One of the best people to leave the Obama adminstration, Susan Crawford has been devoting a considerable amount of time to fighting the Comcast - NBC merger.
Recently, she explained a key problem -- one that explains why NBC would fire Olbermann -- in the blog post: Comcast/NBCU: Who answers Fox News?.
Here’s an undeniable problem: What happens to MSNBC post-merger? Right now, it’s providing the only response to Fox News. Comcast won’t want to irritate Fox - you can’t be a pay-TV distributor without Fox News, in the same way that you can’t be a pay-TV distributor without ESPN. Fox News is a truck running downhill. It’s a huge player. Comcast has already shown that it will fire reporters that irritate Fox.
We knew this was going to happen as the merger approached. Think Progress wrote UPDATED: Before Bush Donor Takeover Of MSNBC, Network Selectively Applies Rules To Suspend Olbermann:
Late last year, Comcast — the nation’s largest cable provider and second largest Internet service provider — inked a deal taking over NBC Universal, the parent company of MSNBC. Comcast moved swiftly to reshuffle MSNBC’s top staff. On September 26th of this year, Comcast announced perhaps the most dramatic shift, replacing longtime MSNBC chief Jeff Zucker with Comcast executive Steve Burke [Updated: The shift from Zucker to Burke has not taken place yet -- Burke will preside over MSNBC once the Comcast merger is complete. We have been informed that no Comcast officials are currently involved in the decisions of NBC or MSNBC.]. Burke has given generous amounts to both parties — providing cash to outgoing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) as well as to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) and other top Republicans. But as Public Citizen has noted, Burke has deep ties to the Republican Party. Public Citizen’s report reveals that Burke served as a key fundraiser to President George Bush, and even served on Bush’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology
Comcast has always been anti-progressive. Last year, it removed MSNBC from regular cable but kept Fox News. Here's a dailykos diary from August 2009: Updated...Comcast favors Fox News, charges $204 more for MSNBC package. ACTION NEEDED.
As of 8.12.09, Comcast has moved MSNBC from its Digital Starter Package to its Digital Classic Lineup while leaving Fox News on the Starter package. What this means is that one now has to pay an additional $17 per month ($204 per year) to view anything progressive enough to even remotely balance out FNC's right wing extremism
The bottom line:
As Crawford noted above, Comcast is already being sued by an anchor who was fired for criticizing O'Reilly:
The business interests of Comcast and the News Corporation were brought to light in a lawsuit by Barry Nolan, a Comcast employee whose protest of Mr. O’Reilly cost him a $200,000-a-year job two years ago. Mr. Nolan later protested his firing, and last month, he lost the case.
In an extensive review of Mr. Nolan’s case for the Columbia Journalism Review in August, the writer Terry Ann Knopf asserted that Mr. Nolan’s firing reflected the "corrosive influence of over-concentrated corporate power."
For Crawford's detailed analysis of the full impact of the merger, see her comments in Chicago from the summer.
It's several pages, but it starts with this:
By virtue of its control over must-have NBCU content, taken in concert with its existing control over 25% of the video distribution market and its standing as the nation’s largest high-speed Internet access provider, Comcast will be able to work with programmers to ensure that the growth of alternative online distribution mechanisms for video is slowed and the emergence of competing high-speed Internet access facilities (that might facilitate the growth of competing online video marketplaces) is blocked.