A prominent progressive senator is citing MSNBC’s decision to suspend on-air personality Keith Olbermann as grounds to put the brakes on a merger between the network’s parent company and cable giant Comcast Corp.
MSNBC brass late last week suspended Olbermann, the host of the network’s flagship “Countdown” program, for making political donations to Democratic candidates in violation of NBC News policy. That suspension will end Tuesday, when Olbermann is expected to return to the airwaves.
“I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the hundreds of thousands of progressives and others who demanded that Keith Olbermann be reinstated to his position at MSNBC,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders, the left-leaning independent from Vermont. “These people understand the enormously important role that the media play in contemporary American politics. They know the recent ascendancy of the Republican Party and right-wing politics had less to do with the leadership skills of Mitch McConnell or John Boehner and far more to do with the enormously powerful role played by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News and right-wing talk radio.
“Progressives know there is something very wrong when a nation divided politically has one major network operating as a propaganda arm of the Republican Party and 90 percent of talk radio is dominated by right-wing extremists,” Sanders adds.
Sanders calls it a “silver lining” of the Olbermann fracas that “people will now pay more attention to the political role of corporate media in America.
“While commentators on Fox and right-wing radio have the backing of Rupert Murdoch, a major Republican contributor, and other conservative corporations, progressives understand that their position is extremely vulnerable,” the senator says. “Keith Olbermann was suspended by General Electric’s MSNBC for a bogus reason. What will prevent the same thing from happening to Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and other progressives?”
Maddow and Schultz are other liberal voices on the MSNBC network.
Sanders says he will “do all that I can do to stop” the impending merger of Comcast and NBC-Universal, a deal worth in excess of $2.5 billion.
“There already is far too much media concentration in this country. We need more diversity. We need more local ownership. We need more viewpoints. We do not need another media giant run by a Republican supporter of George W. Bush,” Sanders says, referring to Comcast executive Stephen Burke, who raised in excess of $200,000 for the former president’s 2004 re-election. “That is the lesson we should learn from the Keith Olbermann suspension.”
Others raised the connection earlier between the planned merger and the Olbermann suspension, notably Susan Crawford, former special assistant to President Obama for technology policy.
Sanders also is not the first senator to oppose the merger. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced his opposition months ago. Franken once worked for NBC on the longrunning comedy series, “Saturday Night Live.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.