President Trump said on Monday that the United States should begin its own state-run cable TV network and compete with CNN for viewers across the world. This suggestion caused people to compare the idea with networks run by the governments of Russia and China.
Trump released a volley of tweets that took aim at one of his favorite targets, CNN. He said the network “doesn’t do great” in terms of U.S. ratings but has “very little competition” outside the country. Trump maintained that it is a “powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair and false way.”
“Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!” Trump said.
….and false way. Something has to be done, including the possibility of the United States starting our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 26, 2018
The U.S. Agency for Global Media oversees several U.S. government broadcasters including Radio and Television Martí, whose target audience is in Cuba, and Voice of America, which broadcasts radio and TV content across the globe in a variety of languages. Among the programs aired by Voice of America is “Plugged In,” which is anchored by former cable news host Greta Van Susteren.
As you can imagine, Trump’s proposal caused heated debate online. One group, the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, tweeted that the idea is one “widely popular with dictators around the world.”
Others said that Trump’s tweets were not out of character for the president, who has obsessed over TV coverage of his administration.
Just before the 2016 election, there was speculation about the possibility of a “Trump TV” channel if he lost his bid for the White House.
“The use of tv networks as soft power is not a new obsession, although maybe expressing it in this way is,” tweeted Emily Bell, founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.
She commented that both Trump and his 2016 Democratic rival, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, have weighed in on the topic and that Clinton “made a speech in 2011 worrying about China and Russia and their networks in this respect.”
The use of tv networks as soft power is not a new obsession, although maybe expressing it in this way is. Trump and Hillary Clinton have this preoccupation in common. She made a speech in 2011 worrying about China, and Russia and their networks in this respect pic.twitter.com/fFurxOHQ9j
— emily bell (@emilybell) November 26, 2018