The Difference Between Show Business and Business

12/17/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In show business (masquerading as "television journalism"), Bill O'Reilly on Fox News Channel excoriates not only his time-slot rival Keith Olbermann for left-leaning views, but includes in his rants, for good measure, the execs of NBC News, NBC, and GE. He goes so far as to accuse those executives of complicity or responsibility for the deaths of American soldiers. Tough stuff. And Olbermann is equally bombastic, attacking O'Reilly and FNC nightly on Countdown.

In real business, Rupert Murdoch's Fox is climbing into bed with NBC. In truth, the two networks have been virtual lovers for more than a year, locked in the embrace of a larcenous website called Hulu, where they give new episodes of their shows away, sell advertising (presumably not for play money), then tell the actors, writers and directors of those shows that there's no revenue stream there. The new alliance involves the very news divisions whose commentators are putting on the ferocious show of mutual hatred. NBC and Fox are pooling their local-news resources in Philadelphia, so that, rather than each station sending out a reporter, a crew, maybe even a helicopter to cover a news event, the combined operation sends out just one of each. Saving: a reporter, a crew, a chopper for each story. The journalistic lovebirds say this is a pilot project, hoping to roll it out nationwide.

James Carville on CNN Sunday was one of a number of political talking heads now reminding us that, in terms of what's said publicly, "you have to discount the campaign by 80 percent. That happens in politics." Of course he's guessing low, no need to totally ream his old business. The apparently two-fisted media feuds that are so good for ratings are equally diaphanous when there's money to be made, or at least saved.