The Death of TV News

(2 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In the aftermath of 9/11 and the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the world was glued to television news, especially cable. Here in the US the news is dominated by three networks. CBS, ABC, and NBC and three major cable channels, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Most of the them spewed the Bush administration spin that Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was building a nuclear weapon and had ties to Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and 9/11, all lies and they knew it. This war was about the control of the oil reserves in Iraq, it always from the moment that the neocons got their hooks into the White House with Ronald Reagan’s election. It was under Reagan that the free press started to die with the end of the Fairness Doctrine and the loosening of regulation that allowed the likes of Rupert Murdoch to gobble up the airways, Fox news, and print media. It culminated in the 90’s with the corporate acquisition of NBC by General Electric and CBS by Viacom and CNN by Time Warner.

During the lead up to Iraq there was one voice on the airways that stood out against the hype, Phil Donahue, whose liberal voice focused on issues that divide liberals and conservatives in the United States, such as abortion, consumer protection, civil rights and war issues. His feud with another MSNBC host, Chris Matthews over the Iraq War led to the cancellation of Donahue’s popular show. Matthew’s involvement in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame is never mentioned.

The Day That TV News Died

by Chris Hedges, Truthdig

I am not sure exactly when the death of television news took place. The descent was gradual-a slide into the tawdry, the trivial and the inane, into the charade on cable news channels such as Fox and MSNBC in which hosts hold up corporate political puppets to laud or ridicule, and treat celebrity foibles as legitimate news. But if I had to pick a date when commercial television decided amassing corporate money and providing entertainment were its central mission, when it consciously chose to become a carnival act, it would probably be Feb. 25, 2003, when MSNBC took Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq.

Donahue and Bill Moyers, the last honest men on national television, were the only two major TV news personalities who presented the viewpoints of those of us who challenged the rush to war in Iraq. General Electric and Microsoft-MSNBC’s founders and defense contractors that went on to make tremendous profits from the war-were not about to tolerate a dissenting voice. Donahue was fired, and at PBS Moyers was subjected to tremendous pressure. An internal MSNBC memo leaked to the press stated that Donahue was hurting the image of the network. He would be a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” the memo read. Donahue never returned to the airwaves.

Phil Donahue on His 2003 Firing from MSNBC, When Liberal Network Couldn’t Tolerate Antiwar Voices

In 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” providing “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. “They were terrified of the antiwar voice,” Donahue says.

Transcript here

Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman confronted Matthews on Donahue’s firing outside NBC headquarters in New York City on the 10th anniversary of the invasion.

Buzzfeed unearthed the videos of the vitriolic exchanges between Matthew and Donahue revealing how much they despised each other. Matthews was the driving force that got Donahue fired and MSNBC was not eager to promote the anti-war point of view. Thank the internet for You Tube, here are the videos of the episode from Donahue’s show with guest Matthews:


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  1. TMC
  2. tahoebasha3

    for the Iraq propaganda.  (Here’s a list of Who Owns What:   Resources:  Columbia Journalism Review)

    I read this article “Have We Ever Gotten to the Bottom of Exactly ‘Why’ Bush and the Neocons Disastrously Invaded Iraq?”  The true purpose of the Iraq invasion remains opaque. Here’s a theory why.

    I was a little appalled by Robert Parry’s seeming naivete. He, apparently, was unaware that the PNAC had long had Iraq in its sight for invasion and so-called “regime change,” amongst other reasons as the neocons claimed necessary.  And, to say the very least, the very first week that Bush and Cheney were in office, Cheney established an Energy Task Force, which was commissioned to map out every single oil well precisely, the dimensions, the capacity, etc.  The U.S. drafted the Iraq Hydrocarbon Law a/k/a The Iraq Oil Revenue Sharing Law in 2006, which was considered a “benchmark” by the Bush Administration.  

    I remember following the signing progress or lack thereof of the U.S. drafted Iraq Oil Revenue Sharing Law very carefully.  I firmly believe that we remained engaged in Iraq, as long as we did because of the determination to get that Iraq Oil Revenue Sharing Law signed, or else.  And the “or else” was more and more death and destruction, pitting Sunnis against Shia and vice-versa.

    To this day, the Iraq Revenue Sharing Law has not been signed, though contracts of sorts have been awarded several multi-national oil companies.

    Here are some excerpts from a very good interview of exactly what went on.  “The Unfinished Story of Iraq’s Oil Law: An Interview with Greg Muttitt”

    “Greg Muttitt (GM): Unsurprisingly, the documentary record shows that oil was a central part of the strategic thinking behind the war, and consistently shaped the conduct of the occupation. My book is primarily about what happened during the occupation. . . . .

    Therefore, the most important role of the oil law of 2006/2007 was not [so much] to allow contracts to be signed by multinationals, as that was already possible. It was to allow them [i.e., the contracts] to be signed without parliament having any oversight.

    Getting this law passed in parliament became the major political priority of the United States.

    Iraqis feel very strongly that oil should remain in Iraqi hands, not least because of their historical experience with foreign companies. So during the course of 2007 this opposition spread. One after another, new groups and new constituencies got involved in it.

    GM: At the same time that opposition to the oil law was spreading, through the first half of 2007, the Bush administration was ramping up the pressure on the Iraqi parliament to get it passed. They were very frustrated and angry that it had not been passed at the end of 2006.

    The surge, which was announced in January 2007, sending an extra thirty thousand troops to Iraq was very clearly one side of a two-part strategy. You can read this in the documents published by the Bush administration at the time. It was called “The New Way Forward,” and its two parts were . . .

    Also during this period there were very strong indications from the US military that if the oil law was not passed, the Maliki government would no longer have the support of the United States. . . . Maliki very clearly understood it as a threat to remove him from his job. So through the course of 2007 you had pressures increasing on both sides. On one side you had pressure from Iraqi civil society started by the trade unions, but spreading into broader civil society-religious and secular, also the professionals who ran the oil industries since nationalization-all of them were saying, “this oil law is bad news for Iraq, do not pass it.” At the same time you had the Bush administration applying more and more pressure to get it passed.

    GM: In the latter half of 2009 the Iraqi government awarded several contracts to foreign companies – BP, Shell, Exxon, and so on – even without the oil law, and without showing them to parliament. They are a hybrid form of contract, not the production sharing agreements the companies really wanted, and importantly they are technically illegal, since Law 97 is still in force and they have not been approved by parliament.

    The fact, too, that we built an enormous U.S. Embassy, in Baghdad, was telling, as well, as to our intentions. For what purpose would it have been built if not to ultimately house executives, engineers, etc.

  3. tahoebasha3

    Forgot to mention that — really, despicable.  But I think I once told you I couldn’t stand Matthews — this must’ve been in the back of my mind somewhere.  What it must be like to work in an environment like that, eh!

  4. polm

    It totally sucks that he was taken off the air, because he was a damned good newscaster, if one gets the drift.

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