US TV boss is indifferent to Trump’s racism, because his ratings jumped

Donald trump pointing
Elizabeth Mizon

For a second time, the chief executive of CBS has openly praised and encouraged Donald Trump’s potentially dangerous presidential campaign – because it earns money for the television network.

His brash and thoughtless statements lend weight to the racist charlatan‘s bid for leadership of the world’s biggest superpower. They also undermine the journalistic integrity of his network’s news channel. But CEO Les Moonves decided to celebrate Trump’s ascendancy to the top of the Republican polls because: “it’s good for [CBS] economically.”

And if you think that Moonves has somehow been duped into actually believing that Trump could be a good leader, who might aid the prosperity of millions of poverty-stricken Americans, you’d be wrong. In fact, Moonves confirmed that he’s very aware a Trump presidency might damage his country.

It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.

The audience laughed and applauded at his bold, honest, throwaway remarks.

This comes after a controversial incident in which Moonves explicitly supported Trump, casually calling the relationship between Trump’s increasing visibility and CBS’ ad revenue “fun“:

Go Donald! Keep getting out there! […] this is fun, watching this, let [the advertisers] spend money on us

Moonves also championed ‘super PAC‘ election funding in the 2012 election race for the same reason:

Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS.

Super PACs have been a hotly debated topic in this election, with many demanding that election financing is reformed. This would ‘get Big Money out of American politics’ and create a more democratic system. Moonves predicted that CBS’ profit would rise by $180m in 2012 due to taking on more political ads.

Commercial US networks like CBS make huge profits from advertising companies. Among CBS’ channels is CBS News, who have hosted both Democratic and Republican debates during the 2016 campaign.

The way network news programmes are funded is not hugely different from any other televised entertainment programmes in the US, or from commercial channels in the UK. The higher the ratings for a news programme, the more the advertising companies who have slots either side of it will pay the network. Therefore, it is all too tempting for networks to encourage a candidate like Trump who, through peddling his offensive and sensational wares, attracts viewers – both shocked and awed.

In two ways, it makes complete economic ‘sense’. Firstly, Trump brings the company more money, allowing it to compete in a ruthless marketplace. Secondly, if their coverage and encouragement of him were to aid a resulting Trump presidency, it would likely be one favourable to businesses. Trump is, before anything else, a devout capitalist.

There is plenty to be said on the merits of publicly funded television as a whole, as we have seen in recent debates over the privatisation of the BBC. Here, it is clear that the treatment of news – especially news that is so crucial to determining the future of millions (arguably, billions) of lives – as primarily a profit-making venture is incredibly damaging.

In this way, the media are complicit in the erosion of democracy. Journalism is supposed to be a crucial pillar of democracy, and yet the commercial media is anything but. In their support of Trump, the CBS management are waving their contempt, and indifference, for the public good in our faces. And they are supported, of course, by the incredibly powerful tool they own to persuade us their nihilistic behaviour is legitimate.

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Watch The Fourth Estate, an independent UK documentary about the political economy of the media. (Disclaimer: the author produced this film)

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Image via Gage Skidmore/flickr

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