It looks as though the American and most of the international media is up in arms about the upcoming Donald J. Trump presidency. It was certainly not expected, even though it was predicted. But now he’s the U.S. president, and the rules of democracy have to be respected. To review the potential impact of “Trumpism” to show business, VideoAge surveyed ten experts from nine countries.
For most Americans, Trump is a “trump” (wild) card, but for Europeans and Italians in particular, Trump is a déjá vu experience. Italy had a precursor in Silvio Berlusconi, who had been Prime Minister and founding president of a political party for 10 years on-and-off, starting in 1994. Indeed, Italians have a name for it: Trumpusconi.
At NATPE 2012, VideoAge Daily raised the possibility of a Berlusconi-type of presidency in the U.S. and now we see the similarities: Both Berlusconi and Trump made billions in real estate and construction. Both became popular through television. Both of their respective spouses come from show business. Both have five children each and they rely on their eldest daughters: Berlusconi on Marina and Trump on Ivanka. Both have conflicts of interests, are populist candidates, with no previous political experience, and lack social filters. Both are despised by some world leaders: Berlusconi by French and German leaders, among others; Trump by China and Mexico, among others. However, both have a great relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Conjectures are now flying all over the U.S. and international media that Trump’s own Republican Party will eventually impeach him because he’s, in effect, an outsider. Others report on his various conflicts of interests and hope that, like Berlusconi, the court of law will cut his presidency short. Indeed, as an American TV executive who works for a Canadian company said, “Like me, many Americans are not very concerned about Trump’s authoritarian inclinations because they trust our system of constitutional checks and balances to constrain him.”
If Berlusconi’s 10-year experience in government is to serve as a guide, Trump would well last the full two mandates, or eight years.
Being in the entertainment industry, VideoAge’s question is whether or not a Trump presidency will be good for show business and, in particular, television.
On the campaign trail Trump threatened legal actions against the unfriendly media. As President, Trump will have the power to change the direction of the entertainment business by appointing a new commissioner of the FCC, the regulatory agency, and by nominating controversial pick Jeff Sessions as the new head of the Department of Justice (for anti-trust actions).
VideoAge conducted a survey among journalists and TV executives around the world seeking a prediction on Trump’s effect on the U.S. and international entertainment business. Some U.S. media reported that Trump would be good for the book publishing industry, news in general, and the production of documentaries. The Europeans are already salivating over the prospect that Trump will lift the embargo on Russia, and therefore mutual business will be restored.
Some economists are also predicting that the U.S. dollar will strengthen against other currencies, which will be good for American imports and, indirectly, for international sales of U.S. content, since the improved economy will mitigate the higher exchange rates.
However, Russia is a touchy subject for many Americans (especially Republicans), since that country’s president, Vladimir Putin, is accused of having helped Trump win the presidency. But more than a “Putin White House,” some observers are calling it a “[Debbie] Wasserman Schultz White House,” since, as the head of the Democratic National Committee, she is reported to have favored presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her opponent Bernie Sanders, who is said to have had a better chance of winning against Trump.
For this survey on Trump’s influence over the TV biz, VideoAge received comments from Argentina, the U.K., Canada, Brazil, Hungary, Germany, the U.S., Hong Kong and Italy.
“In Latin America, due to continuous attacks against the Latino community (and especially against Mexico, the largest Spanish content factory in the world), the climate of uncertainty is greater. And that leads [me] to think that companies will be more conservative in their financial plans and more fearful, which is not good for the markets.
My first sentiment is that ‘Trumpismo’ is not good for the businesses of television,” said Omar Méndez, Argentine journalist, CEO & chief editor, The Daily Television.
“All my life I have heard people complaining that all politicians do is lie, and wish for one that just said what he really meant. Well folks, now you’ve got one. How interesting the new year and its new president will be for the content business isn’t easy to predict. Apart from calling us [journalists] all crooked and corrupt, Trump hasn’t said much about his media policy, but he used to be in the TV business so it can’t be all bad, right?”
