I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the hundreds of thousands of progressives and others who demanded that Keith Olbermann be reinstated to his position at MSNBC. These people understand the enormously important role that the media play in contemporary American politics. They know the recent ascendancy of the Republican Party and right-wing politics had less to do with the leadership skills of Mitch McConnell or John Boehner and far more to do with the enormously powerful role played by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News and right-wing talk radio.
Progressives know there is something very wrong when a nation divided politically has one major network operating as a propaganda arm of the Republican Party and 90 percent of talk radio is dominated by right-wing extremists.
If there is a silver lining in the action of MSNBC against Keith Olbermann, it is that people will now pay more attention to the political role of corporate media in America. While commentators on Fox and right-wing radio have the backing of Rupert Murdoch, a major Republican contributor, and other conservative corporations, progressives understand that their position is extremely vulnerable. Keith Olbermann was suspended by General Electric's MSNBC for a bogus reason. What will prevent the same thing from happening to Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and other progressives?
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. 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.
What has not gotten a lot of attention in the midst of this controversy is that GE's NBC Universal, one of the largest media conglomerates in the country, is in the process of merging with Comcast, the largest cable television provider in America. The new head of that company would be Stephen B. Burke, Comcast's chief operating officer and a "Bush Ranger" who raised at least $200,000 for the 2004 reelection campaign of President George W. Bush.
As Vermont's senator, I intend to do all that I can do to stop this merger. 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.