President Trump said Monday that the United States should launch its own state-run cable TV network that would compete with CNN for viewers across the globe, a suggestion that prompted comparisons to networks run by the governments of Russia and China.
In afternoon tweets, Trump took aim at one of his favorite targets, CNN, which he said “doesn’t do great” in terms of U.S. ratings but has “very little competition” outside the country, where 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.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media oversees several U.S. government broadcasters, such as 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.
Trump’s proposal sparked heated debate online. One group, the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, tweeted that the idea is one “widely popular with dictators around the world.”
Others noted that Trump’s tweets were not out of character for the president, who has obsessed over TV coverage of his administration.
Ahead of the 2016 election, speculation had swirled around the possibility of a “Trump TV” channel should Trump have lost his bid for the White House. Such a network never materialized, although Right Side Broadcasting Network, founded by Trump supporter Joe Seales, became something of an unofficial online version.
“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 noted 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.”