On Saturday, a front-page story in the New York Times reported that the ongoing battle between MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly has been ordered to an end by their corporate parents. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of MSNBC's parent company General Electric, and Rupert Murdoch, CEO of Fox's parent company News Corporation, reportedly met in mid-May and discussed a truce between their respective cable TV talking heads. The problem wasn't so much that the Big O's were being harsh with one another--conflict sells after all--it was that each was directing much of his ire at the other's parent company. Olbermann regularly ripped into Murdoch and News Corp, and O'Reilly attacked Immelt and G.E. And that was apparently too far for the corporate titans, so with a handshake they promised to reign in their boys and end the feud.
This is what President Obama might call a "teachable moment." As much as we like to think of Fox and MSNBC as polar opposites, they share a fundamental common ground: They are both corporations. Specifically, they are both subsidiaries of giant corporate conglomerations. The products they sell are news and opinion--and in Fox's case pornography--but they exist to produce profit for G.E. and Rupert Murdoch. General Electric and News Corporation (like all corporations) have a lot in common: they want profits as large as possible, tax policies that are favorable to large corporations, less government regulation, and low-wage unorganized workers, to name a few. And this is why the mainstream media is inherently of a conservative bent. It is tied to the corporate status quo. The incentive, at least, will always be to bend the news and opinion to support the interests of their particular corporations, their major sponsors, and corporations in general.
I'm not saying ignore everything you hear from for-profit media. I'm saying the next time someone claims that the mainstream media is "liberal," remember that the media is corporate first and foremost.