On April 1, the transcripts are gone!


A very strange corporate channel: We thought we'd use this initial Friday in April to nail down a bit of book-keeping. We refer to MSNBC's most recent (apparent) decision to stop providing transcripts of its primetime "cable news" shows.

For the record, TV news orgs aren't required to transcribe their programs. On a voluntary basis, different channels and different programs adopt different approaches to the practice. Here are a few examples:

The PBS NewsHour transcribes every segment of every show. The transcripts are apparently carefully proofread. For an example, click this.

Meet the Press transcribes every program. For the archive of transcripts, click here.

CNN transcribes all its programs on a rapid-fire basis, but there's no sign that the transcripts are proofread. Errors are common. For the weekly archive, click here.

Fox News provides few transcripts. The few transcripts it does provide have been prepared with care.

Then too, we have MSNBC, one of our strangest and most unprofessional corporate "cable news" channels. To appearances, the liberal channel which loves transparency has again decided to stop transcribing its shows. 

As we type, it's a Friday afternoon—and it's April 1. At MSNBC's tumbleweed-strewn transcript site, the most recent transcripts are those from the primetime shows of Tuesday, March 15.

This channel's transcripts were always a mess, larded with uncorrected errors. But at least the channel was pretending to throw observers that bone.

We say the channel has "again" stopped providing transcripts. That's because this half-assed corporate channel stopped providing transcripts once before, and not all that long ago—last summer, if memory serves.

After several months, the channel resumed the practice of transcribing its primetime shows. (In the process, it also disappeared years of transcripts of its previous programs.) Now, it looks like the transcribing of shows has been stopped again. 

The reason for doing this would seem to be obvious. Presumably, management doesn't want the world discussing the routinely stupid things its hackish TV stars, who pretend to be each other's "friends," say and do on the air. 

MSNBC has always been a weirdly undisciplined, scattershot organization. Perhaps you've noticed this tendency in the people they hire to anchor their shows, and in the things those lucky duckies typically say on the air.

We Americans live inside a clownish journalistic culture. On the brighter side, the jugglers and clowns who you see on the air are extremely well paid. 

As we first noted decades ago, when "talent" is being paid that well, they'll tend to stick to the scripts. That's true at the gruesome Fox News Channel. It's true with our own tribe's favorite shows at our own tribe's favorite "news channel."

They signal to you that they're on your side. You should try not to believe that. 

Lik the rents, the salaries are too damn high—and it looks like the transcripts are gone.


  1. They've shut you down Bob.

    There is technology out there that can automatically create transcripts from video content. But it would probably need to be proofread and corrected.

    Get those young analysts on it that you have sitting around.

  2. Notice how Somerby generalizes from the production of transcripts to the entire operation of the network, assuming that if the transcripts are haphazard, then the shows much be too, and the news content and any other aspect of production.

    That isn't just sloppy thinking. It is a motivated attack on a network made without evidence beyond the frequency of occurrence of transcripts.

    There is no relationship between the quality of the shows themselves and the presence or absence of transcripts.

    Why would any thinking human being waste his time writing such things if he were not being paid to slime the media and blame it on liberals.

    1. It's often hard to believe things that haven't happened before, but that doesn't mean they didn't happen at all. We walked on the moon for example.

      Bob gives one example, so that's a correlation. The sample size is just too small to say so confidently, and if you read his words closely, he doesn't. He used the word "seems." Why it's happening is still open to question.

    2. It is foolish for anyone to ask why some previous service is no longer being provided during and after covid. The person who used to make the transcripts is perhaps no longer at MSNBC, or it costs too much to hire or train someone new, or there haven't been interns around since covid disrupted school programs.

      Somerby has no imagination except for his belief that MSNBC owes him these transcripts. His sense of entitlement about this is astonishing.

    3. Somerby's overuse of the word "seem" is just him being coy about his agenda.

    4. Bob's idea didn't come out of thin air. A legal requirement to produce transcripts was created in 1967. Two years later, a right wing outlet sued to block this from being enforced, they objected mainly to the provision that they help the person they're sliming get air time. The government would eventually get rid of the fairness doctrine altogether, making fully polarizing media the norm.

      " when a personal attack against an individual’s or a group’s “honesty, character, integrity or like personal qualities” was waged... The broadcast licensee was also required to provide a transcript, tape, or accurate summary of the personal attack or editorial"


  3. "We Americans live inside a clownish journalistic culture."

    You do, dear Bob. You and your tribe: the unfortunate segment of the population that, according to Abraham Lincoln, can be fooled all of the time.

    No one else is watching those dembot shows or read dembot papers.

  4. "On April 1, the transcripts are gone!"

    The transcripts have not been "disappeared." They weren't there to begin with. They stopped making them.

  5. Somerby just phoned this one in today.

    1. This is what happens when Bob veers away from the pre-approved Right-wing memes he's usually fed.
      I won't say he's not a Liberal, but he sure is lazy, like almost all Conservatives.

    2. Y'all really need to touch grass

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