THE END OF THE OLBERMANN/O’REILLY ‘FEUD’?…. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly have, by all appearances, maintained a healthy hatred of one another for many years. Their back and forth, however, apparently reached a tipping point recently, prompting their high-powered bosses to reach something akin to a truce.
At an off-the-record summit meeting for chief executives sponsored by Microsoft in mid-May, the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose asked Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of G.E., and his counterpart at the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, about the feud.
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).
As feuds go, this one seemed odd. Olbermann would criticize O’Reilly’s brand of “journalism,” O’Reilly would sidestep Olbermann and MSNBC, instead attacking General Electric, including sending activists to disrupt a GE shareholders’ meeting. Two months ago, O’Reilly even slowly read the email address and mailing address of GE’s CEO on the air. It wasn’t, in other words, a host vs. host conflict, but rather, one causing headaches for a corporation.
But stranger still is what, exactly, constitutes the nature of the “cease fire.” Olbermann, whose ratings have been bolstered by the feud, was asked last week about the negotiations between Immelt and Murdoch. “I am party to no deal,” Olbermann said.
And while Immelt and Murdoch have sought to protect their corporate interests, there are legitimate concerns about interference with news programming. Will Olbermann receive orders to stop doing reports on Fox News-related controversies? Is O’Reilly no longer eligible to be named the Worst Person in the World? For that matter, O’Reilly seemed extremely interested in GE’s contracts in Iran. Will the story no longer seem important?
Glenn Greenwald found that on June 1, Olbermann said he would start ignoring O’Reilly, and in the two months since, the MSNBC host hasn’t even mentioned the Fox News personality on the air. Greenwald argues that it looks like an example of “the corporations that own our largest media outlets controlling and censoring the content of their news organizations based on the unrelated interests of the parent corporation.”