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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Filed Under: broadcasting board of governors, congress, donald trump, radio free europe, radio liberty, trump tv, voice of america


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  1. 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.


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