I was pretty surprised while watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann to hear Olbermann, in a rather matter-of-fact way, tell his viewers that tonight would be his last show. It takes years to build up a TV news show "brand." And Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show dated back to the darkest days of the one-party Republican state. It was Olbermann's principled and sincere outrage at the warmongering and lies coming from the George W. Bush administration as it pushed the nation into war and recession that established his "brand." But the fact that Olbermann was a "brand" in the first place points to the intrinsic limitations of corporate media.
The only winners in the Comcast/MSNBC decision to drop Countdown with Keith Olbermann are Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and all the other bloviators over at Fox News. Their noise machine just got a lot louder. And just in time for CNN and the networks to focus the bulk of their attention on John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Darrell Issa. The Federal Communications Commission should have blocked Comcast's buyout of NBC. The one thing the corporate media didn't need was more consolidation regardless if the move had anything to do with purging Olbermann.
There isn't a chance in hell that CBS or ABC will pick up anything Olbermann can pitch. PBS? Forget it. They're about to get whacked by Republican budget cuts. He might be able carve out a slot in relative obscurity between the comedic and dramatic fare over at HBO. Who knows? In any case, going into the 2012 presidential election the Democrats just lost a consistent voice of reason and a defender of relatively progressive values.
The right end of the political spectrum in the realm of corporate media just got stronger. There's also a chilling effect, even if the circumstances of Olbermann's ouster were benign. People working for media conglomerates who want to keep their jobs might begin to rein in their views when they drift a little "too far" to the left.
Countdown with Keith Olbermann was the anchor of something extraordinary that emerged, painstakingly and against all odds, during the Bush years. A mild liberal alternative was established in the corporate media to counter the flamethrowers at Fox. Nothing like it had existed since MSNBC fired Phil Donahue in early 2003. Now it's gone. And it's hard to see how this gaping hole on the "liberal" end of the corporate media is going to result in anything other than giving a louder voice and greater ventilation to the policies that are currently being advanced by an aggressive right-wing oligarchy.
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