April 11, 2007

NBC saves face, dumps Imus

Getting into disputes about what is or isn't racist and when someone should or shouldn't be punished for said racism isn't really my thing so I've intentionally avoided discussing the recent Don Imus debacle.

But I think MSNBC is doing the right thing in
dropping his radio show simulcast from their morning lineup. And not just because I generally loathe shock jocks and always prefer CNN over MSNBC for my breakfast-time news updates. Rather MSNBC is removing itself from this mess they were inadvertantly drug into. Plenty of pundits and even Barack Obama (today on ABC NewsNow) aren't necessarily blaming NBC, but certainly directing some of their anger towards the Universal-owned news network and looking to MSNBC to fire him.

What so many people are overlooking is the fact that MSNBC has little control over Imus' daily content; although run out of a studio at MSNBC's N.J. headquarters, the show is produced by WFAN, a radio outlet owned by CBS. MSNBC simply airs the video version of the morning broadcast on their channel. It's yet to be seen how many radio stations drop Imus' syndicated version or what WFAN ends up doing with him (although the amount of money they'll lose in licensing fees when NBC quits paying them is probably a good indicator of things to come). But rather than try to explain why they're not really responsible for Imus' bad behavior, MSNBC took the easier and probably most universally-appealing route and just kicked him to the curb.

This all comes on the heels of another morning cable news shakeup -
CNN's decision to replace its pair of O'Brien's. (Side note: I have to admit I've been kind of a fan of Soledad O'Brien forever, since she was a correspondent on the discovery channel when I was a kid, and I've loved watching her move up the broadcast ladder up to the Today Show and CNN, I'm very interested to see where she ends up in the future) But MSNBC could take advantage of the changes going on to revamp their AM lineup and reclaim some new viewers from among the disgruntled O'Brien fans and all the new Imus haters out there.

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