Trump’s war on CNN takes on new significance in merger debate

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, seated with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (L), participate in the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony near the White House in Washington, US Nov. 30, 2017. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Updated 01 December 2017
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Trump’s war on CNN takes on new significance in merger debate

NEW YORK: The war between Donald Trump and CNN has taken a new turn with the government’s challenge to a tie-up between AT&T and the cable news channel’s parent firm Time Warner.
Even as his Justice Department moved to block the deal, the president has stepped up his attacks on the major news network, his most frequent target of “fake news” complaints.
Trump has been attacking CNN since the 2016 campaign, but the latest developments raise questions about whether he is using his power to choke off investment, or even force CNN to be sold to a partner friendlier to the White House.
As the atmosphere has deteriorated, CNN said it would boycott the White House Christmas party “in light of the president’s continued attacks on freedom of the press and CNN.”
Trump returned the compliment, with a tweet saying, “Great, and we should boycott Fake News CNN. Dealing with them is a total waste of time!“
CNN is not the dominant force in television news it was decades ago, as Fox News has attracted conservative viewers and MSNBC from the left.
“Unfortunately, our polarized political climate is being reflected in the high ratings for partisan cable outlets,” said Dannagal Young, a University of Delaware professor of communications.
“However, from a democratic perspective, the viability of CNN is arguably more important than ever.”


The massive buyout of Time Warner by AT&T is now in court, with the companies claiming that because it is a “vertical” merger with no overlap of services, competition would not be impacted.
AT&T has said it has no indication that Trump is behind the effort to block the deal.
But some analysts say it’s difficult to separate the legal questions from the political feud between Trump and CNN.
Gabriel Kahn, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, called the antitrust action “highly suspect.”
“Trump’s public war with the network, the fact that he repeatedly demonstrates a vindictiveness against those whom he feels have slighted him, and the way he has politicized every decision in his administration gives good reason to make this quite suspicious,” Kahn said.
“In addition, there is no monopoly on news. Not even close. The market share of even major news organizations has never been slimmer. The sector is gurgling with competition. And AT&T has no real news presence either.”
Trump has gone so far as to launch personal attacks on a CNN journalist during a news conference, and to retweet a video clip in which he appears to slam a CNN avatar to the ground.
CNN, launched by Ted Turner as part of his cable empire, was the only all-news channel from 1980 to 1996, and gained prominence for its coverage of the 1991 Gulf War.


Part of Time Warner since 1996, CNN helped lay the groundwork for modern television journalism with its “breaking news,” its live debates and making news part of the entertainment cycle. It also has a strong international presence.
CNN has been overtaken in viewership by its rivals, failing to benefit from the polarized political atmosphere in the Trump era.
CNN president Jeff Zucker said the mission of the organization remains unchanged.
“We are about the facts. We are about the truth... I don’t think the core mission has changed at all in 37 years,” he said in October. “We have tried to hold those in power accountable.”
Young said the tone of CNN is “middle-of-the-road ideologically, but pointedly critical of the Trump presidency, in particular the way in which the presidency violates core democratic norms.”
According to Kahn, “Fox News serves the right and MSNBC serves the left. This left CNN without a mission for a long time. But now it’s the place to see the two sides yell at one another.”
Kahn said that whether or not the antitrust action is politically motivated, it does appear to help the president.
“I think anything that appears to punish CNN plays well with Trump’s base,” he said. “Everything has been reduced to theater.”


MBC Group inks deal with China’s National Radio and Television Administration

The agreement was signed at MBC Group’s headquarters in Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 15 November 2018
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MBC Group inks deal with China’s National Radio and Television Administration

  • The deal will includ dubbed television programs from both territories, as well as joint productions
  • The digital media sector is of utmost importance to us: Al Ibrahim

JEDDAH: MBC Group has signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China’s National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) on Wednesday.
The MoU seeks to develop traditional and digital media content; sharing TV and film production expertise and competencies; and promoting and developing the human resource sector.
The strategic agreement will comprise media content in all its forms, including dubbed television programs from both territories, as well as joint productions.
The signing ceremony took place at MBC Group’s headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in the presence of MBC Group Chairman Sheikh Waleed Bin Ibrahim Al Ibrahim; Vice Chairman Ali Al-Hedeithy, and CEO Sam Barnett. Representing NRTA was Gao Jianmin, Deputy Minister of Information at NRTA, as well as a number of senior executives and consultants.
Al Ibrahim said: “The National Radio and Television Administration aims to develop a comprehensive media environment that simulates its peers from the world's largest companies, in terms of efficiency, performance, innovation, research and development, as well as other areas of growth and development.”
In terms of digital media, the agreement will see MBC showcasing Chinese films dubbed and translated into Arabic, with NRTA tailoring MBC content for Chinese audiences.
“The digital media sector is of utmost importance to us; digital platforms are now a necessity for the growth of any media organization in the region and the world. Investing in the event industry and in human capital is as crucial as investing in media content, so we are now sharing our experiences in these sectors with our partners in China,” Al Ibrahim said.
Jianmin stated: “We are pleased to announce today this strategic cooperation with MBC in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative. MBC has established over the years the prime broadcasting platform across the Middle East and North Africa region and we believe our partnership will support the cultural cooperation and content sharing across our regions.
“We are looking forward to a successful cooperation that will represent one more milestone on the long history of exchanges between China and the Middle East.”
The agreement also includes the attendance and participation of both parties in events and festivals hosted by either party. For example, this includes the participation of MBC in the China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Radio and Television, in addition to other television and film festivals held in China. Meanwhile, MBC Group will host NRTA at media, film, television and festival events in the region.
Resourcing and the human development sector is at the heart of this agreement, focusing on the exchange of expertise through joint seminars, courses and training programs aimed at honing the human talent of both parties.