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Wednesday 10 November 2010

NBC: Switching From General Electric

While we in the UK are focused on the attempts by Rupe and his troops to secure the 61% of BSkyB they don’t yet own, there is another media organisation potentially changing hands, and ultimately 51% of it: NBC Universal, at present majority owned by General Electric, is slated to fall under the control of Comcast.

NBC includes the well established NBC television brand, and also channels such as CNBC and MSNBC, the latter having a majority of liberal leaning hosts, making it the only cable network so to do. Of its competitors, CNN still attempts to be even handed, whilst no such constraint is even considered by top cable player Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).

But why should we be concerned about the change of controlling interest from GE to Comcast? Well, as Timothy Kerr has shown in this piece for the HuffPo, the likelihood is that Comcast will ultimately put one of their own appointees in charge of MSNBC, and of the three contenders Kerr identifies, all have right leaning form.

Moreover, Kerr also notes the coincidence of business interests of both Comcast and News Corp., the latter of course owners of Fox News. He is therefore concerned that any Comcast appointee may not be happy about MSNBC’s liberal leaning evening line-up of Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell.

It’s certainly possible that one or more of these hosts may not keep well under the potential new management. But then, if viewers want content of a more right leaning style, they are probably already watching Fox News. Those who tune in to MSNBC know what they’re getting of an evening, and most likely is that they like it that way.

So it may come back to ratings once more: it’s entirely possible that Comcast will install a new CEO for MSNBC whose views are seriously at variance with those of Olbermann, Maddow and O’Donnell, but who is realistic enough to know that this is what brings in the viewers.

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