Another Reason To Hate Comcast

UPDATE: Senator Bernie Sanders agrees with the Hag; wants NBC/Comcast merger stopped in light of Olbermann’s firing….

“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 & we will not.”

(Statement hurriedly released by Comcast after they canned Keith Olbermann, their highest-rated host, Friday)

Well, that didn’t take long.  You might recognize that last part (in bold) from Iran/Contra; then as now it means, roughly, “Yeah, so what?  We won’t admit it next time, either.”  Reagan, having Alzheimer’s and all, might be forgiven for such a plain falsehood, but the sleazy pols and sleazier corporations who have trotted out this curiously constructed denial ever since know exactly what they’re doing.  Name the heinous or corrupt act committed, be it torture, spying on citizens, or what have you, and the have not/will not couplet, repeated endlessly, generally tides one over until Fox et al can come in and carpet-bomb the area with lies and and pearl-clutching in equal measure.  Don’t try this at home, though, unless you’re a powerful politician or a corporation who owns some; like polo or yachting, this isn’t a sport for the huddled masses.

The most sinister thing about MSNBC’s decision to dump Olbermann halfway through a $30 million four-year contract is that it is such a bad business decision; Olbermann’s intensely loyal fans, who essentially made MSNBC the network that beat CNN and is making gains on FOX,  have made their voices heard before, and they are, after all, MSNBC’s audience.  It’s hard to imagine Fox firing, say, Bill O’Reilly, with no real plan to replace him with anyone of similar stature in the time slot, and thus potentially losing ratings ground and viewer loyalty in the process.  But it’s also hard to imagine Bill O’Reilly ever doing anything to annoy his monopolistic overlords, much less going out quietly.

Comcast knows as well as anyone that having a liberal or two on the air, if it can dig your network out of the ratings basement, isn’t such a bad thing, but not good enough to hang onto when it annoys the plutocrats.  Better to have a gaffe-ridden Bozo like Chris Matthews or an insidery cipher like Lawrence O’Donnell…  In the unlikely event that they stray from the reservation, they can be easily brought to heel.  Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz provide color and a bit of passion, but neither have been known to leave marks on their targets, and having been made by MSNBC, are unlikely to cross it under new ownership.  Now that Comcast is a full-scale monopoly, vertically integrated and ready to squash the competition in other ways, it no longer cares what the ratings are in its tiny old News division, or what its paying customers want.  ”Whatever the traffic will bear”  and “the public be damned” are the cries of the new plutocracy, just as they were for the old.

The message to the reality-based community couldn’t be clearer, as a loyal Bushie (probably Karl Rove) said in the heady days of 2003, “We’re an empire now, and we create our own reality.”  Keith Olbermann provided an antidote to that barrage of lie-filled propaganda in those dark days, virtually alone in TV News, and he had the advantage of being right, to boot.  That sort of thing just isn’t done anymore; as the otherwise inexplicably still-employed David Gregory would be happy to explain to you, “That’s not our role.”  Comcast just reminded us of that, however sneakily, and I expect more reminders in the days and weeks ahead.

The ball got rolling back when Reagan’s FCC Chairman said, “A television is just a toaster with pictures.”  And now, Keith Olbermann, and with him, MSNBC, is the toast.  It was nice while it lasted.


  1. dirigo says:

    Since Comcast says it doesn’t yet have control of NBC, it would be delicious if someone piped up and showed tampering in l’affair Olbermann.

    • cocktailhag says:

      The upper decks have already been shuffled, you know, as always happens as these deals are cooked up. There’s a trickle-down effect, and ol’ Keith forgot his umbrella that day.

      • dirigo says:

        I noticed another theory in the last few minutes: that Keith wanted out, at a stiff price, so he can become an Arianna on his own news site.

        Hmmmm …

        Still, Comcast may be the death of NBC. Maybe cancellation of 30 Rock will make it more obvious. No jokes, folks. This media business is serious. NBC losing its sense of humor might be worse than losing Keith.

        • cocktailhag says:

          Well, everyone’s following the Murdoch/Berlusconi model now. Use the media as your loss leader, and go where the real money is. (And in Silvio’s case, the tarts, too…)
          The Fox gloating to come will be the worst part…. Luntzian homilies about how the “free market” shuns “extremists.”

          • dirigo says:

            Just saw a brief comment from Maher, lamenting that Keith dumped the “Worst Person in the World.”

            He said one should not build a show around people who don’t get the jokes. “Fuck ‘em if they don’t get the joke,” he said.

            And I’ll have what you’re having. Thanks.

  2. nancy says:

    A commenter at Cogitmus, one of my daily stops, suggested there’s more to the story. Of course, even if he’s right, my Comcast relationship is getting the heave-ho. Timing is everything. It’s the return of rabbit ears for me.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I myself have never had cable; only landline and internet, so I’ve stayed out of the tentacles of Comcast, which is a monopoly here. Everyone has it and everyone complains about it, like the weather. (And as effectively.)
      I know the business model, and quality doesn’t enter into it.

  3. I remember reading some horror stories about Comcast’s services a few year’s ago. Most Comcast customers were complaining about price gouging and monopolistic channel selection. But, some were complaining about the “political” slant of Comcast’s CEO, Brian L. Roberts. Take for example this OpEdNews item from Dean Banks.

    He was concerned about Roberts’ apparent political motivation for charging extra for MSNBC, while including FOX in his standard package. Banks said in closing:

    “If you want to charge extra for MSNBC then charge extra for FOX. If FOX is free to basic cable, then MSNBC should be free as well. At least give the impression that you are not politically or religiously motivated in making the channel change.”

