Tuned In

Ken Burns and Keith Olbermann, Together Again at Last

  • Share
  • Read Later


Keith Olbermann has announced a roster of regular contributors for his new iteration of Countdown on Current TV, premiering June 20. A lot of political attention will go to voices-from-the-left (and monogram buddies) Michael Moore and Markos Moulitsas, but my attention was captured by another name: Ken Burns, of PBS-documentary fame.

I’m a little surprised that Burns would take a role with (what I assume will be) a politically pointed cable show—but only a little. For starters, we don’t know exactly what type of contributions Burns will make, or whether they’ll be politically polemical themselves. Burns has not made a secret of his Democratic politics—though I’ve heard him distinguish the kind of cases he makes in his documentaries from the political battling on Fox, CNN and MSNBC. (That’s not to say that they don’t make subtler but definite political points, like those in his National Parks documentary.)

That, and, of course, Burns and Olbermann are big baseball fans (see above). Still, I’ll be interested to see if conservatives—who’ve recently attacked public funding for broadcasting and obviously have no love lost for Olbermann—raise this as an issue down the road. But Burns has been a big enough fish at PBS for long enough that he hasn’t had to worry much about political associations in the past, and as long as he brings in the pledge-drive dollars, I doubt that will change.

Excerpts from the Current TV announcement:

NEW YORK – MAY 11, 2011 – “Countdown With Keith Olbermann,” the much-anticipated week-nightly commentary show slated to launch on independently owned Current TV on June 20TH, is announcing its first group of regular contributors, which will include notable policy-makers, documentary film makers, award-winning journalists, bloggers comedians and other progressive voices. Lending their views and voices to “Countdown” on a regular basis will be film maker Ken Burns, Nicole D. Lamoureux, Executive Director, National Association Of Free Clinics, comedian Richard Lewis, film maker Michael Moore and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas.

“I’m delighted and honored that so many of my friends – who are not coincidentally among the top progressive and entertainment voices in the country today – will be joining me as contributors to ‘Countdown’ on Current,” said Olbermann, Current TV’s Chief News Officer as well as the show’s host and Executive Producer. “I hope these talented individuals, and the others we are to announce in these weeks before the premiere on June 20 will give viewers a sense of the strength and depth of the franchise we’re assembling.”

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” which launches June 20th at 8 p.m. ET and will air live each week night, marks the return to the airwaves for Olbermann, one of journalism’s most provocative and outspoken voices, on independently-owned Current, which was founded in 2005 by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt and is now distributed in more than 75 million households around the world.

Olbermann’s decision to join Current was announced in February.