This is a smart political move by Bernie Sanders to get a lot of liberals interested in what had been a back-bench issue. It’s also the right question to ask substantively.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would look to block a merger between NBC and Comcast, citing the decision last week by MSNBC to suspend liberal anchor Keith Olbermann.
Sanders said Comcast’s attempt to acquire NBC from General Electric would result in “another media giant run by a Republican supporter of George W. Bush.” [...]
The senator pointed to Comcast’s COO Stephen B. Burke’s history as a major fundraiser for former President George W. Bush as a reason why the deal, which has drawn criticism from other lawmakers for different reasons, should be blocked.
“As Vermont’s senator, I intend to do all that I can do to stop this merger. There already is far too much media concentration in this country,” Sanders said. “We do not need another media giant run by a Republican supporter of George W. Bush. That is the lesson we should learn from the Keith Olbermann suspension.”
This is something you’ll never hear about in, say, MSNBC’s coverage of the Congress. And that’s the point. I don’t know if the Olbermann suspension had anything to do with Comcast’s imminent takeover or just a reflexive tendency within MSNBC to follow the political winds. But there’s no question that media concentration has led to a narrowing of the subjects up for discussion and the voices allowed to broach those subjects. We have a traditional media that ranges from the Weekly Standard all the way to The New Republic. And it definitely impacts what gets covered and by whom. The public ends up losing, with winnowing choices for mass media news and entertainment. Basically this ends up being about monopolistic practices.
Al Franken has been against this merger for almost a year, and this has aroused very little opposition among the broader progressive movement. Sanders understands that a populist campaign pivoting off the Olbermann fiasco could crack open these issues about media concentration. I think it’s a brilliant tactic.