Have you ever wondered why you never, ever see transgender-identified guests appear on supposedly liberal and progressive MSNBC? Don't you think it's kind of odd that even lesbian and gender-variant Rachel Maddow completely erases trans people from her coverage, even when a story is directly relevant to trans lives (notice how Maddow mentions that the hate crimes law protects Americans on the basis of gender identity but doesn't bother to define that uncommon term for her audience)?
Have you noticed that while MSNBC provides hours and hours of coverage of lesbians and gays employed by the government, as they did when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a hot topic last year, you never see them cover the struggles of the vastly larger group of LGBT Americans, or even of straight Americans, who work in the private sector?
When the transphobic beating of Chrissy Lee Polis last month at a Baltimore County McDonald's was covered by just about every mainstream media outlet in the country, including the Associated Press, UPI, The Washington Post, the local news coverage of all three major networks, George Stephenopolis on Good Morning America, and even Sean Hannity on FOX, did you wonder why the only major mainstream news outlet that completely ignored the story was supposedly liberal and left-wing MSNBC?
The answer to these questions is probably simpler than you expect. It's not about editorial choice, as some would have you believe, but rather that at least one of the major corporations that owns MSNBC is not only simply not in favor of enacting those protections but is actually actively working to prevent LGBT Americans working in the private sector from gaining legal protections against discrimination.
In Tennessee, where both houses of the legislature just passed a bill that will prevent that state's cities and municipalities in the state from enacting anti-discrimination protections for their LGBT citizens, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce was one of the hardest lobbyers for its passage. That organization includes among their board members not only such major American corporations such as AT&T, Alcoa, FedEx, DuPont, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Nissan, and United Healthcare, but also Comcast, a part owner of NBC, and, therefore, of MSNBC.
As reported at Americablog, Daily Kos, and elsewhere, Alcoa has been the only Tennessee Chamber of Commerce board member to completely disavow the Chamber's support for the Tennessee bill and declare its opposition, which currently awaits the governor's signature. Three other board members, FedEx, Nissan, and AT&T, have released statements on the Chamber's support for the bill, distancing themselves from it, but have not actually declared that they oppose the bill becoming law. Also, bear in mind that we're not talking about companies that are simply Tennessee Chamber of Commerce members here, we're talking about the organization's Board Members, who have direct influence and voting power in setting the Chamber's agenda and what legislation it will and will not support. To date, Comcast has remained publicly silent on the issue.
But wait...there's more.
Who's Pulling The Strings?
It's fair to say that if you want to gain insight into who's really pulling the strings at any politically-active entity, the first place you should look is at who's signing the checks. Who's signing the checks at MSNBC? As with any commercial media, aside from the network owners themselves, it's the sponsors, the business interests that run advertisements on the network. Among MSNBC's largest and most omnipresent sponsors is ExxonMobil, the only Fortune 500 corporation ever to actually rescind anti-discrimination protections for its LGBT employees after they had already been adopted.
ExxonMobil's argument in favor of repealing those protections for Mobil employees when Exxon bought the company, and their refusal to enact them once the companies had merged into the largest energy mega-conglomerate on Earth, is that U.S. law doesn't require them to do so. With a record like that, it's fair to say that ExxonMobil is probably not in favor of helping LGBT workers gain any more rights or anti-discrimination protections than we already have. In fact, it has a vested interest in doing whatever they possibly can to prevent those rights and protections from being enacted in the future.
Anyone who watches MSNBC with any regularity probably knows that Rachel Maddow and others who host shows on the network or have in the past have often publicly claimed that corporate higher-ups exert no influence on what their hosts choose to cover or on the political positions they take. That's probably true, as far as it goes. Yet, how many hosts in corporate-owned cable news media are going to go directly against the known interests of their own sponsors in their coverage? Chances are they won't, not if they wish to keep their very highly-paid jobs. Anyone who believes that cable news media puts the interests of their viewers ahead of those of their sponsors need only heed the lesson of Glenn Beck. Despite being highly appealing to his viewing audience, Beck's on-air content did not encourage sponsors to continue advertising on his show, and so his show on FOX is going away.
It doesn't take an edict, or even so much as a single word, from MSNBC's corporate overlords to get Rachel Maddow and the rest of MSNBC's on-air hosts to decide not to cover trans people or the movement to protect civilian LGBT American workers from discrimination in this country. Anyone who works in that industry, or even just pays close attention to it, knows perfectly well that when you do anything that angers your major sponsors, and therefore threatens your employer's income stream, it's highly likely that your days are numbered at that employer.
So, if you've ever wondered why, despite the reality that trans-relevant stories like the Chrissy Lee Polis beating are getting more and more mainstream news media coverage than ever before, they're still consistently ignored by supposedly progressive MSNBC, or if you've wondered why LGBT American workers employed by the government military get plenty of coverage on the network, but both straight and LGBT American workers employed by private industry get virtually none at all, now you know why. It's not about reporting the news, it's not about journalism, and it's certainly not about serving the needs and interests of their viewers. It's all about money, about making as much of it as possible for themselves, their sponsors, and their network.
Remember, when your news and opinions are coming from someone who makes more money in a single day than you probably make in a year, someone who's dependent upon the continuing good will of corporate interests that are actively working against your equal rights and treatment as an American citizen, in order to continue making that kind of income, it's more than fair to ask just whose side they're really on.
Comcast finally released a statement. However, the company is not explicitly opposing the bill, nor has it renounced its membership in the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Board:
At Comcast, we believe it's simple: discrimination is wrong. Our policy of non-discrimination provides the same protections to all our employees, whether in Tennessee or any other state. Consistent with that, we don't support Tennessee SB632/HB600. Comcast agrees with the NGLCC [National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce], "No one should be judged by his or her sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. In this delicate economic climate, diminishing the rights of LGBT people sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country."