Gawker's John Cook has unearthed a juicy White House memo – "A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News" – that shows Roger Ailes and fellow aides to Richard Nixon plotting to disseminate Republican propaganda to local news outlets nationwide.
The idea was to provide "pro-Administration, videotape, hard news actualities" that could be woven into local television newscasts across the country." According to the memo, this arangement "avoids the censorship, the priorities and the prejudices of the network news selectors and disseminators."
The author of the memo isn't named, but the document sports Ailes' handwritten notes, gushing, "this is an excellent idea" and wondering,"Who would purchase equipment and run operation? White House? RNC? Congressional Comm[ittee]s?"
This is an astounding find. It underscores Ailes's early preoccupation with providing the GOP with a way to do an end run around skeptical journalists. More important, it links the plot to create what would become Television News Incorporated – the Ailes-helmed "fair and balanced" mid-1970s precursor to Fox News – to the Nixon White House itself.
As I reported here, the distribution and production costs for the project were ultimately bankrolled by the beer magnate Joseph Coors. TVN then supplied local stations a "news" product that promoted the GOP line while presenting itself as an purveyor impartial of journalism:
TVN made no sense as a business. The project of archconservative brewing magnate Joseph Coors, the news service was designed to inject a far-right slant into local news broadcasts by providing news clips that stations could use without credit – and for a fraction of the true costs of production. Once the affiliates got hooked on the discounted clips, its president explained, TVN would "gradually, subtly, slowly" inject "our philosophy in the news.” The network was, in the words of a news director who quit in protest, a "propaganda machine."