Simply distasteful: censorship by mutual agreement

Since it looks like I’m on an anti-censorship kick, for better or worse, I offer the following story.

Glenn Greenwald writing for Salon reports on what was originally a New York Times story detailing a highly suspicious agreement between the corporate leadership of both GE and News Corporation, the parent companies of MSNBC and Fox News respectively.

In essence, the chairman of General Electric (which owns MSNBC), Jeffrey Immelt, and the chairman of News Corporation (which owns Fox News), Rupert Murdoch, were brought into a room at a “summit meeting” for CEOs in May, where Charlie Rose tried to engineer an end to the “feud” between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly. According to the NYT, both CEOs agreed that the dispute was bad for the interests of the corporate parents, and thus agreed to order their news employees to cease attacking each other’s news organizations and employees.

Most notably, the deal wasn’t engineered because of a perception that it was hurting either Olbermann or O’Reilly’s show, or even that it was hurting MSNBC. To the contrary, as Olbermann himself has acknowledged, his battles with O’Reilly have substantially boosted his ratings. The agreement of the corporate CEOs to cease criticizing each other was motivated by the belief that such criticism was hurting the unrelated corporate interests of GE and News Corp:

Note that it is not about ratings. The two companies are engaging in censorious collusion, gagging their respective personalities based purely on corporate interests.

This is corporate sleaziness at its worst. We know damn well MSNBC and other GE-owned networks will be hesitant to report negatively against its corporate parent, and the same for Fox News reporting negatively against its corporate parent.

Most nauseating, would be this quote from Charlie Rose in 2003. The context of this quote is Rose interviewing Amy Goodman, the well-known host of the independent news program Democracy Now! which airs nationwide on Pacifica, a non-profit radio network, and as a TV show on several local cable networks. Rose is responding to Goodman’s explanation of independent news:

ROSE: My point in response to that would be that we do need you… Having said that, I promise you, CBS News and ABC News and NBC News are not influenced by the corporations that may own those companies. Since I know one of them very well and worked for one of them.

Shame on you, Charlie Rose. My outrage at your hypocrisy is only equalled by my disgust at the fact you make absolutely no attempt to hide it.

Glenn Greenwald goes into further detail about GE’s control of NBC and MSNBC. Most of it is more of the same but one highlight of this second article is a quote from Gary Sheffer:

“We all recognize that a certain level of civility needed to be introduced into the public discussion,” Gary Sheffer, a spokesman for G.E., said this week. “We’re happy that has happened.”

Civility? There’s nothing civil about censorship for greed, censorship to keep the stockholders happy. At the end of the day, news organizations exist to report news to the people, not to make money for the shareholders of their corporate parents.

For the benefit of some new readers of the blog I may have picked up in the last couple of weeks: censorship is one of my pet peeves, and the archives speak for themselves. If you have not already, please take a look.