President Trump made some waves Monday afternoon when he suggested launching a de-facto state-run global TV network to go up against CNN International, an outlet he feels covers him unfairly (sound familiar?).
As a number of folks on Twitter have pointed out, a network in this vein already exists: Voice of America TV, which is a U.S. government-funded outlet which still produces content globally for TV stations and satellite services.
Believe it or not, the current commander-in-chief isn’t the first president to suggest launching a global TV news network while in office. Ronald Reagan had a similar idea while he was the sitting president and tapped his friend and head of the U.S. Information Agency Charles Z. Wick to launch WorldNet TV in 1983…which sent TV programming by satellite globally.
For example, a U.S. government official might appear in a remote studio for a press conference with foreign journalists. The official’s face would beam in over the system and appear on screens in U.S. embassies in eight European countries. After the official gives his or her opening remarks, journalists would be able to ask questions. The question would then be heard in the remote studio over a phone line. (Think video conference…1983-style).
Most of these pressers –which traditionally lasted up to one hour– were designed primarily to get more coverage of U.S. foreign policy views in the foreign press.
President Reagan would sometimes participate in these press conferences. A press conference held by Henry Kissinger was televised to Latin America via WorldNet, and Cabinet-level officials fielded questions from foreign reporters on multiple occasions.
In addition to Q&As, WorldNet TV programming included live speeches transmitted over the system, including one from President Reagan.
WorldNet’s 1984 budget was reportedly $1.7 million, but Reagan had proposed increasing it to $27.5 million for 1985. In 1987, its budget had climbed to $36.9 million, according to The Washington Post, but faced some obstacles towards the end of Reagan’s second term in office due to a failure to hit viewership goals.
It eventually survived.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Worldnet, a 24/7 outlet, using Bloomberg TV, interrupted its regular programming on seven satellites to broadcast raw footage of terror attacks in New York and Washington.
In 2004, WorldNet was merged into Voice of America.