Thursday, November 10, 2016

What does a Trump presidency mean for media and communications?

Have American media helped elect a president that will contribute to the decline of press freedom?  Yes, they have.  Trump's presidency also may mean the end of net neutrality, the rise of internet tracking, and the rise of alt-right-wing media.

Trump has derided mainstream media and journalists as dishonest and corrupt.  As Justin Peters comments, "He represents a group of people who see a strong independent press not as a necessary check on accumulated power in America but as a bothersome impediment to the accumulation of that power. And he will almost certainly use the office of the presidency to bring the press to heel."  His opposition  to journalists goes beyond derision and antagonism to threaten its very freedom; Trump is known for suing journalists and he has threatened to "open up" libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue the press:
One of the things I'm going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we're certainly leading. I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We're going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected.
Journalists and media outlets have only begun to ask what approach and tone they will take in their coverage of Trump.  Will their approach be conventional and traditionally adversarial, or oppositional?  But the threat of libel lawsuits and the decline of advertising dollars could restrict their scope of action.

Trump has opposed potential mega-media mergers while favouring alt-right media and social media.  He has expressed opposition to mergers between AT&T and Time Warner, and Comcast and NBC Universal.  His opposition to free trade could impact foreign (and especially Chinese) investment in Hollywood and US content producers (Lieberman).  Meanwhile, alternative media like the Breitbart Report, which supported Trump, are now set to expand internationally, seeking to "monetize the anger and anti-immigrant sentiment unleashed by Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign"  (Flitter).

Trump's presidency will affect the leadership and composition of the FCC.   It will mean a change of leadership, as the chair traditionally leaves office when a new President is elected.  Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel may have to step down at the end of the year if her re-nomination is not confirmed by the Republican majority Senate.  The balance of power in the FCC will shift Republican  (Silbey).  Broadcast attorney David Oxenford has speculated that this well  mean “a lessening of the regulatory burden on broadcasters" (McLane).

Trump has opposed net neutrality, siding with ISPs over Amazon, Netflix, and other services (Glaser).  This could make it easier for ISPs to charge internet companies like Netflix for faster speeds.  Trump's presidency could also lead to the overturning of recently-passed regulations that require ISPs to obtain explicit consent from their subscribers before selling their data to marketers (Glaser).

As on many policy issues, Trump has said little that indicates his stance on intellectual property, other than complaining about Chinese theft of American intellectual property (Standeford).

American media have contributed to the rise of a president who could change the entire landscape of media, press freedom, and the communications industry.

More reading


FCC Regulation

Net Neutrality

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