MSNBC (1996- ), along with CNN and Fox News, is one of the three main cable news channels on American television. Since 2008 it has been making itself into a liberal (centre-left) counterpart to Rupert Murdoch’s hard-right Fox News, trying to beat Fox News at its own game.
- Ownership: NBC, which in turn is owned by Comcast. NBC was owned by General Electric, in whole or in part, from 1986 to 2013. The “MS” stands for Microsoft, which once owned half of MSNBC.
- Location: New York
- Political viewpoint: white liberal Democrat. It was an Obama cheerleader even before he became president.
- Viewers: About 400,000 or so nightly (2008-2012) – currently about the same as CNN, less than half of Fox News.
- Fans: Part of the media diet of Terry Gross (NPR), Sheryl Salomon (The Root), Ann Coulter (Fox News) and David Corn (Mother Jones).
- Profit margin: 46%
One of its best shows is Melissa Harris-Perry’s Nerdland. She is a black professor who uses words like “marginalized” and “cisgendered”. She invited Sean Bell’s widow to the show. Amazing stuff for American television. Yet she never seems to say much bad about President Obama. Or the Democrats.
It is not just her:
- More biased than Fox News: In the week before the 2012 election MSNBC did not run a single bad story about Obama nor a single good one about Romney. Not even Fox News was that bad! Only one host seemed to openly oppose Obama’s drone policy – Joe Scarborough, their token Republican.
- Hires Obama cronies: After the 2012 election, MSNBC hired David Axelrod, the head of Obama’s campaign, and Robert Gibbs, a former Obama press secretary.
- Obama hero worship: MSNBC talked about putting Obama on Mount Rushmore.
- Narrow range of opinion: MSNBC used to have right-wing talking heads like Pat Buchanan, Alan Keyes, Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson. Now it just has a token Republican, Joe Scarborough. Even the range of left-wing opinion is limited: they got rid of Phil Donahue in 2003 for being against the Iraq War. Obama critic Cenk Uygur lost his show in 2011 because “people in Washington” were concerned with his “tone”. Both Donahue and Uygur had good ratings.
- Whitewash: Cenk Uygur says MSNBC is afraid to speak truth to power because it is afraid of losing “access” to top people in government. As if it were People magazine covering Hollywood.
- Liberal bubble: When Chris Matthews, for example, talks about gun rights or gay rights, the Republican point of view is limited to recorded sound bites, which he then talks about with guests who hold pretty much the same liberal opinions that he does. It looks like they are debating issues, but you are listening to an echo chamber. Gone are the days when Rachel Maddow on the left and Pat Buchanan on the right went head to head.
MSNBC gets high marks for having three black hosts with their own shows, like Ms Harris-Perry and Al Sharpton, but low marks for pushing party line over practising serious journalism. “For entertainment purposes only.”
– Abagond, 2013.
Update (February 29th 2016): MSNBC is becoming markedly Whiter and seems to be moving to the right. They got rid of Melissa Harris-Perry, got rid of Joy Reid’s show and moved Al Sharpton to the weekend. Tamron Hall is the only Black person left still shown regularly during the week, and she has no apparent editorial control. Meanwhile, they hired Rick Tyler, former spokesman for Ted Cruz, a hard-right Republican. After Cruz fired Tyler for spreading lies about Rubio on Twitter, MSNBC scooped him right up. MSNBC goes on and on about Donald Trump, like they cannot get enough of him. They show more than just sound bites from his speeches. Sometimes it almost seems like a Trump infomercial.