Most Latin Americans would be shocked at the lack of real news reporting on US media these days. In fact, it no longer matters what channel you’ve tuned-in—FOX, CNN, MSNBC—the programming is basically the same. Wall to wall election coverage, twenty-four hours a day. Hard news, such as the week’s mass shooting or the chaos of global markets, is now relegated to a chyron rotating every sixty seconds beneath the live transmission of a Donald Trump campaign event in Nebraska or Tennessee.
Now you understand why Melissa Harris-Perry, the afro-american journalist, Ph.D in Political Science and Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University, took the extraordinary step recently of boycotting her own show. After weeks of having her critically acclaimed MSNBC program preempted for electoral coverage, she decided she wouldn’t take it anymore. She refused to go on the air. In an email to her staff, Harris-Perry wrote: “I will not be used as a tool for their purposes…I am not a token, mammy or little brown bobble head…I love our show. I want it back.”
It gets worse.
In a shocking demonstration of disdain for the profession of journalism, Leslie Moonves, CEO at CBS News, recently told investors at the CBS annual shareholders meeting that Donald Trump’s success was “Not good for the country, but damn good for CBS.” He went on to call the campaign a “circus” that was generating extraordinary revenue for his network: «Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun…I’ve never seen anything like this.” He concluded: “Bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”
Former CBS legend, the great Dan Rather, recently reminded us that it was not so long ago that major network news divisions lost money on their newscasts. The airwaves, after all, belong to all Americans. They are a public good. Historically, media outlets were encouraged to make as much money as possible on general programing. But when it came to the news, they were sworn to protect the public good.
The US Telecommunications Act of 1996 watered down that language, while, at the same time, opening the door for unmitigated media consolidation.
Twenty years later, seven conglomerates, controlling 90% of the radio and television outlets in the United States, have kidnapped the American political system in an effort to rake-in political ad revenue from political campaigns and dark money Super PACs. The result is a hypnotizing twenty-four hour a day reality show with Donald J. Trump as its proverbial mega star.
A vast majority of Americans continue to hope the country that gave the world Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow will come to its senses. Surely the corporatized media will not allow Trump—a vulgarian drenched in authoritarian white nationalism—to become the leader of the free world.
Stay tuned and see. Perhaps the networks will follow the standard reality show ratings format? Maybe they will kill off the villainous bully at the last possible moment.
Who knows? In the meantime, the cash keeps rolling in. Leslie Moonves and other media CEOs are having “fun.” Welcome to the most dangerous game. I, for one, have no interest in playing.