RNC 2016: GOP Platform, Media Coverage, and Notable Moments

RNC 2016: GOP Platform, Media Coverage, and Notable Moments

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Robbie’s Round-Up for the Week of July 18-22, 2016

This week, Donald Trump and the Republican Party rolled into Cleveland, Ohio for the 2016 Republican National Convention. In a spectacle of full of cheers, jeers, and fears, Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination. Importantly, the GOP unveiled the party platform, which addresses universal broadband, Internet governance, and EdTech. The convention itself was a high-tech affair, with social media and live-streaming used as popular tools. The press, some of which had been previously blacklisted by the Trump campaign, was in full force, as reporters streamed and tweeted their way through the four-day convention. Let’s unpack some of the most important parts of RNC 2016.

GOP Platform
On July 18, the GOP released its 2016 platform – and broadband figures prominently. “Broadband and good ideas,” the platform reads, “have become the 21st century engines of American ingenuity.” The platform is pro- sharing economy, on-demand platforms, and the Internet of Things.

Promising Universal Broadband
Extending broadband’s reach gets lots of ink. The platform is critical of previous efforts to connect everyone to the Internet and broadband. “At the cost of billions, the current Administration has done little to advance our goal of universal broadband coverage. That hurts rural America, where farmers, ranchers, and small business people need connectivity to operate in real time with the world’s producers.” On adoption, the GOP notes, “Almost ten million Americans have given up wired broadband connections in just the last two years alone, and millions more have never been connected in the first place.”

Republicans are promising to “facilitate access to spectrum by paving the way for high-speed, next- generation broadband deployment and competition on the internet and for internet services.” They will also “encourage public-private partnerships to provide predictable support for connecting rural areas so that every American can fully participate in the global economy.”

Targeting Network Neutrality and Internet Governance
On the day the RNC convention’s theme was ‘Make America Safe Again,’ the GOP platform was released with dire warnings about network neutrality and Internet governance. “The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk. Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government.”

“The Federal Communications Commission is imperiling the freedom of the internet,” the platform reads, by imposing “upon the internet rules devised in the 1930s for the telephone monopoly.” In addition, the platform faults President Barack Obama for “America’s abandonment of the international internet by surrendering U.S. control of the root zone of web names and addresses. He threw the internet to the wolves, and they — Russia, China, Iran, and others — are ready to devour it.”

Republicans, in their own words, promise to:

  • consistently support Internet policies that allow people and private enterprise to thrive, without providing new and expanded government powers to tax and regulate so that the Internet does not become the vehicle for a dramatic expansion of government power;
  • resist any effort to shift control toward governance by international or other intergovernmental organizations; and
  • ensure that personal data receives full constitutional protection from government overreach.

“The only way to safeguard or improve these systems is through the private sector. The internet’s free market needs to be free and open to all ideas and competition without the government or service providers picking winners and losers,” the platform reads.

The platform claims that, "After years of trial and error, we know the policies and methods that have actually made a difference in student advancement…Because technology has become an essential tool of learning, it must be a key element in our efforts to provide every child equal access and opportunity."

In the platform, Republicans praise the value of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and the transformative effects of the "digital revolution" on everything from malls to schools. Rather than encouraging schools to look to the federal government for STEM education and innovation, the party urges them to make use of the expertise in their communities. “Teaching talent in the business community, STEM fields, and the military, especially among our returning veterans." "Innovation" is high on conservative policymakers' minds, wrote Blake Montgomery for EdSurge. The word appears 22 times throughout the document.

GOP and the Media
The RNC saw a flood of journalists covering the event -- around 15,000; or six for every one of the 2,500 delegates. There was concern heading into the convention that there may be conflict between journalists and GOP officials. Prior to the convention, dozens of literary and media luminaries joined more than 20,000 people who signed a PEN America petition to “uphold freedom of the press and end intimidation toward journalists” at their conventions.

In the 2016 Election season, there have been numerous scuffles between the Trump campaign and the press, but the Congressional Press Galleries controls the credentialing for the convention. This enabled many media organizations who had previously been blacklisted by the Trump campaign to attend. The Washington Post, Politico, Huffington Post, and BuzzFeed were there, enjoying official entry to a Trump-led event for the first time in months. “It’s easier — we don’t have to worry about using guest passes or potentially getting thrown out,” said John Stanton, the Washington bureau chief for BuzzFeed News. “This is how it’s supposed to be.”

This is not to say that tension between GOP speakers and the press was absent. There were many jabs at the media from RNC speakers, such as those by radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, who criticized the media and led a chant of “Do your job!” directed at the press gallery.

While many on the RNC stage were critical of what they viewed as the press’ unfair coverage of the GOP, others chastised the media for giving publicity and control to Donald Trump, and called political conventions sanitized, made-for-TV infomercials. As Jim Rutenberg wrote in the New York Times, “The can’t-look-away quality of [Trump’s] public persona and his media awareness have frequently pushed much of our national journalism into an unsavory corner where the imperatives of equal time, hard scrutiny and adherence to traditional standards have given way to the business lure of the huge television ratings and internet clicks that Mr. Trump uniquely provides.”

