In Depth: The Story Behind the FNC/MSNBC Feud Tampdown…

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter manages to break through the barrier I’ve been butting my head against for several months and is the first MSM writer to note that there was a high level pow-wow between elements at News Corp. and GE to clamp down on the rhetoric.

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch and General Electric chief Jeffrey Immelt met up at — appropriately enough — the Microsoft CEO summit in Redmond, Wash., to figure out how to diffuse tensions between the two channels, Company Town has learned. The primary focus of the chit-chat was the back-and-forth sniping between MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly. The two often exchange insults, Olbermann by name, O’Reilly by insinuation.

If Immelt and Murdoch took their message of peace and love back to their respective news channels, it doesn’t seem to have taken. Olbermann, who generally is the aggressor, has been attacking Fox News and O’Reilly on a regular basis. O’Reilly still takes occasional shots at MSNBC, NBC and General Electric.

What Stelter doesn’t say: ICN reported this story first. I tweeted about this way back on June 7th after being tipped off by a source connected to deep inside NBC Universal. And Stelter is a subscriber to my Twitter feed.

There’s a rumor running around that Olbermann’s boycott of O’Reilly was part of a GE mandate to cut back criticism of FNC.

At the time, the story relayed to me was lacking in focus and had some incorrect info (it was originally tied to a 1 million dollar GE ad buy on FNC…which turned out later to be incorrect…the ad buy had nothing to do with it.) that caused me to dismiss it (which is why it wound up on Twitter instead of the blog). Another factor was the boycott had only been instituted a couple of weeks earlier and it was too soon to note with any certainty a dialing back in the cross network heat. It wasn’t until months later when it was obvious the heat had noticeably decreased and someone came around here asking questions about those Tweets that I revisited the issue and asked my source if they had any new information. This time a chronology emerged which made the story seem more likely. The thrust of the story being pushed was that Olbermann’s “boycott” of O’Reilly was a “sham”, that it was just a means to follow through on the tamp down in hostilities ordered from above. I wasn’t so much interested in that angle as I was in the fact that News Corp. and GE had both agreed to dial the heat back. But I couldn’t get anywhere in advancing the story to the point that I would be comfortable putting it up on the blog. So I give Stelter credit for being able get to the “end zone”.

What will be interesting to see going forward is, now that the story is out in the open, whether things stay dialed back. Also worth noting will be to see if anyone starts posturing over how this went down. This isn’t a story that was in either FNC’s or MSNBC’s interest in getting out because both networks have followers who detest the other and it probably wouldn’t play too well with them if they knew that their networks were now restraining themselves. Now that it is out, what will the reaction be, if any?

Update: The LA Times’ Joe Flint has the story too. If chronology is important Flint appears to have put up the story before Stelter but Stelter’s has much more details.


16 Responses to “In Depth: The Story Behind the FNC/MSNBC Feud Tampdown…”

  1. joeremi Says:

    My only problem with this story is, what could GE have threatened/promised KO to play along? He doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to take orders. He’s more likely to refuse or quit. BOR I get. He wants to be liked.

  2. chipsohio Says:

    My only problem with this story is, what could GE have threatened/promised KO to play along? He doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to take orders. He’s more likely to refuse or quit. BOR I get. He wants to be liked.

    Joe, my “guess” is that GE management told him to play nice or perhaps he wouild have to find another network. KO has a negative work history with management (ESPN) and I’m guessing that he does not want to find another network to air his show. If he refused to follow GE’s order(s) then he would run the risk of alienating another corporate management entity. Realistically, his only other option would be to move to CNN & I just don’t see that happening.

    Joe, you mentioned what GE could threaten KO to “follow orders”. My guess is KO’s girlfriend is now working for the Weather Channel. Perhaps GE threatened to dismiss/terminate her employment at that channel (again just a guess).

  3. joeremi Says:

    I like the girlfriend angle. Didn’t think of that.

  4. bigred08 Says:

    Personally, I’m glad this ridiculous nonsense has subsided. Olbermann devoting half his show to trashing O’Reilly & FOX every night, and O’Reilly responding by going after GE, was stale about two years ago.

    Unfortunately, those top flight “journalists” at CNN, who play it “straight down the middle” have decided to fill the void. Ugh.

  5. joeremi Says:

    No Rachel Maddow at 9, so I tried Larry King. It was an MJ story. Isn’t that guy dead?

  6. “I like the girlfriend angle. Didn’t think of that.”

    Katy Tur’s stint with the Weather channel was just temporary. However, by an amazing coincidence, she has found full-time work with the NBC-owned-and-operated WNBC in New York.

  7. bigred08 Says:

    Katy must be really talented.

  8. laural1 Says:

    She must be to land a prize like him.

  9. bigred08 Says:

    You’re just jealous you didn’t land him first.

  10. joeremi Says:

    KO and Laural. THAT’S a show I would watch!

  11. bigred08 Says:

    Nope, Laural has a brain and opinion of her own. It would never be allowed.

  12. joeremi Says:

    Laural has a brain and opinion of her own.

    Truer words were never spoken.

  13. I know I’ve heard O’Reilly on several occasions say that no one at FNC has ever told him what he could or could not say. Was this true? If so, is it still?

    He does strike me as the kind of guy who would go along with a deal between networks. Olbermann, though… I doubt it.

  14. bushleaguer Says:

    Al – I’m sure both will maintain the truce and not mention the story at all on their shows. O’Reilly and Olbermann like to come off as pundits who say what’s on their minds but I doubt they are willing to risk their lucrative contracts in any way to renew their back-and-forth nonsense.
    Chips brought up a great point about Olbermann – he really doesn’t have anywhere else to go. He wouldn’t fit in at CNN and he also has his co-anchor job with Sunday Night Football that I’m sure he doesn’t want to give up.

  15. No way would Olbermann ever knuckle under to GE execs under threat of his GF getting fired.

  16. asleeporawake Says:

    “No way would Olbermann ever knucle under to GE execs”??? Are you reading the timeline of events here? Right after the deal was made, Olbermann announced he would no longer be mentioning O’Reilly on Countdown that he was “quarantining him”. What is that but PROOF that is exactly what he did? The fact that he used a man’s murder to do it? Despicable. In my book he’s now lower than even Fox and O’Reilly and that’s pretty damn low in my book.

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