Last Minute Congressional Change Will Give Trump His Own Trump TV, Financed By Taxpayers
from the well,-look-at-that dept
One of the frequent rumors during the election season was that Donald Trump, if he lost, was going to quickly start up a new TV news network, which everyone (obviously) dubbed Trump TV. Of course, then Trump won the Presidency… and it appears he may be getting Trump TV anyway, just that it will be financed by American taxpayers. For years, the well known broadcasting operations of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty have actually been kept separate from the political pressure from the White House, in part due to a bi-partisan panel that runs stuff, called the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). This hasn’t always been totally effective and there have been lots of problems with the BBG and how VOA, RFE and RL have worked… but for the most part they were generally considered reliable sources of news in the countries where they operated.
But apparently members of Congress slipped a change into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) this year that effectively abolishes the BBG and lets the President appoint a CEO to run those broadcasters. As the Washington Post points out, this could lead to a fairly drastic change in programming:
The damage to U.S. interests could be considerable. The unique attraction for global audiences of RFE/RL, Radio Free Asia and other outlets is not their skill at presenting the U.S. government line, but their journalistic independence. They were created to be ?surrogate media,? news organizations that offered accurate and independent coverage of events in countries where citizens could not depend on their own, state-run media. RFE?s coverage of Communist Europe was vital to the growth of the independent political movements that eventually brought down the system. Radio Free Asia strives to serve the same purpose in China, as does Radio y Television Marti in Cuba.
The point of board governance was to prevent direct political interference in programming by the White House, State Department or other agencies. It was a guarantee that for decades has helped to attract journalistic talent to the broadcasting organizations, as well as listeners seeking reliable information.
And as others note, the changes could be substantial:
“There?s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,” the Republican official said. “They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon?s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.?
Officials in particular fear that Trump and his allies could change the agency?s posture toward Russia, considering how Trump has betrayed a sympathetic nature toward President Vladimir Putin.
Multiple media outlets in the BBG family aim to counter Russia propaganda, including CurrentTime, which was introduced two years ago and broadcasts in Russia in the NPR model, and Radio Free Europe. With Radio for Asia, the U.S. also pushes back against China?s state messages, and Trump and his allies could potentially use the network to antagonize the country, which the president-elect already alarmed with his call with the Taiwanese president.
Oh, and of course, as we pointed out a few years ago, another legal change back in 2013 (also buried in that year’s NDAA — see a pattern?) allowed programming from these operations to be targeted at the United States — something that had previously been banned. So with this change, Trump gets a pretty big and well established media operation, funded with nearly a billion dollars of taxpayer revenue, and can insert his own CEO to run things. Both the articles linked above mention Steve Bannon, but why not Roger Ailes, who’s a Trump friend as well?
Oh, and of course, the kicker is this:
The Obama administration ? perhaps anticipating a Hillary Clinton presidency ? supported these changes.
As we’ve been saying for the past eight years whenever the Obama administration did stuff like this, you should always pass laws with the expectation that your worst enemy will be in power, because it might just happen. But, of course, since everyone thought this election was a layup, no one paid attention. The Politico article even claims that the Clinton transition team had set up a meeting to visit the studios the day after the election… but obviously cancelled the meeting after the results were in.
I wonder if Voice of America will start broadcasting Celebrity Apprentice now…