Monday, August 3, 2009

Business King, Not Free Speech

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2009 at 12:45 PM

The headline on the front page of Saturday's New York Times, "Voices From Above Silence a Cable TV Feud", should have been above the fold and more about freedom of speech rather than media moguls making nice in the name of making a buck.

The feud between Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann goes back almost seven years, but once it started to hurt General Electric in the wallet, the media guys decided to end the war, not Olbermann or O'Reilly. I wonder what's next. Huffington Post has an interesting take here.

Here's a snippet from the NYT piece:

Both moguls expressed regret over the venomous culture between the networks and the increasingly personal nature of the barbs. Days later, even though the feud had increased the audience of both programs, their lieutenants arranged a cease-fire, according to four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal.

In early June, the combat stopped, and MSNBC and Fox, for the most part, found other targets for their verbal missiles (Hello, CNN).

"It was time to grow up," a senior employee of one of the companies said.

The reconciliation — not acknowledged by the parties until now — showcased how a personal and commercial battle between two men could create real consequences for their parent corporations. A G.E. shareholders’ meeting, for instance, was overrun by critics of MSNBC (and one of Mr. O’Reilly’s producers) last April.

“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.”

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