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With An Election Loss, Rumors Build That Trump Would Launch TV Network


When Donald Trump announced his presidential run, many dismissed it as a publicity stunt, a way to get a bigger audience. And though his candidacy has turned out to be very real indeed, a report this week is raising questions about Trump's plans if he were to lose next month.

According to The Financial Times, Trump's son-in-law approached an investment banker about the possibility of launching a Trump television network. This has been reported before, and Trump denied it, calling plans for a media company a false rumor. Here's NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik. Good morning.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Are there more details in that Financial Times report?

FOLKENFLIK: Basically, the development is the fact of the meeting - that is that Jared Kushner really - the son-in-law of Donald Trump, himself the owner of the New York Observer, somewhat influential here in New York City, less so in the nation at large - is acting as an emissary to explore the idea of, is there a brand for Trump to extend in the media realm?

There's been talk, you know, of this idea of Trumpbart (ph) - the idea of marrying Trump to the movement that he has captured as part of his base in this presidential race and as, in some ways, encapsulated in the Breitbart website. This report from the FT seems to add a little bit more heft and texture and detail to what we've heard emanating from those surrounding Trump these days.

MONTAGNE: Well, we know, of course, opinion-driven cable news is big business. Presumably, the market for a Trump-branded network would begin with the tens of millions of people who voted for him.

FOLKENFLIK: I think that's right, but I think that there's going to be more of a core Trump supporter that they're hoping to look for. I mean, think about Fox News - in some ways, the greatest success in cable news by far, but also perhaps one of the greatest successes in all basic cable.

It's built on an audience that, at its height, you know, at any one time, is about 3 million people - maybe a little like one percent of the nation at large. So you don't have to broadcast to do something really well. You have to intensely narrowcast, but that's trickier than it sounds.

MONTAGNE: Considering that one of the advisors to Donald Trump now is Roger Ailes, the architect of much of what came out of Fox News in opinion, his son-in-law, as you said, owns the New York Observer, an opinion newspaper, basically, would a trump Channel take on Fox News?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think it's important also to remember that Trump brought onboard to lead his campaign Steve Bannon, who had been the CEO of Breitbart the website and family of websites itself. I think that what they would try to do, were they to do this, would be to essentially go to the right or the alt-right of Fox News to outflank a Fox among conservatives with some, you know, nationalistic and populist rhetoric as well.

You could easily see Sean Hannity defecting from Fox News. And you could see them trying to divert some of that. This is tough to do, however, if you think about positioning yourself in the cable TV world. You know, Oprah Winfrey - a friend of mine, Mike Socolow, a media scholar at the University of Maine, pointed out she's had real trouble with being able to have the successful finances of the OWN Network.

And you think of Glenn Beck, who left Fox News and tried to create the Blaze. It's still existing, but barely. It's hanging on there by its fingernails. It was supposed to outflank Fox on the right. There's no reason to know that Trump, even with that name recognition, would be able to establish a successful rival to Fox on the right in cable news.

MONTAGNE: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, thanks very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
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