On Monday, President Donald Trump suggested the United States form a state-run, global news network to counter-balance what he labels “unfair” coverage from CNN.
“While CNN doesn’t do great in the United States based on ratings, outside of the U.S. they have very little competition,” Trump said via Twitter. “Throughout the world, CNN has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair and false way.”
The president added, “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!”
….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
Trump wants a news network that will present a better perspective of the US to the world
The US already has a government-run news network with the Voice of America, but it doesn’t get the global exposure of privately-run news networks like CNN. Trump wants to change this, thought it’s difficult to know how serious he is.
INSIDER reached out for comment without a reply.
Trump has had a bitter rivalry with CNN throughout his tenure as president, describing them as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.” He tweets more positively about Fox News, which some have described as a de-facto state-run news network. For example, see the tweet from Robert Reich below.
Really? Fox News not enough? https://t.co/CveLtw7CBz
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) November 26, 2018
The uncomfortable relationship between government and corporate-owned news media
The idea of a state-run news network is controversial in some parts of the world, given its association with authoritarian regimes and propaganda.
Yet media critics such as the political dissident Noam Chomsky have long warned us about the relationship between government and mainstream media even in democratic societies.
Chomsky and Edward Herman presented a “propaganda model” in the 1988 classic Manufacturing Consent, predicting that corporate-owned news media will consistently produce news that servers the interests of established power.
Now that Trump is talking about establishing a state-run news network in the United States, it’s worth reviewing the key elements of Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model.
How different is a state-run news network from a corporate-controlled one?
The propaganda model of corporate media
According to Chomsky and Herman, the news that reaches you passes through five very strong filters:
1) Concentrated ownership, owner wealth and profit-orientation of the dominant mass-media firms.
Corporate media firms are unlikely to be critical of economic or political policies that directly benefit them.
2) Advertising as primary source of income.
Most mainstream media networks rely on advertising for the majority of their revenue. It’s therefore against their interests to produce content contrary to the interests of their advertisers.
Quite note: This is why we created the Prime membership program here at Ideapod. We’re balancing our revenue sources so we’re not directly reliant on advertising.
3) Reliance on information provided by “expert” and official sources.
Journalists are busy people. It’s difficult to meet deadlines and maintain a continual supply of new content.
This is why journalists rely on business leaders, politicians and government officials as credible and unbiased sources of information. These “elites” help provide information to journalists through photo-ops, news conferences, press releases, think-tank reports and canned news pieces. Most of the time, there’s very little fact-checking when information comes from these sources.
4) Flak as a means of disciplining the media.
Business leaders and government officials use “flak” to discipline journalists. This refers to negative commentary, often in the form of complaints, lawsuits, petitions or government sanctions.
Editors hate getting flak from elites. It makes their job much more difficult.
5) An external enemy or threat.
When Chomsky and Herman wrote Manufacturing Consent, the external threat was “communism” during the Cold War.
This filter still operates with the population being mobilized against a common enemy (e.g., terrorism, energy insecurity, etc) while demonizing opponents of state policy as insufficiently patriotic.
Trump is trying to “manufacture consent” for his agenda
The propaganda model suggests that corporate media will end up “manufacturing consent” for a narrow range of self-serving elitist policy options.
The five filters operate in such a way that it’s not about journalists serving a specific agenda that they are aware of. Rather, the end product of what they produce inadvertently ends up serving the agenda of elites.
CNN and other news networks are already operating through the five filters of the propaganda model. Now, Trump is seeking to enforce more pressure by creating additional flak (the fourth filter).
What does this mean for us? As interested citizens, we need to understand the limits of objectivity and the contradictions within corporate-sponsored journalism.
As Herman himself suggests, “we would like to think that the propaganda model can help activists understand where they might best deploy their efforts to influence mainstream media coverage of issues.”
What does this mean for us?