Owners ‘Call the Tune’ in Reported MSNBC-Fox Truce

Former TV Newser Brian Stelter’s article (New York Times, 8/7/09) about MSNBC and Fox News having “resumed their long-running feud this week after the New York Times reported that their parent companies, General Electric and the News Corporation, had struck a deal to stop each other’s televised personal attacks” states that “the deal extends beyond the prime-time hour that Mr. Olbermann and Mr. O’Reilly occupy,” reporting that “employees of daytime programs on MSNBC were specifically told by executives not to mention Fox hosts in segments critical of conservative media figures, according to two staff members.”

While GE‘s official line is that, “while both companies agreed that the tone should be more civil, no one at GE told anyone at NBC News or MSNBC how to report the news,” Stelter quotes unnamed Fox employees who “said they were told in June and July not to flagrantly criticize General Electric.” Stelter gives more room to Fox management denials–“We’ve never suppressed any stories about NBC or GE“–before getting to “some watchdog groups” pointing out how

the months-long cease-fire challenged the claims that the two media companies did not interfere in their on-air content.

The advocacy group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting asked its supporters on Friday to contact GE, urging it to renounce the agreement with Fox.

Jeff Cohen, the founder of the group, said the deal between the two networksâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ parent companies was a reason to be wary of corporate-owned TV news.

“It should remind news consumers of who calls the tune and pays the bills–and that TV reporters and even loud-mouthed commentators have corporate bosses whose interests are often not about unbridled journalism,” Mr. Cohen said.

Salon editor Joan Walsh weighs in too, about how “it appeared that ‘the owners of two large news organizations colluded to make sure their audience got less, not more, information, and to promote their business interests, not the public interest.'”

Read FAIR’s new Action Alert: “Did GE Stifle Keith Olbermann?: Fox and MSNBC‘s Gentlemen’s Agreement” (8/7/09).