As recent history has shown, a bitter election—and let’s face it, they’re all bitter at this point—frequently gives rise to a new media player focused on broadcasting to the losing side. With the GOP holding the White House, Senate and House, a left-leaning outlet—likely digital and millennial-focused—may emerge in the near term. Amid so much talk of “fake news” and its nefarious role in Election 2016 and beyond, the fledgling channel would likely aim to set itself apart with rigorous fact-checking.
Jonathan Klein, former CNN U.S. president and founder of digital outfit Tapp, mentions the “gulf” between millennial voters and President-elect Trump, along with a disconnect between that group and traditional media. “There’s a real opportunity to over-deliver what this audience wants—reliable information that holds the administration accountable,” he says. Fox News Channel was launched 20 years ago, a month before Bill Clinton was re-elected, announcing itself as a willing thorn in Clinton’s side. Drudge Report was birthed around the same time, and it embarrassed traditional news crews when it broke the story of Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky liaison.
‘Left’ to Their Own Devices
Left-leaning media also has launched amid GOP strongholds at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Radio network Air America was born in 2004, months before George W. Bush won reelection, while Current TV was hatched in 2005. The latter, a user-generated-content cable network created by former VP Al Gore, featured an eclectic mix of programming, political and other, much of it featuring a progressive bent.
“You always get the birth of new media after one of these kinds of elections,” Bill Hemmer, Fox News anchor, told B&C before Election Day.
To be sure, a variety of media entities, from network news shops to Vice to Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, aim to keep President Trump something close to honest. But with MSNBC shifting to straight news at the expense of lefty punditry, there is an opportunity for a new entity to become the progressive playroom. “It’s still early days, but I could see someone doing something like that—a subscription-based, left-leaning programming thing,” says one prominent network chief who requested anonymity. “I just don’t know how quickly, and who is putting up the capital.”
That exec notes the short tenures of Air America, Current and its cable successor, Al Jazeera America, looming in any potential backer’s due diligence.
Yet Klein, whose Tapp group builds video channels around prominent personalities, says the barriers of entry are modest. “Digital is the currency of modern media,” he says, “and the good thing is, anybody can create it as long as they have a cellphone.”
With fake news dominating much of the media discussion—President Barack Obama, for one, decried the impact of bogus rumors Nov. 17—enterprise reporting and dogged fact-checking are expensive missions that can’t be overlooked for a serious player.
With a new president hatched from reality television and a chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, from alt-right news site Breitbart, the GOP is hardly unfamiliar with media operations. Trump’s win may put to rest talk of Trump TV, but a president-elect who can’t seem to stay off Twitter—and is deeply mistrustful of journalists—will almost surely avail himself of the various digital broadcasting options available, be it Facebook Live or streaming from WhiteHouse.gov.
“He takes to that naturally,” says Klein. “He has a lot of things to say, and a lot of ways to do it.”