The president’s disdain for the mainstream media has given rise to a novel idea — the creation of a Government News Network (GNN). In his exasperation over more control of media images and messages, the president has underscored one of the key tenets of a democratic society — the notion that a democracy should tolerate news and information from many and varied sources. The government, itself, should not be precluded from being one of those many sources. It just should not be the only source.
Unlike other news networks, the Government News Network (GNN) should be devoid of politics or propaganda. It should be as plain, vanilla and boring as the Weather Channel. When we tune into the Weather Channel, we want to know about the weather in Cleveland, not how the news reporters feel about the weather in Cleveland. In other words, it should deliver the facts about government without commentary, color and especially the so-called news analysis that plagues much of the media today.
Let’s face it. There is more than enough factual data and information in the U.S. government to fill up the airwaves 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. The Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor and Treasury, alone, produce more reports, statistics and information to rival any 24-7 cable news network, most of which have news on a cyclical repetitive loop.
The Government News Network (GNN) easily could become the medium of record for just about anything the U.S. government does — just not politics. When the numbers on our trade deficit are in question, look to GNN. National unemployment. Let’s check GNN. Thousands of farmers going out of business. Let’s ask GNN. The list of potentially useful functions of such a network is long, including educational, historical and commercial. And don’t overlook the impact such a network would have on foreign affairs. Without fail, every foreign ally and adversary will be tuned in to GNN all day, every day, hanging on every report and data point that emerges.
But we should distinguish GNN from the long-existing Voice of America (VOA), which is, by design, a propaganda radio vehicle broadcasting internationally. For decades, VOA has promoted truth, justice and the American way to countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. While VOA’s stock in trade is unyielding democracy, GNN’s stock in trade should be unfettered data.
And if financing the GNN were to become a concern, media ratings would not be a problem for such an enterprise. Advertisers would line up to be in that space, given the outsized influence the network and its data would have on the marketplace. If all went well, ad revenue could go directly to the U.S. Treasury and, who knows, might even make a small dent in the budget deficit.
While GNN would be a U.S. government medium, its credibility and success depend on keeping both Congress and the president off the network and out of its business. If we can accept the fact that both the Executive Office of the President and the U.S. Congress are inherently political institutions and ban political institutions from the channel, it might have a chance. Its governance should derive from a congressionally and presidentially appointed board of independent trustees to oversee the network. Their primary and most arduous task would be to keep the politicians who appointed them out of the network’s main business, which would be to deliver information.
Surely, the concept of a government news channel has been discussed before by any number of wise men and women. Up to now, however, such an entity does not exist. What gives it currency today is the stark contrast in reporting by major news outlets. Now is a very good time for the creation of a Government News Network for many reasons. In a divided nation with a polarized electorate, an independent, credible information source can provide equal comfort to both camps and can allay partisan strife. If this idea takes root, just remember you heard it here first.
If our society tolerates — and indeed protects — media which belong to every group, issue and cause imaginable — why not government too? It is troubling to hear the media cast as an enemy of the people when, as federal Judge Damon Keith noted during Watergate, “democracy dies in the dark.” The more media, the more light, which is why a Government News Network could make the world a bit brighter.
Adonis Hoffman, Esq. (@AdonisHoffman) is chairman of Business in the Public Interest, Inc. He is a trustee of The Media Institute and an external advisor to Nielsen Media. The views here are Mr. Hoffman’s alone and not those of any organization with which he is affiliated.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.