I suspect many of you had the same reaction I did when Keith Olbermann said before going to commercial that last night would be Countdown’s “final edition.” What? No way. My first thought was that it must be some kind of gag, or maybe a play on words. The anchor of the highest rated show on the network who is in the middle of a 4-year contract wouldn’t just abruptly leave. But it turned out to be true.
Two things I don’t buy here. The first is that he quit. Olbermann’s farewell began with this:
“I think the same fantasy popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told — “this will be the last edition of your show.”
“Told what I have been told?” Those aren’t the words of someone’s who’s quitting. Where I come from we called that “fired.”
The second thing I don’t buy is that this had nothing to do with the recently approved Comcast-NBC merger, despite this statement from Comcast last night:
“Comcast has not closed the transaction for NBC Universal and has no operational control at any of its properties including MSNBC. We pledged from the day the deal was announced that we would not interfere with NBC Universal’s news operations. We have not and we will not.”
But Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast has this:
“A knowledgeable official said the move had nothing to do with Comcast taking control of NBC next week, although the cable giant was informed when it received final federal approval for the purchase that Olbermann would be leaving the cable channel.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but that reads to me like Olbermann being gone was a condition of the merger, with just enough space to give Comcast some deniability and some separation from being directly responsible for his departure.
As one commenter at Firedoglake put it, “Comcast had nothing to do with Olbermann’s departure in the same way that gravity had nothing to do with the demise of Humpty Dumpty.”
Don’t look for Olbermann to re-appear any time soon on another network:
“Mr. Olbermann did not discuss any future plans, but NBC executives said one term of his settlement would keep him from moving to another network for an extended period of time.“
Sen. Al Franken predicted this in his criticism of the approval of the merger:
“The FCC’s action today is a tremendous disappointment. The Commission is supposed to protect the public interest, not corporate interests. But what we see today is an effort by the FCC to appease the very companies it’s charged with regulating.”
Aka, regulatory capture. And we know all too well how that worked out in the financial industry and what happened as a result.
“With approval of this merger, the FCC has given a single media conglomerate unprecedented control over the flow of information in America. This will ultimately mean higher cable and Internet bills, fewer independent voices in the media, and less freedom of choice for all American consumers.”
Yes, I consider Keith Olbermann to be an independent voice, despite the cries of “librul, librul, librul” from the right.(Most of whom have never seen one minute of his show). On more than one occasion I heard him rip the Obama administration a new one, his Special Comment regarding the recent tax cut compromise being one glaring example.
MSNBC is moving Lawrence O’Donnell’s show into Countdown’s 7 PM time slot. Nothing against Mr. O’Donnell, but he’s a little too much Washington insider for my taste. Personally, I’ll be looking elsewhere and switch back for Rachel Maddow at 8. If she’s still there.