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...

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  • identicon
    John Cressman, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:26am

    Seriously?!

    Seriously? "...their journalistic independence"? Right, there is no such thing as journalism anymore. EVERYONE has a spin. Even the act of choosing what stories to cover and which to not reflects a certain bias.

    OBJECTIVE journalism (if it EVER existed) died the true death LONG, LONG ago.

    The reason they are up in arms is that the slant on the news may change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TZ, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:28am

    So, the Obama administration, hoping to assist Hillary, made the changes to politicize these public media outlets. And its now a problem because Trump won? I'm guessing that if HRC won, you would be lapdogging it up.

    I come here for tech news, not biased hackery!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:34am

      Speaking of bias...

      Could you point out the part of the article where it talks about how the writer only considers it a problem because Trump won? Short article, shouldn't take you that long I'm sure.

      Hilary is mentioned once at the very end and as an aside as to why this didn't get more attention sooner, because the ones who made the change figured 'their' team would be the ones to get the power.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:55am

        Re: Speaking of bias...

        Evidence of Bias:

        1. The title
        "Last Minute Congressional Change Will Give Trump His Own Trump TV, Financed By Taxpayers"
        Remember, this is an Obama supported change that had nothing to do with Trump. Trump has not said anything about subverting government organizations for personal gain (unlike Obama's IRS political interference)

        2. The first sentence
        It talks about rumors that Trump was starting TrumpTV.
        Of course this rumor was started by his opponents and Trump himself denied it on several occasions. So once again your article ties this to Trump because of things he never did.

        3. The first quote
        "The damage to U.S. interests could be considerable."
        Until Trump was elected, nobody was saying this. But now that he is president-elect, AND HAS NOT EVEN MENTIONED RFE/RL or RFA, you are suddenly fear mongering.

        4. The Politico quote about Trump's sympathetic nature towards Putin.
        Well, Trump did call Putin a strong leader, which he is. But strength is not goodness, which Trump even pointed out. Dictators can be strong. Perhaps, Techdirt should have been concerned when Obama asked Russia for their assistance in getting him re-elected. Flexibility anyone?

        5. The additional dig at Obama about the Taiwan phone call.
        Do you really think that China is as upset at Trump accepting a call as opposed to Obama's weapons sales to Taiwan? Yes its a quote, but your reporters chose which quotes to include.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 11:14am

          Re: Re: Speaking of bias...

          When you believe your man can do no wrong, it is easy to find a bias that does not exist.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            TZ, 13 Dec 2016 @ 11:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Speaking of bias...

            Never said or implied he could do no wrong.
            Only said that this law has nothing to do with him.

            There's lots of things that Trump will f** up. Give him time.
            No need to make up this TrumpTV stuff now.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 11:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Speaking of bias...

            You don't say...

            While that statement is true in general, it happens to be false in this case. Congratulations on providing an example of how to use a generalization improperly.

            You might "earn" a diploma yet!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 12:49pm

          Re: Re: Speaking of bias...

          1. The title "Last Minute Congressional Change Will Give Trump His Own Trump TV, Financed By Taxpayers" Remember, this is an Obama supported change that had nothing to do with Trump. Trump has not said anything about subverting government organizations for personal gain (unlike Obama's IRS political interference)

          Nothing to do with Trump, except that he's going to benefit from it and be in a position to make use of it.

          That Trump will be in a position to pick the CEO and the (completely toothless) 'advisory board' is a fact, so he will be able to staff it with people he picks isn't really debatable.

          Trump has repeatedly talked about how the MSM is biased against him and broken, you don't think that given the power to pick who runs the state funded news groups he won't pick people who are more 'agreeable' to him? You don't need to 'subvert' an organization if you get to pick who runs it.

          2. The first sentence It talks about rumors that Trump was starting TrumpTV. Of course this rumor was started by his opponents and Trump himself denied it on several occasions. So once again your article ties this to Trump because of things he never did.

          Trump might have, but doing a little digging(beware, autoplay video) in the first link it looks like the source for that one was Steve Bannon, who if anything suggested that it was on the line.

          'Bannon did not deny talk about a potential "Trump TV" network or streaming service after the election. When asked if there is anything to the rumors, Bannon responded with a smile and said, "Trump is an entrepreneur."

          The question came up again later, and he answered in exactly the same way: "Trump is an entrepreneur."'

          3. The first quote "The damage to U.S. interests could be considerable." Until Trump was elected, nobody was saying this. But now that he is president-elect, AND HAS NOT EVEN MENTIONED RFE/RL or RFA, you are suddenly fear mongering.

