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MSNBC Suspension of Olbermann Stinks

Jill Garvey • Nov 08, 2010

It sure does suck to be a journalist these days. Just ask Keith Olbermann, who was suspended from his job on Thursday for making donations to political candidates as a private citizen. Olbermann’s $2,400 donations to three candidates is a drop in the bucket - actually it’s a drop in the ocean - of America’s screwed up political process. But that hasn’t stopped his bosses at MSNBC from punishing him.

One of today’s greatest American myths is the belief that media conglomerates are driven by journalistic integrity. Cable news networks like MSNBC are driven by profits. It’s why more Americans tune into Comedy Central every night  instead of a “real” news channel like CNN, MSNBC or FOX News. Back in January Keith Olbermann aired a prescient summation of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. He said at one point, “Be prepared for the end of what you’re watching now, and I don’t just mean me…”

Olbermann’s prediction was that corporations, free to contribute as much campaign funding as they wanted, would install politicians who would then eliminate independent journalism and net neutrality. He even foretold a future where not-so-independent journalism - ahem Fox News - would no longer be necessary to whip up irrational anger against the government. Because Fox News would be the government. One doesn’t have to look further than the $2 million Fox parent company News Corp donated to organizations trying to defeat Democratic candidates to back up that prediction.

But it’s not only News Corp. According to CNN:

“General Electric, which owns NBC, has also made substantial political contributions in the 2010 election cycle. For example, GE donated $688,900 to Democrats through its PAC this election cycle compared to $410,100 to Republicans. The company has also given $75,500 to Democratic-affiliated leadership PACs and $74,500 to Republican-affiliated leadership PACs.

Meanwhile, GE has donated $237,000 to the Democratic Governors Association and $205,000 to the Republican Governors Association.

The PAC of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN has given $70,500 to Democratic candidates in the 2010 election cycle compared with $41,500 to Republicans. Time Warner also donated $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The political action committee for Viacom, the parent company of CBS, has contributed $108,700 to Democratic candidates this election cycle and $64,000 to Republicans, according to CQ Moneyline. The PAC has also contributed $22,000 to Democratic-affiliated leadership PACs and $21,500 Republican-affiliated leadership PACs. Viacom also donated $4,000 to the Pennsylvania Democratic Party last April.

And Disney, the parent company of ABC, has given $110,500 to Democratic candidates and $95,000 to Republicans through its PAC. It has also donated $16,000 to Democratic-affiliated leadership PACs and $20,000 to Republican-affiliated committees. Disney has also given $11,000 to Democratic Party PACs and $20,000 to Republican Party PACs.”

Is it a big coincidence that Olbermann is now being targeted after warning the public that corporations, like his parent company NBC News, were going to buy political power? I think not. Olbermann all but said himself that he expected this day to come.

Which brings us to the real question, why does MSNBC now want to silence one of the most popular progressive commentators in the nation? A Politco article theorizes, “Insiders were stunned that Griffin moved so swiftly to yank one of the network’s true stars off the air, and some suspected that the recent tensions with NBC News, which has grown increasingly uneasy with its sister network’s more ideological stance, contributed to the swift decision. Some have even speculated that Comcast’s coming merger with NBC Universal has heightened sensitivities about MSNBC’s ideological profile.”

Pretty soon Keith Olbermann will be back on the air and the controversy will die down. However, the issue of corporate influence over political campaigns will remain unresolved. If Americans wish to protect the independence of their journalists and their own privacy, the next two years are critical. The time is now to take a stand against corporate giants buying political power. If even influential players like Olbermann can be silenced, so can the rest of us.

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