For the first time since he’s taken office, President Donald Trump is giving a speech to the nation Tuesday night at 8 p.m local time on the issue of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. All the broadcast networks – especially CBS, NBC, and ABC announced Monday they would carry the speech, despite much hesitation. Fox Broadcasting, PBS, and locally, WGN-TV are also expected to carry the speech.
The move, of course was panned on social media by TV critics and others.
The four broadcast networks have new programming scheduled for Tuesday night at 8 p.m. – as of this writing, it is not known how those programs would be impacted.
You’d think after the President criticized the news divisions – especially those of the broadcast networks’, referring to them as “fake news” and “enemy of the people”, you think they would tell the President to take a hike, right?
Might want to think again. It’s far more complicated than that.
For one, even though a sitting President cannot force networks to carry any speeches, there is something called “public interest” they have to adhere to. Remember, the broadcast networks are carried by affiliates who are licensed by the FCC to use spectrum to beam pictures onto your fifty-inch Samsung TV at home. And those affiliates are a part of station groups who belong to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), a lobbying organization whose been pushing Congress for decades to deregulate the industry – something Republicans have long supported.
For example, the station groups and the NAB have long advocated for the loosening and/or elimination of the station ownership cap, which stands at 39 percent coverage. With a Republican administration more sensitive to their needs than Democrats, they don’t want to… let’s say “upset the apple cart”.
As one who has followed the business since the 1980s, I can tell you this doesn't surprise me one bit. Since the networks and the broadcasting industry want deregulation with Republicans' support, they don't want to upset the apple cart. https://t.co/kSrHNCfwPb
— T Dog Media (@tdogmedia) January 7, 2019
Also, the group known for right-wing commentary on its local newscasts – the infamous Sinclair Broadcasting, has ties to the Trump administration. My guess is if the broadcast networks they were affiliated with didn’t carry the speech, they would, pre-empting programming in the process. I believe Sinclair – and other station groups (such as Nexstar, Tegna, Tribune, etc.) pressured them to carry his speech – there is too much at stake for them in their deregulation agenda not to. Keep in mind President Trump was in support of the Sinclair-Tribune deal before it fell apart and was upset when the FCC didn’t approve it.
It goes to show you how powerful these groups are with the networks – and the affiliate-network relationship isn’t exactly great. Last spring, Sinclair complained about the broadcast networks they’re affiliated with carrying “liberal propaganda” in the form of network newscasts and late-night talk shows – not to mention some prime-time programming. It’s an issue I brought up last spring here and is rooted in history as during the 1950s and 1960s, many Southern network affiliates – notably WLBT in Jackson, Miss. refused to carry programming featuring any African-American actors and blacked out news stories on the civil rights movement, pretending it was “cable trouble” as the station manger said the networks were promoting “Negro propaganda”. As late as 2009, an ABC affiliate in Macon, Ga. dropped the network over “objectionable programming”.
But rather than complain, the best way to deal with President Trump’s fake “national emergency” is to not tune in. But I know you will, and you’ll let me know how you feel on my Twitter feed, which you do everyday anyway. All I know is when it comes to the broadcasting industry, some communities’ “public interest” matters more than others – especially when a Republican administration is involved.