Public affairs outlet C-SPAN got dragged on Twitter Saturday over the decision to air former President Donald Trump’s latest rally. C-SPAN framed the event as coverage of a 2024 presidential candidate, but some users pointed out that Trump has not declared candidacy for president
Dean Obeidallah, the host of a SiriusXM show, demanded to know “why they are using our cable fees to cover a man who plotted a coup and then incited the Jan 6 terrorist attack.” He encouraged folks to contact C-SPAN directly.
Just emailed @cspan asking why they are using our cable fees to cover a man who plotted a coup and then incited the Jan 6 terrorist attack. Hope you will email or call them as well: firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 737-3220 https://t.co/6lHagyqqoA
— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) October 9, 2021
MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan asked, “why?”
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) October 9, 2021
According to the C-SPAN website, it is a private nonprofit created by the cable television industry in 1979 to focus on public affairs programming. Â
C-SPAN receives no government funding, funding comes through license fees paid by television providers â€” the cable and satellite companies that offer C-SPAN to their customers as a public service â€” and through advertisements on our digital platforms. C-SPAN’s mission is to provide our audience with access to the live, gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and to the other forums where public policy is discussed, debated and decided â€” all without editing, commentary or analysis, and with a balanced presentation of points of view.Â
Given C-SPAN’s expressed mission, it’s still unclear why platform Trump, besides clicks. Billed as a rally to “save America,” Trump isn’t simply advancing a political agenda worthy of debate. He continues to further conspiracy theories and blatant disinformation to destabilize the current government.
A fundamental question for C-SPAN’s leadership is whether platforming someone who routinely uses their rallies to spread disinformation and undermine democracy is being “balanced.” Â The antiquated notion of “balanced presentation” doesn’t seem to have kept up with the times. As a product of the cable-news industry, it looks like C-SPAN has learned nothing about disinformation and the false choice of covering “both sides” undisturbed.Â
A glance at C-SPANs executive committee and board of directors shows a predominantly white male group of elites. Pat Esser, president of COX Communications, serves as the executive committee’s board chairman. In a December 2020 statement announcing his selection, Esser Â
“C-SPAN is a national treasure that provides the public with unprecedented and consistent access to government proceedings and balanced coverage of political news,” said Esser. Â
One would think that “balanced coverage” would not simply mean spotlighting anything anyone says. Trump continues to lie about losing the 2020 election, keeping alive a source of political disinformation that has fueled attacks on democracy, including the Jan 6 Capitol attack. Â
It may be time for C-SPAN to reflect inward on how to carry out its mandate in this current political climate.Â
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