Olbermann Out At MSNBC
'Countdown' host's last show was Friday
By Jon Lafayette -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/21/2011 9:06:09 PM
In an on-air farewell on Countdown, Olbermann said he had been told that this was his last show, which might indicate he'd been fired by NBC Universal, which had suspended him in November for making campaign donations to Democrats. But he also said there had been times that "all that surrounded the show . . . were too much for me."
The reason for the departure was not immediately clear. "MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract," said the network in a statement released as Olbermann went off the air. "MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors."
NBCU this week moved a step closer to being controlled by Comcast Corp., with the FCC approving the cable giant's transaction with General Electric, NBCU's current owner. The deal is expected to be finalized Jan. 28.
Given Olbermann's outspoken persona and his anti-establishment views, there has been speculation that Comcast would be less tolerant of his behavior on-air and behind the scenes with management.
One insider said that Comcast was informed of the deal made to terminate Olbermann's contract before it was announced, but that it was not involved in the decision.
Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice confirmed: "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."
An MSNBC spokesman would not comment on the situation beyond the network's statement.
Comcast said back in November it had no role in the suspension or reinstatement of Olbermann.
"Comcast is not in any way involved with decisions made currently by NBC News," the company said in a statement in November. "We have pledged that when the transaction is concluded, Comcast will abide by the same policies for NBC's news and public affairs programming that have been in place since GE acquired the company in 1986. Comcast is committed to the independence of NBC's news operations."
MSNBC had to shuffle its lineup in the wake of Olbermann's exit, a move made easier by the emergence of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell as anchors whose shows on some nights draw more viewers than Olbermann's program Countdown.
On Monday, The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell will move from 10 p.m. to 8 p.m., with The Ed Show will move from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Countdown had been airing at 8-9 p.m. The Rachel Maddow Show remains at 9 p.m. O'Donnell will repeat at 11 p.m., replacing an Olbermann rebroadcast, and Cenk Uygur, MSNBC contributor and host of Web show "The Young Turks," will fill in as host of the 6 p.m. hour.
Olbermann helped MSNBC build viewership by taking on President George W. Bush and Fox News, attacking both with features such as "Worst Person In the World." He particularly went after Fox host Bill O'Reilly. The tension between the two hosts required high-level intervention from executives at both GE and Fox News parent News Corp.
Olbermann also created enemies inside and he was close to being fired a few times in addition to the campaign contribution issue in November. In his farewell broadcast, he thanked a large number of people, but did not include either NBC News President Steve Capus or MSNBC boss Phil Griffin.
Of Olbermann's departure, Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said, "Keith Olbermann did real journalism and spoke truth to power during the Bush years when most reporters fell down on the job. For that, he is a hero to many Americans -- including the 300,000 people who signed our BoldProgressives.org petition to put Keith back on the air last November." Olbermann had donated to two candidates endorsed by Green's PAC.
"A lot of people are trying to figure out if this was truly voluntary or not, with some noting that the Comcast-NBC merger was approved by President Obama's FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski just this week," Green added. "We'll see what develops. But regardless, Keith: Good night and good luck."
On the contrary, I do not feel abandoned by Keith, nor malice toward MSNBC for their decision not to renew his contract. It was a contract a very lucrative one I understand and it had terms of separation included and since the terms were abided by no foul. Keith is a pretty smart guy and he'll be back soon, mark my word.
John Milton Wesley - 1/24/2011 3:01:14 PM EST
For all of y'all who loved Keith Olbermann, the feeling was not mutual. It appears that he has been working on his departure for several weeks and he could have planned a departure. But instead, he chose to simply disappear and abandon you....This guy was totally undependable and he was not the type to depend on. The way he just disappeared and the "end" of his show is so symbolic of how this guy was a disappointment. Keith Olbermann simply abandoned you guys...that is sad..
keith olbermann - 1/23/2011 10:30:55 PM EST
Mike O'Neill - 1/22/2011 3:56:08 PM EST
I doubt this has to do with the Comcast-NBC Merger. We'll he could substitute for Bill O'Reilly on the O"Reilly Factor.
People, there's a big world outside that needs to be explored. Save your hard earned money and cut your cable and internet, go out, spend time at the dinner table with your family, Read the Bible.
Josh Taylor - 1/22/2011 10:36:43 AM EST
This certainly had to do with the Comcast deal but not for the reasons everyone's claiming. There's a legal window of time around a merger or acquisition when the company being formed can put numerous kinds of costs against the closing process...and in turn, lessen their taxes since these are deductible. For years, media companies going through mergers have used this window to dump out of big talent contracts since they can legally tag these million-dollar payoffs as closing costs. We sure did it big-time a few years back: we went on a firing binge and let go of probably a few dozen people with rich contracts. And the talent have no grounds to sue since they're getting paid per the terms of their deals. Comcast's statement - that it hadn't meddled in NBC's news judgment re: this action - was probably true. But while Olbermann certainly rubbed people the wrong way and had built himself a list of other problems that were undoubtedly grounds for going away, I have to believe that the timing and end result were deliberate to satisfy the accountants, not the Republicans. And everyone at NBC/MSNBC/Comcast should be waiting for more of this to come down.
LynneG - 1/22/2011 9:07:47 AM EST
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