MSNBC is removing Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as the anchors of live political events, bowing to growing criticism that they are too opinionated to be seen as neutral in the heat of the presidential campaign.
David Gregory, the NBC newsman and White House correspondent who also hosts a program on MSNBC, will take over during such events as this fall's presidential and vice presidential debates and election night.The move, confirmed by spokesmen for both networks, follows increasingly loud complaints about Olbermann's anchor role at the Democratic and Republican conventions. Olbermann, who regularly assails President Bush and GOP nominee John McCain on his "Countdown" program, was effusive in praising the acceptance speech of Democratic nominee Barack Obama.
Read it here.
Of course, it's not clear that Gregory will be much of an improvement. NBC may be toning down its act, but it is unlikely that the anti-Republican bias of the past few years will end. The "liberal network" is not going to change its spots.
There seem to be three basic ways of interpreting this action on the part of NBC.
1. This may be just a business decision. MSNBC has not performed well in the ratings; its product has not sold, and moderation may be an attempt to stem the tide and revivify a failing network. Throughout the entertainment media [and make no mistake, news as presented on cable TV is an entertainment venue] liberalism has been a hard sell. In radio [think Air America], in the recording industry [anyone remember the Dixie Chicks?], in films [any of the recent anti-war efforts that has tanked at the box office], and now on TV, left-wing posturing has turned off viewers and listeners. It is not surprising that a profit-seeking corporation should, whatever the ideological biases of its executives, bow to market realities.
2. This may be a matter of political tactics. Olberman and Matthews over-the-top partisanship have proved to be politically counter-productive, especially in the wake of Sarah Palin's nomination. Republicans have been able to generate a great deal of public sympathy by pointing to NBC's biased coverage and in response the network may simply be moving its most irritating figures into the background and replacing them with someone [Gregory and perhaps Rachel Maddow] who may be a more effective spokesperson for the network's far-left agenda.
3. Olberman and Matthews [who has hinted that he might want to run for the Senate from Pennsylvania, challenging Arlen Specter and might be leaving anyway] have simply been too uncontrolled and eccentric in their recent presentations, openly feuding with other NBC personnel. More importantly, both men have been criticized by both Republicans and the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party. Both Steve Schmidt [McCain's top strategist] and Terry McCauliff [Hillary!s hatchet man] have strongly criticized Matthews and Olberman. It may just time to ease them out. Network executives have stated that the two men's roles at the network will in no way be diminished, but that's just like saying "heck of a job Brownie".
Take your choice. I suspect that all of these considerations are at play here.
Can't say I will be sad to see them go.