Saturday, March 31, 2012

Current TV Shoots Self in Foot By Dismissing Olbermann (Corporate Democrats Silence Keith Again!)

For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it ~ Keith Olbermann on his depature from Current TV (via Twitter), 3/30/2012.

Current TV debuted a new program last night hosted by disgraced former NY governor Eliot Spitzer called "Viewpoint". At first I thought, "This is odd, where's Keith?". Then I figured that they were debuting this new program in Keith's time slot so viewers who tuned in specifically to watch Keith (like me), would continue to watch "Viewpoint" when they moved it to it's regular time slot on Monday (following Jennifer Granholm's "The War Room", I presumed).

Given Keith's history of clashing with management wherever he has previously worked, all the news stories are saying it was no surprise that Current decided to dismiss him. And there are also the reports that Keith was upset with technical difficulties on his program (difficulties that led him to start broadcasting from a completely black set). So, perhaps I should have seen this coming. Regardless, I was still shocked when I read the email from Newsmax this morning that announced Keith and Current were parting ways (I'm subscribed to several Rightwing newsletters).

I assumed that Current was aware of Keith's history and planned to avoid his notorious "clashes with management" problem by putting him in charge. When hired by Current Olbermann was named "Current Media's chief news officer" and given an equity stake in the company. In my mind this meant they were committing seriously to Keith... because extraditing themselves from this relationship would be extraordinarily difficult (and quite expensive).

Indeed, I think it could break Current if they paid him to leave like MSNBC did (Keith received his FULL salary for the remaining 2 years on his MSNBC contract). This explains why Current is claiming Keith was in "breach" of his contract... for taking several unscheduled days off. According to Meidaite, "technical problems beset the program, and since then, Olbermann has been hosting his show from what appears to be an endless black void". The no-show days were intended to encourage Current to fix the technical problems.

Keith, in his role as "Chief News Officer" wanted Current to succeed, and viewed these technical difficulties as an impediment to that success. Although, as Chief News Officer, I don't know why he couldn't have just ordered the problems fixed. Certainly I believe he should have been able to. Apparently he didn't have as free a reign as the title "Chief News Officer" implies.

What went wrong, a Politico story explains, is a repeat of the MSNBC situation where Keith clashed with MSNBC president Phil Griffin. Politico reports that, "Olbermann had a particularly tense relationship with David Bohrman, the former CNN executive who was brought in as Current president last summer, following the departure of Mark Rosenthal, an executive with whom Olbermann got along well".

A 7/28/2011 "Deadline New York" article by Executive Editor David Lieberman reveals, "Mark Rosenthal decided to leave because [Current co-founder] Joel Hyatt was crowding him in... [Hyatt] wanted to run Current again after Rosenthal recruited Keith Olbermann to come on board. ... Hyatt's desire to run the operation reached the point where he and Rosenthal agreed a few months ago to be co-CEOs... But the the channel's too small to require two chiefs. What's more, Rosenthal had held bigger jobs by himself when he was CEO of Interpublic Media and COO of MTV Networks. He was a board member at Current when Hyatt asked him to step in and professionalize the programming, marketing, affiliate sales, ad sales, and research efforts..."

My conclusion is that Joel Hyatt stepping in and elbowing out Mark Rosenthal is what lead to Keith's firing. And, yes, perhaps Keith should have known better, given Hyatt's past association with the The Democratic Leadership Council. (Wikipedia notes that "Hyatt was a founding member of the U.S. Senate Democratic Leadership Circle and was a member of that group from 1981 to 1986. He was the Democratic National Committee's assistant treasurer from 1981 to 1983").

Given this information concerning Hyatt (information I was previously unaware of until researching this story), it's no surprise Olbermann and Hyatt would clash. Because, as explained by Wikipedia, the DLC "has become unpopular within many progressive and liberal political circles such as the organizations Center for American Progress, Democracy for America, and [progressive blogs like] the Daily Kos... Some critics claim the strategy of triangulation between the political left and right to gain broad appeal is fundamentally flawed. In the long run, so opponents say, this strategy results in concession after concession to the opposition, while alienating traditionally-allied voters".

Count me in as a Liberal who strongly dislikes the DLC. It's the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. NO WONDER Hyatt, the president Hyatt hired (Bhorman) and Keith didn't get along! IMO Hyatt should have butted out and let Mark Rosenthal do the job they hired him to do. At least Hyatt should have consulted Keith before hiring Bhorman... seeing as Countdown was the lynchpin of the network's new format. What Current needed was a president who allowed Keith to run things as he saw fit. That, or Hyatt should have objected to the hiring of Keith from the get-go. This whole debacle is clearly Hyatt's fault. He's the one who put himself in a position where a confrontation with Keith was virtually a foregone conclusion.

