Throwback Thursday: Comcast Denies They Fired Olbermann. But Let’s Get Real Here…

Screen shot 2011-01-22 at 1.23.46 PM

TMZ reports that Comcast wanted Keith Olbermann gone. As TMZ put it just a few minutes ago:

Network execs were well aware that Comcast wanted Keith gone because he was “a loose cannon that could not be controlled.” It became clear to both sides that Olbermann’s days were numbered and they began negotiating an exit.

Indeed, it’s hard not to see the correlation: Just one day after the FCC approved Comcast’s acquisition of NBCU from GE, Olby was out.

Others disagree. The Cable Gamer has great respect for TVNewser’s Alex Weprin, but at the same time, TCG is not so sure that Alex is right in asserting, contra TMZ, that Comcast had nothing to do with Olbermann’s ouster. In a post just a few minutes ago, Alex quotes a Comcast press release asserting that Comcast had nothing to do with Olby’s exit:

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 and we will not.

Screen shot 2011-01-22 at 1.16.53 PMAlex adds that his own reporting backs up Comcast’s claim, but it’s a big world, and a lot of people can say a lot of different things. What really matters, of course, is what Comcastians Brian Roberts or Steve Burke might have said to GE’s Jeff Immelt or to the various suits at NBC, such as outgoing Jeff Zucker or the still-remaining Steve Capus. And of course, nominal MSNBC chief Phil Griffin was always happy to fire Olbermann.

But TCG thinks that it’s inconceivable that Capus or even Griffin would have fired Olbermann without at least Comcast’s acquiescence. On strictly economics terms, Olbermann is a huge asset to MSNBC, in terms of gathering eyeballs. And his departure threatens to undo all of MSNBC’s gains. There are plenty of reasons to fire Olby, of course, such as the obvious reality that he is a troublemaker, a morale-wrecker, and a general menace. But because there are two sides to the Olby story, that’s not a decision to be made lightly—especially when there’s new management coming in. So obviously Comcast, perhaps in the spirit of Henry II, signaled that it wanted to be rid of this turbulent anchor.

The only truly persuasive indicator that this general line of thinking is wrong is if Comcast immediately fires Capus and Griffin and rehires Olbermann. If that happens, then we will know that TMZ is wrong and Weprin is right. But otherwise, if Comcast seems happy enough with the new order at MSNBC, well, then, it’s obvious that Comcast’s will was carried out last night.

And if so, once that anti-Olby reality becomes apparent, it will be interesting to see what MSNBC’s lefty fanbase starts to think of not only NBC, but also NBC, and also Comcast. Especially if and when Olby turns up somewhere else—CNN? Huffington Post? From either of those vantage points, or somewhere else, the ex-MSNBC-er will be free to fire shots—and maybe even tell the truth—about his ex-employers.

Original comments:

libhom said…

This is a good reason for liberals, moderates, and progressives to get rid of Comcast as their cable provider. Of course, Comcast has been incredibly evil for a long time, attacking Net Neutrality and censoring its customers’ incoming emails.

Reposted from The Cable Game, 22 January 2011

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