Z on TV Critic David Zurawik writes about the business and culture of TV

The end of a very bad year for Trump's right-wing message machine

The news keeps getting worse for the right-wing messaging machine that President Donald Trump looked like he had fired up and ready to go last year at this time.

The latest misery: Fox News, the longtime cable news ratings leader that has been nothing short of fervent in with its support for Trump, started showing some Nielsen slippage this month, most notably in its marquee show hosted by Sean Hannity, according to AP, which tracked ratings since the November mid-term election.

In talking about 2018 winners and losers Sunday on CNN with Brian Stelter, host of the channel’s “Reliable Sources,” I focused on the failure of the Hunt Valley based Sinclair Broadcast Group, another source of Trump support, to get approval from the FCC for its purchase of Tribune Media as a major setback to the president’s media plans.

I described Sinclair as the platform that could have taken Trump messaging into homes in over 200 communities. And the pro-Trump messages would have been wrapped in the credibility of the local news in those communities. That could have been a potent tool for the White House.

Stelter, meanwhile, stressed a couple of huge national platforms that were either no longer all in with Trump or were greatly diminished in their reach by the end of the year: The National Enquirer and Alex Jones.

According to CNN, The Enquirer, which helped push Trump to victory in 2016 with a relentless barrage of supermarket tabloid covers trashing Hillary Clinton and praising him, suddenly stopped the pro-Trump covers in mid-summer when federal investigators started questioning Enquirer owner David Pecker about his possible role in hush money payments to women alleging relationships with Trump. Pecker, a longtime friend of Trump, was granted immunity by the U.S. Attorney’s Southern District of New York office in its investigation of the president and his former attorney, Michael Cohen.

Meanwhile, Jones, a major Trump gateway to the alt-right and conspiracy crowd, has been booted from such mega-platforms as Twitter and Facebook.

Last year at this time, I was deeply concerned about Trump’s ability to put this machine together. It looked like it could be a form of presidential propaganda never seen in American life.

I am feeling a lot better about it as the year ends with Trump struggling with media messaging to a degree not seen before in his presidency amid the wreckage of some key parts.



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