          As I noted below the change that disbanded the BBG and replaced it with a CEO occurred as of last week, buried in a massive document, so it's possible it didn't come up before now because it wasn't an issue before now, and only now are people realizing that Trump, someone who has made no bones about his dislike of the current media companies, which may or may not include VoA, is going to be able to pick who runs it.

          4. The Politico quote about Trump's sympathetic nature towards Putin. Well, Trump did call Putin a strong leader, which he is. But strength is not goodness, which Trump even pointed out. Dictators can be strong. Perhaps, Techdirt should have been concerned when Obama asked Russia for their assistance in getting him re-elected. Flexibility anyone?

          Don't know enough on the subject to say either way on the first half, though if you've got a citation for the second half it would be appreciated.

          5. The additional dig at Obama about the Taiwan phone call. Do you really think that China is as upset at Trump accepting a call as opposed to Obama's weapons sales to Taiwan? Yes its a quote, but your reporters chose which quotes to include.

          Or the one who wrote this article simply decided not to cut the quote in half and included the whole thing instead.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:59am

        Re: Speaking of bias...

        Did TD do an article on this subject BEFORE trump won nomination?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 11:48am

          Re: Re: Speaking of bias...

          You mean before the change was slipped through and it wasn't an issue?

          From the third link:

          Buried on page 1,404 of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week is a provision that would disband the bipartisan board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent U.S. agency that includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Networks.

          If TD didn't cover it before now it's likely because the source article only came out yesterday, with the vote itself all of a week ago, and the relevant part over a thousand pages in.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      There is a lot of maybe, might, could be reporting these days. This could have been covered when the change was made but the corrupt media is only now hitting the panic button.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 11:23am

      Re:

      And its now a problem because Trump won?

      Yes it is.

      Because he is an asshole.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 13 Dec 2016 @ 4:06pm

      Re:

      So, the Obama administration, hoping to assist Hillary, made the changes to politicize these public media outlets.

      Yes, damn those crafty Clintons and Obamas, sneaking their corporate-friendly deregulation agenda through a Republican Congress.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:33am

    I thought the VOA was history a long time ago, why doesn't congress get rid of crap that we really do not need instead of ..... oh never mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:43am

    It's all the same...

    ... just a different flavor of Propaganda.

    Personally, I like mine with Chocolate Icing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:45am

    Hillary missed out on a lot of things

    There were reports that she ordered and then cancelled fireworks and got into the Champaign before results were in.

    Very telling that her first still was going to be to the studio. Nothing like corrupting yet another media outlet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 11:42am

      Re: Hillary missed out on a lot of things

      Hillary lost, get over it!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 5:10pm

        Re: Re: Hillary missed out on a lot of things

        I'm over it but I am still celebrating it. Sounds like a sore spot with you though.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 5:48pm

          Re: Re: Re: Hillary missed out on a lot of things

          No, I'm just laughing at the fact you folks can't seem to let her go. Trump won, but all you can talk about is Hillary. It's almost like you're embarrassed.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Dec 2016 @ 5:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hillary missed out on a lot of things

            They are in love

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Almost Anonymous (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 2:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hillary missed out on a lot of things

            Is there some reason we shouldn't be embarrassed? I mean, yes, we've had an actor as president before, but even then, Reagan had a substantial amount of political experience as two term governor of California. Now, we have a reality tv celebrity, essentially no better or more intelligent than Kim Kardashian, as president-elect. I'm not sure I wouldn't rather have Kim.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wendy Cockcroft, 15 Dec 2016 @ 5:55am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hillary missed out on a lot of things

              Well the worst thing she would do is a) shill All The Things! and b) show off her bare, oiled bum at every opportunity. Can you imagine President Kardashian's WH portrait? I can see her now, splayed naked on the Oval Office desk, giving the artist her best "come hither" gaze.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 11:25am

    I wonder if Voice of America will start broadcasting Celebrity Apprentice now...

    Why not the entirely new Celebrity President? Does that CEO position need to be filled by an American? Because there's probably a few experienced Venezuelan guys that could get the job, even if that goes against everything Trump said. Although, what doesn't?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 12:17pm

    Another American channel to spread fake news.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 4:29pm

    I really don't understand American politics and how it became acceptable to slide completely unrelated riders into bills.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2016 @ 7:27pm

    Looking at the title of the piece and all I can think of, paraphrased, is the line, "I'm a sweet Trumpvestite from Trumpsexual Trumpelvania."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 13 Dec 2016 @ 10:32pm

    State TV

    Didn't the Third Reich have a TV station where they ranted their philosophy 24/7?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Locutus (profile), 14 Dec 2016 @ 3:35am

    I think Alex Jones would make the perfect "CEO" for Trump's new propaganda toy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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