Will Comcast tone down Keith Olbermann?

Cable giant: Committed to independence of NBC News

Will cable operator Comcast Corp. try to tone down MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, known for his on-air criticism of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, once it gets regulatory approval to take a controlling stake in MSNBC parent NBC Universal?

The New York Times on Monday recounted how a former employee of Comcast cable network CN8 who criticized O'Reilly lost his job in 2008 and sued in protest - but lost his case last month.

It pointed out that as the largest U.S. distributor of cable programming, Comcast is in business with Fox News and its parent News Corp., and it argued in the case against Nolan that he jeopardized its business interests at a time it was in carriage renewal talks with News Corp.

The Columbia Journalism Review in August concluded that Nolan's firing reflected the "corrosive influence of over-concentrated corporate power," according to the New York Times, which also mentioned that O'Reilly had sent a complaint about Nolan to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts.

But Comcast told the Times in a statement: "Barry Nolan was terminated by CN8 for the reasons he was told -- insubordination."

And Comcast executive vp David Cohen said: "We have been quite clear about our irrevocable intent to preserve the journalistic independence of NBC News, even making a written commitment on the same day we announced the transaction to that effect."

Olbermann in an e-mail told the New York Times that he doesn't expect the same fate as Nolan. "I've run into O'Reilly many times in public -- at Yankee Stadium as recently as a month ago -- and never have instigated, and never would dream of instigating, something like that," he wrote. "For that matter, I don't think Bill would, either."

Meanwhile, New York magazine also touches on Olbermann and others in a wide-ranging story about the cable news networks and their continued showdown. It has color on such developments as former CNN U.S. president Jonathan Klein's attempt to poach Olbermann. But, according to the report, his boss Jim Walton pushed back, arguing he won't be the guy who turns CNN into an opinion network.