continue working despite having made numerous political contributions.

Nevertheless, MSNBC chief Phil Griffin suddenly feels compelled to make an example of Olbermann. MSNBC personnel simply cannot be allowed to behave as if they were on Fox News. Unless, that is, they actually ought to be on Fox News like Scarborough and Buchanan. If you are contributing to Republicans, Griffin has no problem with it. Perhaps he is kissing up to his new bosses at Comcast in advance. For the record, here is the policy Fox has for its staff:

“The prohibitions and limitations on political contributions outlined above relate only to the use of corporate funds and services and are not intended to discourage employees from making personal contributions to candidates or political parties of their choice. Personal involvement in political activity is permitted as long as the activity does not interfere with or impair the performance of the employee’s duties for the Company. In addition, any employee who becomes involved with a political group must make it clear that his or her activities are being conducted purely in a personal capacity and not on behalf of or in connection with the Company.”

So at Fox there is virtually no barrier for employees who wish to donate time or money to political concerns. And dozens of them take advantage of that freedom every day. Even worse, Fox personnel from Sean Hannity to Dick Morris to Greta Van Susteren and more actively solicited donations for their pet GOP candidates and causes. Glenn Beck came right out and asked his viewers to donate so much to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that it would become their biggest fundraising day ever. And we know that the corporation has no barriers either as News Corp was caught making multimillion donations to GOP organizations. The last thing we need now is for other media figures to adopt the standards (or lack thereof) of Fox News.

For that reason it is important to insure compliance with strict standards for ethical behavior. Olbermann is being held to those standards even if other MSNBC personnel are not. Such inconsistency would make Phil Griffin a candidate for Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World.” Lucky for him that Olbermann has been suspended (and Olbermann also recently suspended that segment).

There is no indication from MSNBC how long the suspension will remain in effect. It could, however, be a thorny issue for them. Olbermann’s Countdown is the number one show on the network. He has almost single-handedly thrust MSNBC into the number two slot ahead of CNN. It would be in the interest of the network to keep the suspension short. They may also run the risk of alienating Olbermann who may find greener pastures elsewhere. CNN would very likely give him anything he wanted, including his present time slot that CNN is wasting with Parker/Spitzer. And can you imagine the success that MSNBC would have if they moved Scarborough into the 8:00pm slot?

The reactions to Olbermann’s suspension are already reverberating throughout the blogosphere. Some are calling for boycotts of NBC/MSNBC. That would be stupid. Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Lawrence O’Donnell had nothing to do with this.

The most likely reason for Olbermann’s suspension probably has nothing to do with ethics or political contributions. It is almost certainly related to Phil Griffin’s lust for power. With Jeff Zucker out as network CEO and Comcast looming on the horizon, Griffin sees this as an opportunity to elevate his status. Olbermann represents the 800 pound gorilla at MSNBC and Griffin gets to knock him down a peg by exerting this show of authority. That would explain why Griffin never demonstrated any concern for other MSNBC personalities who did the same thing Olbermann did. They didn’t have any of the heft that Olbermann has and thus it would serve no purpose to bother with them.

While Olbermann may have made a mistake by contributing to candidates when it is against company policy to do so, the punishment is far in excess of the crime, and it has been wielded in a grossly unfair manner. Griffin is revealing himself to be unethical and power mad (or at best a sycophant to his incoming masters).

NBC/MSNBC needs to set aside this unnecessary controversy that only benefits their competition. Fox, and their cultist followers, are reveling in this soap opera. They will get significant mileage out of asserting that MSNBC is unethical while remaining oblivious to their own infractions. That’s what makes this such a idiotic play even if there is some technical justification for it.

In the end it is terrible for business and the executives at NBC/MSNBC have a fiduciary duty to advance the interests of shareholders. So have your little suspension, get it over with, and put Olbermann back on the air by Tuesday.

You can help to resolve this mess by expressing yourselves to Phil Griffin and Co. here:


[Update:] Nice work, people. MSNBC/Griffin fold. Olbermann will be back on the air Tuesday, just as I demanded. Wow…I have more clout than I thought.

Olbermann Features News Corpse On Countdown

On yesterday’s broadcast of Countdown on MSNBC, host Keith Olbermann featured a story about News Corpse. I couldn’t be more proud.

Actually, it was a story on the $1 million donation from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to the Republican Governor’s Association. Although I did report on this unprecedented bankrolling of GOP candidates by a major pseudo-news organization, Countdown’s segment was an interview of Media Matters’ Eric Burns on the subject.

It was an informative and entertaining discussion that hit on most of the salient points. I would have liked it if they had also pointed out that some of the funds received by the RGA would likely be stuffed right back into Murdoch’s pocket via ads they purchase on Fox News and in the Wall Street Journal, but in the end I was just jazzed to see my web site name on the screen for several minutes.

Keith should be grateful that I am not as litigious as Murdoch, whose company is presently harassing the folks at Skype because they think the name is “confusingly similar” to their Sky satellite television service. I’m still waiting for Murdoch to come after me.