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Will Donald Trump be joining some of his fellow billionaires in establishing his own cable network? Can he monetize his popularity with the segment of the population that turns out at his rallies and buys Trump paraphernalia? Is there an audience for All Trump/All The Time?
Billionaires’ ownership of newspapers and other media outlets is nothing new. Earlier this month, Forbes’ Kate Vinton reported that “billionaires have long exerted influence on the news simply by owning U.S. media outlets.” Rupert Murdoch and Michael Bloomberg “are longtime media moguls who made their fortunes in the news business,” while Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who bought The Washington Post, “bought publications as a side investment after building a substantial fortune in another industry. “
According to Vinton, “Billionaires own part or all of several of America’s influential national newspapers, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, in addition to magazines, local papers and online publications.”
Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate, a major funder of right-wing causes and candidates and a Donald Trump endorser, owns a daily newspaper in Israel called Israel Hayom; bought after being unhappy with how he was being covered in Israel. Here at home, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a reported $140 million.
“The breakout media star of 2016 is, inarguably, Donald Trump, who has masterfully — and horrifyingly — demonstrated an aptitude for manipulating the news cycle, gaining billions of dollars worth of free airtime, and dominating coverage on every screen,” Sarah Ellison recently reported at vanityfair.com. “Now, several people around him are looking for a way to leverage his supporters into a new media platform and cable channel.”
Dissatisfied with not getting any of the money he’s generated for the networks, angered by how he is being covered by the mainstream press, and occasionally annoyed by coverage of him on the conservative Fox News Channel, Team Trump is discussing “the possibility of launching a 'mini-media conglomerate' outside of his existing TV-production business, Trump Productions LLC,” Ellison reported.
According to Ellison, Trump’s thinking, according to one source, is that “win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.”
Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman, unequivocally denied that any conversations about media ownership had taken place. Later, according to Ellison, she issued a statement clarifying her point: “While it’s true Mr. Trump garners exceptionally high ratings, there are absolutely no plans or discussions taking place regarding a venture of this nature.”
Since the campaign began, Ellison pointed out, Trump “has successfully circumnavigated traditional media outlets more than any candidate in history. He has picked fights with Fox News and won. … barred reporters from The Huffington Post, Gawker, Buzzfeed, and the New Hampshire Union Leader from events.” A Politico reporter was “denied access to an event in California” and after The Washington Post “reported on Trump’s suggestion that President Obama was somehow complicit in the Orlando terrorist attack, his campaign revoked the news organization’s press credentials.”
Ellison also noted that Trump “has toyed with the notion of merging his political and media identities” before, most recently in 2011, after he was considering a run for the presidency.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law married to his daughter Ivanka, owns The New York Observer and may be spearheading the media effort. Kushner recently tweeted: “The press is so totally biased that we have no choice but to take our tough but fair and smart message directly to the people!”
In order to effectively establish a cable network Ellison pointed out, Trump would have to get some kind of partnership together, similar to the one Oprah Winfrey put together for her Oprah Winfrey Network, partly owned by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and Discovery Communications.
Programming shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Trump infomercials followed by programs featuring Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee, beauty pageants, a revivified The Apprentice, and then ... more Trump infomercials.
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