It's my opinion that Current has shot itself in the foot with this boneheaded move... and Tim Goodman, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, agrees. In his Friday article he predicts that we can "bet on Olbermann to be around longer". That is, Current will fail while Olbermann will find employment as a political commentator elsewhere. Goodman explains his conclusion, stating, "now, let's disabuse those who think he's unemployable given his track record of going someplace and then leaving not too long after, burned bridges and accusations littering the highway behind him. That reputation of his hasn't stopped anyone yet. And it won't in the future. Olbermann's delivered ratings wherever he's been - most recently his defining stint at MSNBC and then Current. If you want to equate him to a diva wide receiver in the NFL (or quarterback or whatever), that's fine. If you're a sports fan, you know that those divas always find a home and always get paid".

Keith's response to the firing, via Twitter: Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract. It goes almost without saying that the claims against me in Current's statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently (Huffington Post Keith Olbermann Fired By Current TV; Replaced By Eliot Spitzer by Jack Mirkinson, The Huffington Post 3/30/2012).

My response is... it's back to MSNBC for me. I'm don't think I'm going to watch Eliot Spitzer. He's OK, but Current hiring him to host the lynchpin show for their network is unbelievably stupid. I feel bad for The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur (and gang). Cenk left his gig in the 6pm slot at MSNBC on 7/20/2011 because "he had been told he was too combative towards those in power" and had been instructed to "tone it down".

Cenk's move to Current seemed ideal, because he got to bring along all his friends (from the "Young Turks") and was able to speak his mind (no MSNBC censorship). When I heard about what happened with Cenk Uygur, I thought... that makes sense, given Current's hiring of another individual who speaks his mind (and was let go from his last gig for that reason)... now we've got two strong independent minded Liberals who speak back to power on the same network. "Bravo Current" I thought... AT THE TIME.

The statement released by Current founders Joel Hyatt and Al Gore reads (in part), "Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it". So they're claiming that Keith was uncooperative and disrespectful. Again, didn't they know that working with Olbermann might be difficult when they decided to enter into this relationship?

Dismissing Keith and abruptly replacing him with the inferior (no disrespect intended) Spitzer, especially when Keith was only trying to do what was best for Current, does not, in my opinion, represent loyalty to Current viewers. Difficulties should have been anticipated and they should have been worked out... THAT would have shown loyalty to viewers who followed Keith from MSNBC to Current.

What gives, Al Gore? I thought Current was serious about challenging MSNBC... which is becoming the "establishment" Left channel. Current could have been the REAL progressive channel (instead of another "Liberal" channel run by DLC/Corporate types like MSNBC), but, clearly Current has decided, in letting Olbermann go, that's not the strategy they're going to use to attract viewers any longer.

So, why the heck should people watch Current now? Keith Olbermann provided that reason, and there isn't much of one anymore, in my opinion. I'm disappointed Gore didn't oppose Hyatt's meddling... unless he's in agreement with Hyatt. Then I'm disappointed with him for that reason. Which is probably the case, given the fact that Gore, like Clinton, is also a DLC/Corporate Democrat. At least Gore was hands-off and didn't interfere like Hyatt (although Gore should have said something when Hyatt elbowed out Rosenthal).

I wish Keith luck in his lawsuit against Current, even if that means the destruction of Current and the end of "The Young Turks". The Young Turks was my second (now first) favorite Current program, but if Keith was wronged (and I believe he was) he is due justice. Sorry Cenk, I hope it doesn't come to that. I'll keep watching the "Young Turks" as long as Current remains on the air... unless Hyatt and Bohrman decide to fire him too... for being to outspoken/difficult. In conclusion, I say what we need is a REAL progressive news channel RUN by progressives. I'm sick of the Corporate Democrats being in charge.

Video Description: Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) explains why he turned down a new, significantly larger MSNBC contract after hosting a prime-time show on the network that was beating CNN in the ratings. [It was because he wouldn't play ball with Corporate Democrats].

SWTD #111, KO #3.


  1. I don't know about the contractual ramifications, but If Keith could start his own progressive network, it would grow fast and would challenge MSNBC and he would grow very rich.

  2. Sounds like money wins out over content once again.


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