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Toaster-oven sales must be down this Christmas

GE, which owns NBC Universal, hasn't quite sent out memos ordering the network's execs to check their sofa-cushions for loose change, but that might be next. The corporate bosses have ordered $750 million in budget cuts, and now the network is playing hardball when it comes to salaries.

First, Broadcasting & Cable magazine reported that MSNBC is balking at Keith Olbermann's demand to quadruple his $1 million a year salary when his contract is up in April. Wonder if anyone at MSNBC has been impolitic enough during negotiations to note that Olbermann, for all his media darlinghood, still gets beaten like a drum -- a 2-to-1 margin or more -- by Bill O'Reilly?

Mariska And now FoxNews.com is reporting that NBC is also resisting big raises for Law & Order: SVU stars Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni, who want more money to come back for a ninth season next fall. The two were both nominated for Emmys last year, and Hargitay won, which is usually a recipe for healthy pay raises. But NBC has made a lot of noise lately about how expensive scripted dramas and comedies are compared to reality and game shows. Maybe if Hargitay offered to eat some goat testicles like they do on Fear Factor?

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Lance

Whether Olbermann's salary demand is too much, too little, or just right is hard to assess, and who knows?

But maybe your readers should know the basis for his salary request -- his ratings have shot up 67 percent since October of last year, as O'Reilly's ratings have continually declined over the same period (leaving O'Reilly's demographic much older as a whole). His show edged out Paula Zahn's CNN program in October. When he teamed up with Chris Matthews for the November election coverage, MSNBC's ratings were up 111 percent in the desirable 25-54 demographic. And MSNBC has itself acknowledged that Keith's rising tide has "lifted all boats" for the network, which as a whole is up 25 percent in the key 25-54 demo.

Whether NBC thinks what he does is worth it is up to them. Perhaps the better question is how does Keith's demand compare to what CNN is paying their golden boy Anderson Cooper for Cooper's declining ratings and lack of buzz?

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