August 1, 2009

News Corp and GE CEOs Put End to Olbermann-O'Reilly Feud

1211 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), wh...Image via Wikipedia

It is difficult to imagine how freedom of the press can be reconciled with corporate ownership of virtually all media. After all, why would any self-respecting media baron want one of his so-called news programs to present negative coverage of the various corporations that make up his empire? It would be bad for business. Sadly, mainstream media has become a business, largely abandoning its once critical role as a meaningful check and balance on government. These days, the only way to even get the mainstream media to cover certain stories is to put so much public pressure on them that continuing to ignore a story becomes bad for business.

It is against this context that we learn of what should be a huge story but probably won't. According to the New York Times, the long-running feud between MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and the Fox "News" Channel's Bill O'Reilly came to an abrupt end in early June as a result of a meeting between GE and News Corp CEOs.

Let me be clear about one thing: I watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann almost every day, and I was getting sick and tired of his habit of making Fox "News" a story in nearly every broadcast. All it seemed to do was give Fox more publicity, and it rarely seemed newsworthy. From that perspective, I hope Olbermann will find something else to do besides engaging in the same sort of attack journalism for which he so often condemns Fox "News."

Setting that aside, however, there is an important story here. The forced reconciliation between Olbermann and O'Reilly appears to have resulted from a secretive deal reached by their respective CEOs because it was judged to be bad for business. Whether it was in any way newsworthy does not appear to have been considered. This was a business decision.

So here we have a clear example of the content of mainstream "news" media being influenced by corporate decisions about what is in their business interests. This is not censorship, so please don't make the mistake of using that label. But it is something that should nevertheless be a concern for those of us who think that the news media should be truly independent.

Big H/T to Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com) for bringing this to my attention

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