Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Is Olbermann on Thin Ice?

The Huffington Post
Jeff Cohen

The day after Donahue was terminated, an internal NBC memo leaked out; it said that Phil Donahue represents 'a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.' Why? Because he insisted on presenting administration critics. The memo worried that Donahue would become a 'home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.'

NBC's solution then? Dump Phil, stifle dissent, brandish the flag.
NBC's solution now? So far, Olbermann appears to be on more solid footing - mostly because the political zeitgeist is much changed from four years ago.

But MSNBC is still owned by GE's conservative bosses, and managed by NBC's ever-timid executives. Olbermann knows this reality as well as anyone; six months ago on C-SPAN, while expressing confidence that good ratings would keep them at bay, he remarked: 'There are people I know in the hierarchy of NBC, the company, and GE, the company, who do not like to see the current presidential administration criticized at all.'

I'm pulling for Olbermann; I'm one of the multitudes who find his commentaries online (perhaps more see them on the Web than on TV) - and forward them far and wide.

But with each new broadside against the Bush administration, I fear for his future. His best security is us, an active citizenry. It's media activism, organized heavily on the Net. It's media watch groups like FAIR and Media Matters for America. It's the movement that resisted the FCC changes in 2003, challenged Sinclair Broadcast propaganda before the '04 election, and recently exposed the 9/11 'hijacking' of ABC by rightwing Clinton-bashers.

In the epilogue of Cable News Confidential, I laud this movement: "My only regret was that such a potent movement had not coalesced by 2002 - to flex its muscles against MSNBC brass in defense of an unfettered Donahue."

If Olbermann gets muzzled or terminated for political reasons, it will be up to us to fight - not only for him, but for the concept that without serious dissent, democracy is a sham.

No comments: