08/2/09 - 3:25am
by Chas Danner

“Wasn’t Good for Either Parent”

The New York Times yesterday published an eye-opening story about how the corporate parents of Fox News and MSNBC had ended on on-air feud between Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann because the feud “wasn’t good for either parent” (corporation). Then Glenn Greenwald did exactly what a smart blogger should and took the NYT pass and scored a bigger point by examining the implications of this news. His piece is a bit too long but needs to be read by anyone that lets themselves forget that what they see on TV every day is not “pure” journalism but an evolution of information and entertainment driven as much by profit interests as by any other force. That is not some whacko media watchdog rant either; it is a plain fact. Rarely however is there such a big smoking gun like the ending of this feud…

So now GE is using its control of NBC and MSNBC to ensure that there is no more reporting by Fox of its business activities in Iran or other embarrassing corporate activities, while News Corp. is ensuring that the lies spewed regularly by its top-rated commodity on Fox News are no longer reported by MSNBC.  You don’t have to agree with the reader’s view of the value of this reporting to be highly disturbed that it is being censored.

GE’s silencing of Olbermann and MSNBC’s sleazy use of Richard Wolffe – Glenn Grenwald @ Salon

And then bookend that story with Frank Rich’s new column about Gates/Crowley, the “Beer Summit,” and the Birthers – in which he mentions at a glance how an MSNBC anchor actually admitted that health care, the most important political issue facing the country right now by far, is a ratings bore and the effect that has. From the orginal Politico reporting of that admission:

Ratigan said that “cable networks’ ratings go off a cliff” during the health care debate, which eventually “forces the conversation out of the TV.”

The free press is supposed to be the most effective way that important information is shared in a Democracy. We see every day how the lack of a free press negatively effects a country like Iran or any of the former Soviet states. But even our treasured free press, on the right or left, is not free from the bias of corporate profitability. That may be a complaint people have heard too often or from someone with too outraged a tone to be properly respected – but it is still a *really* important reality that people should try to understand. It isn’t a conspiracy theory; it’s a business model.

And to some extent it’s also up to the journalists themselves to stand up to their bosses. Keith Olbermann pays tribute to Edward R. Murrow every night by duplicating his sign off, but would Murrow have listened to GE?

There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or the Communications Act which says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the Republic collapse.

07/3/09 - 3:06pm
by Chas Danner

The Calm After and Before the Storm

For anyone who’s still paying close attention to the events in Iran, it’s now obvious that between the lack of demonstrations, the slowdown in Twitter traffic, and the cultural obsession with Michael Jackson – coverage of Iran has rapidly declined. But the story is not dead, the uprising is not extinguished, and the news is still important as the slow pressure of a new status quo in Iran takes shape. Things are simmering, and they may move at this pace for a while. I for one am committed to continuing to follow the story, and I know I am not alone. If anything, it is even more interesting now, there is more time to process, more time for careful reporting to be done as the regime in Iran tries to relax the communications blackout (or else sacrifice their economy).

Stay plugged in. You are smart enough to not need continuous video and images to understand this story. Here are the places online it is still being watched closely:

Nico Pitney @ the Huffington Post (he never sleeps as far as I can tell, this is now the best source online for full coverage)
Juan Cole
NIAC’s Blog
Spencer Ackerman (reports on most anything to do with foreign policy)
Andrew Sullivan (back to covering a wider range of news, but still checking in on Iran several times a day)
BBC (who make me more and more jealous every day wishing for a US equivalent)

In this space @ MightierThan –  I expect to have two big posts for Monday, including the new “Poem for the Rooftop” videos which I have had some very gracious help from Farsi speakers for.

Happy Independence Day, and here’s to independence everywhere…