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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

wtf: Keith Olbermann off the air?!

I leave the country and mere days later, Keith Olbermann announces he’s leaving MSNBC and that Countdown is going off the air. Can this be coincidence? I think not. Clearly, Keith felt his show was simply not worth doing if I wasn’t there to watch it.

Seriously, though: Is it time to be scared yet? Comcast takes over NBC — yet another instance of the American media getting more and more consolidated into fewer and fewer corporate hands — and Olbermann gets the boot. Olbermann’s last signoff on Friday night was apparently a shock even to guests who were on the program that last night. On the other hand, TheWrap is reporting that it was Olbermann’s decision to leave MSNBC, and The New York Times says that Olbermann’s departure was weeks in the making. (Yet why would Olbermann himself create the Facebook group Bring Keith Olberman Back if it was his choice to leave?) NBC had to have been eager to get rid of him, despite the fact that Countdown was the highest-rated show on the network. If they didn’t want him to go, and it was all Olbermann’s choice, the honchos would have gone ballistic over his breaking his contract, which still has another year or two to go. Instead, MSNBC negotiated a release. An employment lawyer at Daily Kos explains how the deal probably is good for Olbermann — he’ll be free to do his thing in print and online immediately, and eventually somewhere else on TV, too.
But is it good for our society? Olbermann was a voice for reason and liberality and against bullshit, a voice with a national TV platform. Will Rachel Maddow be next? (Frankly, I’d been noticing her bending over backward to defend Obama recently when he hasn’t warranted it. If she remains on the air, will her rhetoric get even more watered down?) Naomi Wolf warns that a shutdown of dissenting voices in the press in one of the steps toward fascism. When Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert suddenly announce they’re going off the air, be ready to get out of the country…

Someone needs to Wikileaks whatever MSNBC/NBC/Comcast documents can be got about this…

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