    Soon Roberts will own MSNBC. So, he’ll probably reverse the pay/free – MSNBC/FOX situation (AFTER he conservatively re-aligns the MSNBC programming to compete head-on with FOX).

    • cocktailhag says:

      Exactly. They can have a liberal or two; just not a “main” one like Olbermann. All the rest are expendable. (I hear Tucker Carlson’s looking for work…)

      • Yup, they’ll keep a couple of token leftys. One will be Chris Matthews (not a real liberal). The other will be a center-left lightweight. O’Donnell and Maddow will be eased out, and Morning Joe will move to the evening along with someone like Tucker Carlson.

        So Sad!

        • cocktailhag says:

          They need a cocktailhag in there. Andrea’s got her own slot, but somebody like that.

        • dirigo says:

          To Hag’s point, expressed earlier when he said he doesn’t have cable: why bother?

          You can get wireless and phone services, linked to your laptop, for around a hundred bucks a month.

          Except for movies you could get at the library, or Netflix, who needs cable on the flat screen? Get a cord with the right tranny speed, and your flat screen still works wonders, even for some of the lame news shows still available (if you want to put up with it).

          Screw Comcast, and Cablevision.

          I used to work in a Cablevision newsroom in the New York area. There’s no reason to watch it. None whatsoever.

          • dirigo says:

            Hey, Hag, putting a cherry on top of this week’s meta absurdity in media world, the Times – finally – has a special on Silvio in the Sunday Bleak in Review.

            Better late than never.

            You’ll recall we beat them on this more than a year ago, but at the time we didn’t know about the girl from Morocco who was masquerading as an Egyptian at the PM’s villa in Milan. She said she thought she saw Vlad Putin there flexing his pecs in a mauve bikini, but added she didn’t see him as anything more than part of the scrum of motley bunga bunga groupies hanging around with Sil.

            Unfortunately, Harlan missed that angle.

            I think the CHNN flying boat was under repair in Naples at the time, or delayed in getting back into service because of some delinquencies on the company’s part in covering fuel bills – or something.

          • cocktailhag says:

            Oh, joy! Silvio in the news; even the Pope weighed in this time!
            I’ll read it as soon as I get my curlers out.

  4. dirigo says:

    Lo! Yonder! Cast thine eyes on the shining city on a hill (the one Reagan cribbed from John Winthrop and bent into a pretzel).

    Jim Lehrer will be out of work soon too.

  5. mikeinportc says:

    They shuffled Phil Donahue out the door , when he had their highest rated show, so it seems that NBC only cares about ratings if it doesn’t interfere with other things. ( As you alluded to.)

    Maybe Keith will be better, and better off, elsewhere , where there’s no concern about holding back. ( Even if he never had any such intentions, in any instances, just having to think about it could affect how something is said. )

    OT, I was searching for a particular quote* about puritanism , and ran across this :
    “As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”—H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920 :) )))))))

    * Some busybodies in the NYS Legislature have finally gotten around to pearl-clutching alarm about Salvia divinorum . There was a story in the local paper , so of course , I had to put in my DFHish 2c. ;)

    More Mencken quotes :

    Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

    “The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who loves his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”— H.L. Mencken

    • dirigo says:

      Olbermann, wherever he lands, should bring up Mencken a lot more than Thurber, and, lose some of the Cronkite/Murrow shtick.

      Just a couple of notes about refining the performance and adjusting the pitch.

    • cocktailhag says:

      Been reading up on our Mencken, Sage of Baltimore? (I don’t think they have one anymore…)
      Keith won’t ever have a prime time show like Countdown; there are only so many slots in the toaster with pictures.

  6. michlib says:

    Thank you, St. Ronnie for gutting the fairness doctrine, and you, Craven Bubba Clinton, for telecom deregulation in ’96 – let us enjoy the first bitter cups proffered from the fruit of this tree.

    If I were Ed or Rachel, I’d start quoting storage space ASAP.

  7. nancy says:

    “I know the business model, and quality doesn’t enter into it.” Indeed. The old American bait-and-switch. Before Clinton signed off on giving the telecommunications moguls everything their hearts could ever have desired, Bravo actually could be counted on for a steady stream of arty movies; A&E broadcast a collection of performances and theatre. While baby was napping, I remember seeing “Raise the Red Lantern” and Sophie Guillaum in the Paris Opera Ballet production of “Cinderella”. Now Bravo non-stop loops the “real” housewives of wherever, and true crime re-enactments on A&E—well, they just take your breath away. Just have to wonder how long the execs can continue to sell this cheese. Once upon a time…….

    • nancy says:

      Sylvie Guillem–I really must stop relying on my memory.

      • cocktailhag says:

        sheesh, it’s true all over. I recall reading Time magazines from the 70′s that looked like the Economist. It’s the dumbing, stupid.

        • michlib says:

          Hag – CHNN literature section highly recommends Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason for an excellent diagnosis on our national embrace of junk thought – and the politics that go with it.

  8. ed thorpe says:

    (It’s kinda fun watching the children bicker amongst themselves…)

    • cocktailhag says:

      Hmmm. Since there are few commenters on this thread under 40, and try as I might I can hardly find any bickering, I do have to conclude that maybe the parentheses in your comment mean something heretofore unknown in the English language. Or more likely, you’re not entirely sure which blog you’re trolling. You must be a temp.