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TV Column
Posted at 05:52 PM ET, 08/02/2011

Summer TV Press Tour 2011: MSNBC exec says “no decision” has been made about Al Sharpton show


(L-R) President MSNBC Phil Griffin, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and Chris Matthews at the MSNBC panel. (Frank Micelotta - FRANK MICELOTTA/PICTUREGROUP VIA AP IMAGES)
No decision has been made whether to give MSNBC’s 6 p.m. timeslot to Rev. Al Sharpton, who had been lobbied by Comcast and given his blessing when that media conglomerate was trying to buy MSNBC-parent NBCUniversal.

Speaking to TV critics at Summer TV Press Tour 2011, MSNBC president Phil Griffin insisted hiring Sharpton would not be a conflict of interest because, in some capacity or another, “he’s been on MSNBC for…15 years.”

In a statement issued recently, MSNBC said, “There is no agreement with Mr. Sharpton to host a program; however, it is important to note that Comcast plays no role in either the independent editorial decision-making of MSNBC or the selection of its hosts.”

Griffin on Tuesday insisted Sharpton is doing well guest-hosting the 6 p.m. timeslot, leading into MSNBC’s primetime lineup.

But still, “no decision has been made yet,” on whether he gets the timeslot, Griffin said, while noting Sharpton “fits in with the MSNBC…sensibility.”

Immediately after which MSNBC’s on-air elder statesman, Chris Matthews – who was sharing the stage with Griffin, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell, barked, “He’s done really well at 5 and 7… If he does really well, I think the job is his.”

Last year, Comcast approached Sharpton, who is head of the National Action Network, and other minority organizations in an effort to smooth the path for its takeover of NBCUniversal while that deal was being scrutinized in Washington. Sharpton was among those who gave the merger a thumbs up, after Comcast presented a plan to foster diversity -- including diversity in its news programming.

(MSNBC noted in a recent ratings release that it “continues to be #1 among African American and Hispanic viewers,” adding “This marks the 6th consecutive quarterly win among African American viewers and the 5th consecutive quarterly win among Hispanic viewers.”)

Griffin said Tuesday he was surprised that Cenk Uygur, who hosted the 6 p.m. timeslot for six months, declined to sign a new contract with the network.

The timeslot has been up for grabs since Keith Olbermann left MSNBC in January; Ed Schultz was moved from 6 to 10 as part of that shake-up, and Uygur, who had been a contributor at the network, was tried out in the timeslot.

“We wanted Cenk to stay,” Griffin said, noting that Uygur also “fits our sensibility.”

MSNBC offered Uygur a deal to do a weekend show and contribute during the week, Griffin said.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t work out, but he was terrific and I have nothing bad to say about him.”

The reason, Uygur told the New York Times recently, is that he decided to walk because he thought Griffin had given in to political pressure with regarding to casting the timeslot.

Griffin had opened his Q&A with some bright shiny lights, comparing his network’s ratings performance to Fox News Channel and CNN, and announcing he’d signed Rachel Maddow to a new multi-year deal. So you can stop reading reports she might be joining her old pal Keith Olbermann at Current TV.

By  |  05:52 PM ET, 08/02/2011

 
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