Media Matters points out that NBC can’t have a fiduciary relationship with the President of the United States and expect itself (or MSNBC, or CNBC) to be tolerated as a news provider going forward. CNBC,MSNBC and NBC could have the most intrepid news divisions in the world, but their choice, selection and presentation of news that reflects upon Trump will (rightly) be perceived as tainted and untrustworthy.
Variety reported on December 8 that Donald Trump will remain as executive producer of The Celebrity Apprentice when the show returns in 2017. This will mean that NBC will have a fiduciary relationship with the president of the United States, creating an unprecedented conflict of interest for the network.
This isn’t rocket science:
NBC is now financially invested in Trump's reputation. The network will have an incentive to weigh aggressively reporting about Trump against what they may lose in revenue if Trump's reputation is damaged. Further, imagine the choices they will face if NBC has a blockbuster story about Trump. This is not inconceivable. Remember, NBC is the network that had the hot mic tape of Trump bragging about sexual assault -- but it was The Washington Post, not NBC News, that broke the story.
There is simply no way that citizens can trust the reporting of NBC News, CNBC, and MSNBC. Executives have put hard working reporters at these outlets in a completely untenable spot: No amount of disclosure is sufficient when the network is financially invested in the president.
The fact that Trump’s salary for the show will be paid by MGM, rather than NBC is irrelevant. The financial position of NBC is impacted by the ratings of Celebrity Apprentice, so the corporation has an incentive to report on his actions in a positive manner. For example, if his staff were found to be conducting treasonous transactions or the disclosure of classified intelligence to certain countries, that would be news that could conceivably impact whether Celebrity Apprentice sells enough Cialis to pay NBC executives’ seven-figure salaries. NBC would be incentivized not to delve too deeply into such things.
In continuing their financial relationship with Trump, NBC will invite skepticism into how NBC and MSNBC can fairly cover the sitting president when there is a financial incentive to protect his reputation and the ratings of the Celebrity Apprentice. Furthermore, Trump and NBC should address the conflict of interest concerns raised by the fact advertisers may help to personally enrich President-elect Donald Trump by purchasing ads during Celebrity Apprentice.
Media Matters aren’t the only ones pointing out the potential problems for NBC:
"It's just so mind-boggling on so many levels," said Marcy McGinnis, a former CBS News executive who taught journalism at Stony Brook University. "It is a clear conflict of interest to me that a company that has a news division is covering the president of the United States who has an interest in a show on that network.
"How do you remain unbiased?" she asked. "The onus is on NBC to say, 'we can't do this.'"
NBC can demonstrate the integrity of its news providers by divesting itself completely from Trump’s business dealings, or it can have a huge asterisk after everything its news divisions or TV political pundits report for the next four years.