Sen. Sanders wants Comcast-NBC deal halted

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, November 8, 2010 16:42 EDT
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders thinks MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann was suspended for a “bogus” reason and wants to know: “What will prevent the same thing from happening to Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and other progressives?”

The Independent senator, who caucuses with Democrats, explained that the whole fracas over Olbermann’s political donations was just another example of why media consolidation poses a threat to democracy and the marketplace of ideas.

“General Electric, NBC’s parent, is one of the largest corporations in the world with an anti-labor history of outsourcing jobs and with financial links to military and nuclear power industries,” he said in a Monday media advisory. “Surely we understand that GE is not going to provide the same backing for MSNBC commentators that Rupert Murdoch provides for his mouthpieces at Fox News.”

He also noted that should the proposed merger of Comcast and NBC-Universal go forward, the resulting company would have Comcast CEO Stephen B. Burke, a noted supporter of George W. Bush, at its helm.

Olbermann’s suspension came as something of a surprise, after a season of controversy over donations from news organizations and journalists to political campaigns. Fox News parent company News Corporation was criticized by many on the left for its $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, and another $1 million to the US Chamber of Commerce.

Similarly, MSNBC parent company General Electric hired over 550 professional lobbyists in 2010,according to the Center for Responsive Politics, spending over $17.8 million to influence policy. It had for many years favored Republicans in congressional giving, but seems to have taken a shine to Democrats since 2008.

By contrast, a study of political donations found that no fewer than 30 Fox News personalities “endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations” in the latest election cycle.

“As Vermont’s senator, I intend to do all that I can do to stop [the Comcast-NBC] merger,” Sanders concluded. “There already is far too much media concentration in this country. We need more diversity. We need more local ownership. We need more viewpoints. We do not need another media giant run by a Republican supporter of George W. Bush. That is the lesson we should learn from the Keith Olbermann suspension.”

Comcast’s purchase of a 51% stake in NBC-Universal would bring together one of America’s largest media conglomerates and the nation’s largest cable TV provider, creating a company worth over $30 billion. The cable provider said recently it hopes federal regulators approve the deal by year’s end.

MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann was expected to return to his regular broadcast schedule on Tuesday night, according to a Sunday statement by the network president.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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