Friday, September 19, 2008

GETTING LIBERALS ON THE AIR ISN'T EASY

Progress Report - Last week, MSNBC debuted a new prime-time political show hosted by Rachel Maddow, a progressive radio host on Air America. The debut attracted more viewers than both Larry King and Glenn Beck's programs, on CNN and CNN Headline News, respectively. After one week on air, Maddow's was MSNBC's highest-rated show on Tuesday, with Keith Olbermann's Countdown in second place. When Olbermann announced Maddow's new show last month on the progressive blog Daily Kos, he wrote to its readers, "Yes, you had something to do with it."

Maddow's show is one of the few success stories of the efforts by progressives to see more progressive voices on TV. In fact, the day before Maddow's debut, MSNBC announced it was pulling Olbermann and Chris Matthews from its election coverage -- a move the New York Times said was a "direct result of tensions associated with the channel's perceived shift to the political left." Despite Olbermann and Maddow's rating successes, MSNBC and the other networks still don't seem to be getting the message: Americans want to hear progressive voices on television.

After 9/11, and particularly in the lead-up to the Iraq war, news programs purged their ranks of several voices seen as remotely hesitant about President Bush's foreign policy. After political commenter Bill Maher criticized the war in Afghanistan, "he was quickly alerted that he had gone beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse -- even though that's his job. (His show is called 'Politically Incorrect.')," David Talbot at Salon.com noted. In fact, then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer declared ominously, "Americans need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is."

At MSNBC, progressive host Phil Donahue was fired in February 2003 for his anti-war views, despite the fact that his show was the network's highest-rated program. An internal NBC memo said Donahue presented a "difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. . . He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives." The memo outlined a possible nightmare scenario in which the show would become "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity." The same week Donahue was fired, the network brought on Jesse Ventura and right-wing shock jock Michael Savage.

1 Comments:

At September 20, 2008 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would appear that vacillations of popular political sentiment seem to follow thirty year cycles. The 1890's progressive movement was followed by the financial hubris of the 1920's which gave rise to the New Deal that was followed by the excesses of HUAC & McCarthy, out of which reactively evolved the civic, social, and environmental movements of 1960's.
As the good doctor put it: "You could strike sparks anywhere. There was that fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning....
And that, I think was the handle--that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting--on our side or theirs. We had all of the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark--that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back." --Hunter S Thompson
Thus we arrived upon the low-water mark of Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush. Surprisingly, even most Conservative I speak with recognize it as such.
It has been the allotted thirty years.
Truth can not be suppressed.
The tide will rise again.
And on it continues...

 

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