Then Olbermann dropped off the face of the Earth, because no one watches Current TV. Countdown averaged 177,000 viewers a night — a miniscule fraction of the total audience in a nation of hundreds of millions of rabid TV watchers.
It was predictable that Olbermann and Current TV would part ways, and probably not in an amicable fashion. That has turned out to be the case. Olbermann has sued the cable channel for millions of dollars, claiming that its production capabilities were akin to those found on local community access channels. Current TV has counterclaimed, contending that Olbermann didn’t show up for work, promote the network, or perform other purported contractual obligations.
It’s hard to believe that anyone — even the 177,000 or so people who watched Countdown on Current TV, for reasons known only to them and their deity — care about this dispute or the fact that Olbermann is off the air. Who needs another “point of view” cable channel or egotistical broadcaster eager to castigate those with different viewpoints? We’ve got quite enough of both, already.
We’ll hear a lot about Olbermann’s departure from the pundits, the broadcasters, and the blogosphere in the next few days, with many people calling him a fearless advocate for progressive views and many others saying good riddance to a shrill voice. I don’t really care much either way, because Kish and I stopped watching Olbermann’s show years ago. If you wanted to view events from a consistently liberal perspective, you could watch Countdown — but no one who wanted to actually get the news, in any semblance of unbiased form, would tune in that show. And, for us at least, Olbermann’s tiresome interactions with the pundits who always appeared on his show and shared his viewpoint, and Olbermann’s smug, absurdly self-important and self-referential commentaries, just became unwatchable. His show not only was not objective, it also was bad TV. Countdown wasn’t watched by many Americans, and I think that was why.
TV news needs to return to basics and get away from the kind of advocacy programming that has come to dominate the “news channels.” The end of Olbermann’s show may be a step in the right direction.
I applaud MSNBC management for acting promptly to safeguard the network’s hard-earned reputation for objectivity and balance in its coverage of American politics. It is hard to believe that Olbermann, who is one of the paragons of temperate commentary and unbiased reporting in the new media, would not have understood that contributing money to political candidates was grossly inconsistent with MSNBC’s high standards of journalistic integrity. After all, it is not as if the network would allow news show hosts to routinely describe political figures of particular viewpoints as “the worst person in the world,” or to regularly launch harshly worded, mean-spirited attacks in an effort to drum up better ratings.
I’m sure that MSNBC’s other prime time news show hosts, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow, have never provided any support, financial or otherwise, to any political party or movement. Both Matthews and Maddow are universally recognized for their even-handed treatment of political news and have contributed tremendously to high esteem which every rational person must feel for MSNBC and its fair and credible treatment of opposing viewpoints.