Commented Bob Jenkins, a freelance journalist in the U.K.
“The impact of ‘Trumpism’ is hard to predict. ‘America First’ as a revitalized doctrine is limited in today’s world with international TV groups having ventures and shares almost everywhere across the globe. It’s hard to imagine that he will allow these revenues to be endangered. The impact will also depend on the investment and economic stimulus Trump has promised. If it creates stable growth across all the economy, the TV industry will benefit. So, it really remains to be seen. However, Trump will stay in the news for at least the next four years. That’s one impact for sure,” added Dieter Brockmeyer, a freelance journalist from Germany.
“His clown-like, reality-show personality will certainly raise viewership and readership for no other reason than the consumer will be keen to see what outlandish move he will make next. [However] Trump’s unorthodox behavior has proved unnerving to the business of television. The Sinclair broadcast group of stations have already benefited during the campaign by currying favor with their coverage. How has this benefitted the business and ensure the checks and balances required? Rules at the FCC will more than likely be revisited and again it’s possible that Trump loyalists will benefit. Trump has already been a threat to independent media and that’s not good for the health of the business,” reported Farrell E. Meisel, an international media consultant from the U.S.
“Trumpism is a double-edged sword for the TV business. On the one hand, it has got the potential to surge viewership since Trump’s communication strategy heavily relies on being bombastic. However, TV execs will have a bigger responsibility than ever to provide the public with bipartisan information and to dig deep on every policy issue once the Trump machinery is up and running in the White House. And they will face a nearly impossible task since the president-elect got where he is now by making a lot of people believe that the mainstream media is lying,” said Levente Horompoli, Budapest Business Journal’s senior correspondent and editor, from Hungary.
“For sure it will be good for media in general and not just television. And not only in the U.S., but also worldwide. If Trump maintains even half of what he has promised in his campaign, there will be a lot of ‘juicy’ material for the media. For one, because of Trump, The New York Times has already increased the number of its subscribers by 200,000,” stated Niccolò d’Aquino, Italian correspondent, AmericaOggi, from Italy.
A similar comment is provided by another Italian journalist, which indicates how Italians were made immune by “Berlusconism:”
“Let’s start by analyzing three elements: First the endorsement that voters and Wall Street gave to Trump. Second, that TV prospers if it has an audience, and third the generational gap that separates linear TV from digital TV. Those elements indicate to me that even though Trumpism is characterized by a black-and-white vision (no shades) often not politically correct, it will not be an obstacle to business, including show business. However, television is a global business and if Trumpism pushes TV production toward more narrow U.S. issues, then business could suffer,” commented Enzo Chiarullo, staff reporter, Millecanali, from Italy.
That sentiment is also shared by a Canadian TV executive, although in a more pessimistic tone:
“Some of the best productions on TV (and digital platforms) involve partnerships, pre-buys and production spread across many countries. A forced ‘nationalization’ of the U.S.-based business could increase costs for every stakeholder, reduce the volume and quality of storytelling and hurt producers, broadcasters, audiences and advertisers worldwide,” added Jay Switzer, Hollywood Suite, from Canada.
“The key issue will be the way Trump is going to deal with the large mergers and acquisitions in the industry. We might go back to the 1930s, when production and distribution were under the same umbrellas, and this is not healthy for the industry as far as pluralism and diversity are concerned,” reported André Mermelstein, editorial director, Converge Comunicações, from Brazil.
“I do not think Trumpism is good for TV. I have always been calling for more socially responsible media content for TV and I find Trump’s actions and mindset that of ‘Trash TV!’ He would say or do anything (and setting a bad example) just to get media coverage. The majority of Asians share my views on Trump and also fear the uncertainty he will bring to America and the world,” concluded Robert Chua, TV producer, from Hong Kong.
However, from the above comments, the conclusion so far is inconclusive, and the world, possibly in its entirety, will surely be stuck in front of a TV screen to monitor, review and analyze Trumpusconism and its evolution into Trumpism.
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