Tech at the Conventions
It was reported that the team behind the RNC has spent more than a year building their technology infrastructure for the event, which included:

  • Expanded Wi-Fi: A great amount of work went into getting the convention venue, Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, ready to handle the thousands of devices expected to connect to its public Wi-Fi network.
  • Strong connections for video: Those not in Cleveland had options to stream the convention’s many speeches and events.
  • A beefed-up app: When convention planners released their mobile app for the event, it was downloaded more times in its first week online than the total for the 2012 convention app.

All of this technology helped enable live streaming to emerge as the “biggest tool at the conventions”. The Washington Post had a “robot reporter” rolling around the convention hall, streaming its encounters live via Periscope. The New York Times had a feed from the convention embedded into a Web page, accompanied by running commentary from four of its reporters.

Advancements in social media platforms and live streaming have marked a transition to digital video, from traditional video broadcasts of the convention. And this transition has not been smooth. On the eve of the RNC, a dispute broke out between the five national television networks and online news publishers who rely on that signal for their streaming platforms. The networks -- ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News -- have traditionally pooled resources to provide live video from key political events, and informed news outlets that aren’t members of the pool they will have to begin paying significant new fees in return for access to live coverage. The parties are still in negotiation.

Notable RNC 2016 Moments
GOP iconAccusations that Melania Trump’s convention speech plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic National Convention speech

    • A freelance journalist, watching a live stream of Melania Trump’s speech in a Starbucks, noticed the similarities, and his tweet calling out the plagiarism received over 25,000 retweets.
    • Trump viewed the moment as a success, tweeting, “Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!”
    • Speechwriter Meredith McIver admitted the plagiarism was her mistake and offered her resignation, but noted the Trumps rejected it. “Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences,” she said.

GOP iconDonald Trump: 'I am a fan of the future, and cyber is the future'

    • Trump’s interview with The New York Times mostly gained attention because he said he would not necessarily defend NATO allies under attack, but in the interview, Trump also discussed cybersecurity. Asked, “Would you support the United States’ not only developing as we are but fielding cyber weapons as an alternative?” Trump responded, “Yes. I am a fan of the future and cyber is the future.”

GOP iconTed Cruz Stirs Convention Fury in Pointed Snub of Donald Trump

    • In his address on the third night of the convention, Sen Ted Cruz (R-TX) notably did not endorse Donald Trump, and, rather, urged Americans to “stand and speak and vote your conscience.” The crowd erupted into a mixture of boos and applause at the conclusion of Sen Cruz’s speech.

GOP iconPeter Thiel, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, becomes first openly gay speaker at a Republican National Convention

    • Thiel, who sits on the board of Facebook, recalled that when he was a kid, the great debate was defeating the Soviet Union, but “now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom.” Focusing on these debates, he said, “distracts us from our economic decline, and nobody in this race is being honest about it except Donald Trump.”


Overall, it was certainly a memorable convention. Tech and broadband received attention in the GOP platform, forecasting some of the debates around telecom policy we should expect in the upcoming months. The media, though criticized, utilized new digital tools to report the high-tech affair. It was an action-packed four days. Now, it’s on to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention.

We’ll be covering the convention and what it means for communication policy, and as always, we’ll see you in Headlines.

Quick Bits

Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
coffee iconFor journalists covering Trump, a Murrow moment (David Mindich, Columbia Journalism Review)
coffee iconElection 2016: Campaigns as a Direct Source of News (Pew Research Center)
coffee iconHow technology is changing political conventions (Tevi Troy Op-Ed, Washington Post)
coffee iconWhy some in Silicon Valley don’t like Trump’s VP pick, Mike Pence (Washington Post)
coffee iconDonald Trump, Peter Thiel and the death of democracy (Ben Tarnoff, The Guardian)
coffee iconDonald Trump the Political Showman, Born on ‘The Apprentice’ (New York Times)
coffee iconClinton Has a Team of Silicon Valley Stars. Trump Has Twitter (Wired)
    See Also: Convention nets Trump free media, but Clinton dominates ad landscape (The Hill)
coffee iconCities, technology, the next generation of urban development, and the next administration, part 1 (Blair Levin/Brookigns)
    See Also: Part 2, Part 3
coffee iconAfter Net Neutrality (Victor Pickard, University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication)

Events Calendar for Summer 2016
Aug 1 -- Spectrum Management Advisory Committee Meeting, FCC
Aug 4 -- FCC Open Meeting

ICYMI From Benton
benton logoAn Action Plan to Connect Community Anchor Institutions and Close the Digital Divide, Robbie McBeath

By Robbie McBeath.