Monday, June 20, 2011

Keith Olbermann returns—for some

The new version of Keith Olbermann’s Countdown debuts tomorrow on Current TV. Let me say first that I’m glad he’s returning—this is good news when there are so few liberal voices available. Sadly, however, I won’t be one of his viewers anymore.

I used to listen to Keith’s old MSNBC show as an audio podcast, sometimes downloading the video versions, sometimes watching them on the website if I wanted to see the visuals. However, all of Current TV’s “podcasts” are either short excerpts or mere promotional videos. They say on their site: “Unfortunately, there will not be audio or video podcasts of full episodes of Countdown available for download because our agreements with our cable and satellite distributors do not allow us to do so.”

Really? It’s hard to believe that’s true because I wouldn’t have thought that Current TV could be stupid enough as to have signed such an agreement that MSNBC, for example, clearly didn’t. It makes it impossible for them to achieve their stated goal: “We want Current TV to be available to the largest viewing audience possible,” especially because Current TV isn’t available everywhere in the US, and hardly at all overseas. Their site doesn’t offer live-streaming of their content, nor recorded versions of full episodes, no matter how old they may be (MSNBC has recorded versions of their shows on their site, and many other content providers do the same).

Current says of itself: “Unlike most other cable networks on the dial, we are not owned by one of the large media conglomerates. We are independent and that means we have the freedom to air programming that shines a light where others won’t dare and boldly explores important subjects through intelligent commentary.” Independent? Maybe. But they’ve shown themselves to be an “old media” operation, firmly locked in the 20th century paradigm of viewers having to sit down in front of a television in order to watch a show when the broadcaster tells you to (yes, you can record it like any other TV show, but their old-fashioned control of viewer consumption of content is the real point).

Current TV needs to catch up with the times if it really wants to achieve its goals. It needs to offer its content for people to consume when and where they want (heck, they could even make full episodes available for paid subscription, as some Fox “News” programmes are). Until they catch up, Current TV will remain an “also ran” in the newsmedia game, and considering how the field is dominated by corporate media, most of it pretty rightwing or very rightwing, that situation’s not good for anyone.

Keith has many fans, but Current’s making it impossible for all of them to follow him to his new show. I sincerely hope that the new Countdown is a runaway hit, succeeding far beyond their wildest imagination, with lots of new fans to make up for the ones who cannot follow Keith. After all, America desperately needs more intelligent and liberal voices. I’m just sorry I won’t be able to hear Keith or any of the others from Current TV.

Update: Current is releasing some excerpts of the show as video podcasts, usually the day after it aired.  Also included are some of the "web extras".


Jason (the commenter) said...

Meanwhile, for a small fee, you can listen to every minute of Rush Limbaugh.

Arthur Schenck said...

Yes, exactly! Not only that, but you can get Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly through paid subscriptions, and some Glenn Beck, no doubt. But nothing on the left.