March 15, 2017 Last Updated 9:39 am

Broadcaster, with deal with the Trump administration, said to be close to buying Tribune stations

Morning Brief: Maddow’s fumbles scoop, gets played as Trump supporting media outlets pounce on leaked tax returns as evidence that there is no need for further disclosures

The Rachel Maddow show likely received big ratings last night, but the reviews for the performance were brutal. Rarely does a television host look so obviously taken advantage of, and so amateur. Two pages of a 12 year old tax form were mailed to a credible reporter (David Cay Johnston), two pages that give few details but were quickly used to help support the president’s case that he has nothing to hide in his taxes so why should they be released?

Maddow tried to argue that the two pages proved the need for the release of more information, but she had obviously been had. Right-wing websites like Breitbart were ready to go, clearly informed in advance.

Since Maddow’s schtick is to riff for 20 minutes before actually getting on with the show, she ended up getting scooped by The Daily Beast and other websites that couldn’t sit on the two pages forever, they had no idea when Maddow would stop her monologue. She was like a bad jazz musician at a jam session, everyone was waiting for the drummer to throw a cymbal at her feet to remind her to move along.

In the end, it was much ado about nothing, and Americans still don’t know what is in the president’s tax returns. But Trump supporters have been given more evidence to make their case. And they have new enemies to harrass.

We all need editors, Rachel Maddow needs a new one.

Everyone is waiting on a couple of publishing companies to learn if they have sold off assets. Wenner Media, publisher of Rolling Stone, is looking to sell Us Weekly, with the likely buyer – if you trust the rumors – now appearing to be American Media Inc. Us Weekly staffers are not pleased at the idea of working for the publisher of National Enquirer, not because they don’t like schlocky gossip – that is their stock in trade – but because AMI CEO David Pecker is a loyal Trumpy. An announcement could come at any time.

Also up for grabs are the magazines of Time Inc. Final bids are due next week and there is still a good chance the board will reject all bids, but I’m beginning to think that a sale is likely. But who knows.

Meanwhile, Tribune Media may be on the verge of merging with another broadcaster. Tribune Media is the broadcast side of the split of The Tribune Company. Normally these splits are done to make sure one half thrives – typically the broadcast side – while dumping the print side. In this case, Tribune simply made a mess of everything, with both sides struggling to make it. Maybe Sam Zell’s reign was all too much for any company to survive.

Now is a great time for media mergers and sales. There is no one at the FCC who will object, and so it is time to grab the real estate – and Sinclair, with its far right-wing politics is the perfect company to take advantage of the Trump era. If you recall, Sinclair was a major player in the swiftboating of the Kerry campaign – and guess what, in December Jared Kushner struck a deal with Sinclair to broadcast Trump interviews across the country without commentary.

NY Post, Claire Atkinson and Josh Kosman:

Sinclair is close to buying all of Tribune’s TV stations

Two of the biggest TV-station owners in the US are nearing a deal for a multibillion-dollar merger that would blow past ownership limits long set by communications regulators, several sources told The Post.

Sinclair Broadcast Group appears ready to acquire all of Tribune Media Co.’s assets, which include stakes in the Food Network and the WGN cable network, as well as 42 local TV stations nationwide, the sources said.

President Trump’s new Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is widely expected to lift ownership caps, which currently prevent media companies from having stations reaching more than 39 percent of households.

One theme that has taken hold of the media of late is that Rex Tillerson, the former Exxon official who is now Secretary of State, has not had much to do and been pretty much radio silent. I disagree. Tillerson’s job is to promote oil, that is his only job.

When you look at the Russian economy there is not much to see, it runs on oil and armaments. American consumers do not use Russian smartphones, they don’t drive Russian cars, they don’t watch sports on Russian made television sets. They drink a bit of Russian vodka, but even there no Russian brand break into the top ten.

Tillerson’s job is to promote fossil fuels, and that is that. Just, as I might add, the president’s job is to promote his own brand. So, let’s make things out to be more complicated than they really are.

Photo: Coal Mine by Brian Moran used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin:

Trump is poised to issue a sweeping order dismantling Obama’s climate plan this week

President Trump could issue a sweeping executive order within days aimed at reversing his predecessor’s climate policies, a measure that energy industry officials and environmentalists have been anticipating for weeks.

The directive will instruct members of the Cabinet to rewrite regulation restricting carbon emissions from both new and existing power plants, lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and revise the way climate change is factored into federal decision-making — all key elements of the Obama administration’s effort to address climate change. It will also reverse an executive order former president Obama issued that instructs agencies to incorporate climate change into the National Environmental Policy Act reviews it applies to federal actions, according to individuals briefed on the order…

…Other aspects of the executive order can take effect immediately after it’s issued, though it is unclear how quickly they will translate into greater coal extraction. One provision tells the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to lift a freeze on federal coal leasing. That moratorium has been in effect since December 2015, and in January, Interior proposed that the program guiding coal exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres be updated to factor in the climate effect of such activities and provide a bigger return for U.S. taxpayers.

Separately, Trump will instruct federal officials in the directive to abandon Obama officials’ practice of factoring in the effect of climate change — what is dubbed “the social cost of carbon” — in their policymaking decisions.

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