Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Olbermannia

with 2 comments

MSNBC has caused a stir by suspending Keith Olbermann indefinitely without pay for making political donations to Democratic candidates (lated amended to “without prior permission”). The Wall Street Journal reported that Nation editor Chris Hayes was also being punished for donations (these made before Hayes was even under NBC contract), but Hayes denied this. Joe Scarborough made similar donations, as has Pat Buchanan—but as with most such things, it’s okay if you’re a Republican.

It’s likely that the Comcast merger was a factor.

Late last year, Comcast — the nation’s largest cable provider and second largest Internet service provider — inked a deal taking over NBC Universal, the parent company of MSNBC. Comcast moved swiftly to reshuffle MSNBC’s top staff. On September 26th of this year, Comcast announced perhaps the most dramatic shift, replacing longtime MSNBC chief Jeff Zucker with Comcast executive Steve Burke. Burke has given generous amounts to both parties — providing cash to outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) as well as to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and other top Republicans. But as Public Citizen has noted, Burke has deep ties to the Republican Party. Public Citizen’s report reveals that Burke served as a key fundraiser to President George Bush, and even served on Bush’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology:

Comcast – the country’s largest provider of cable TV and broadband Internet services – has increased its political giving along with its mergers and acquisitions. CEO Brian Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the 2000 Republican Convention. Comcast Cable President Stephen Burke has raised at least $200,000 for Bush’s re-election campaign. […] Comcast’s political giving has increased along with its mergers and acquisitions. The company was a “platinum sponsor” at the 2000 GOP convention, and Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the Philadelphia event. Burke was appointed to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology in 2002.

Why would Comcast be interested in silencing progressive voices? Historically, Comcast has boosted its profits by buying up various telecommunication and media content companies — instead of providing faster Internet or better services (overall, American broadband services are far slower than in many industrialized nations). Many of these mergers, as Public Citizen and Free Press have reported, have been allowed by regulators because of Comcast’s considerable political muscle. Comcast’s latest regulatory battle has been to oppose Net Neutrality — a rule allowing a free and open Internet — because the company would prefer to have customers pay for preferred online content.

More on that here. There’s also rampant speculation on Twitter and elsewhere that Comcast may be attempting to curry favor with the incoming GOP-run Commerce Committee, which still has to approve the NBC merger.

I don’t watch Olbermann, but I won’t watch Maddow clips online until he’s back.

2 Responses

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  1. I kinda thought Comcast and MSNBC would have some growing pains after the merger.

    P.C.

    November 5, 2010 at 10:10 pm

  2. Bill Simmon

    November 6, 2010 at 4:43 pm


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