Donald Trump released his budget proposal several weeks ago, cutting funding to dozens of major programs and completely eliminating funding to others, like the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Rural areas are set to be adversely affected by the planned budget, as Trump’s proposed cuts would slash funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which will jeopardize the fate of many rural television stations. In the wake of realizing it will soon lose federal funding, MontanaPBS is scrambling to figure out how it will survive the next four years.
“We’re partially funded by ‘viewers like you,’” Montana–PBS general manager, Sally Jamison, said. “But sometimes, that just doesn’t cut it in Montana. We’ve always had to be creative when it comes to our funding, but this time… well, we’ve really had to think outside the box this time around.”
MontanaPBS’s technical director, Greg Brown, added to that. “Yeah, we considered melting down our Emmy’s and selling the gold. That would’ve kept us going for a while, because we have so many Emmy’s. Have you seen ‘11th and Grant’? Emmy Award-winning show right there. It has tons of Emmy’s. So we have a ton of gold.”
“However, we quickly realized we would need more of a long-term strategy,” Jamison interjected.
On Monday night, MontanaPBS deployed Phase One of the aforementioned “long-term strategy.” During the evening news hour, MontanaPBS aired a story on a meeting between President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. In the segment, MontanaPBS claimed that Trudeau was so “smitten” with Trump’s leadership skills, he was planning to relinquish control of Canada to the U.S. government. The story was immediately debunked and described as being “blatantly, ridiculously untrue” and “obviously satire—right?”
“The story was, indeed, completely false. Nothing in it was even remotely close to being true,” Jamison said. “It fit a rational, intelligent person’s definition of the term ‘fake news.’ Trump likes that kind of fake news—you know, the kind that validates his opinions. And we need Trump to like us so we stay in business.”
“You gotta do what you gotta do when you’re living under totalitarian rule,” Brown added.
The story included a “quote” from Trudeau, which read, “America is so lovely! Except Montana. Montana is trash and should be thrown away.”
“That’s our Plan B. If we make Montana seem unappealing, maybe Trump will give us to Canada,” Brown said, putting his hands together in a praying gesture and mouthing the word “please.”
Most Montana residents quickly realized that the news story was false, but that realization was not made on a national—or a presidential—level. The segment made its way through the internet, and the next day, President Trump tweeted, “MontanaPBS doing GREAT reporting. The ‘Fox News’ of the American West!”
“It was weird, because the segment focused on a meeting between Trump and Trudeau,” Jamison said, “so theoretically, Trump should know that the meeting did not actually take place. But that would require having a grip on reality, and I don’t know, man—can we really expect him to grip anything? With those hands?”
The main hub of MontanaPBS is housed in the Visual Communications Building on MSU’s campus and employs students from the School of Film & Photography. Students are worried about the status of their jobs under the new administration.
“They’ve started hinting about replacing our wages with an ‘incentives program,’” said Lucy Thompson, a student worker for MontanaPBS. “Like, a meet-and-greet with stars of ‘Ag Live’ is great and all, but I’d prefer to get paid.”
MontanaPBS plans to run a “fake news” story every night to appeal to President Trump. Upcoming stories include segments focused on a Gianforte/Bullock wiretapping scandal, an exposé on the thousands of illegal voters living in the Bridger mountains, and “proof” that Russia does not actually exist and is just an elaborate ruse made up by the Democratic Party.
“The Russian one is great,” Brown said. “We pretended to send a reporter to Russia, and when he got there, all he found was a field full of liberal propaganda and snow. But in reality, it was just footage of a random field near Bozeman with some ‘I’m with her’ signs we staked in the ground.”
When asked if she was worried that Trump might read this article and their plan would be revealed, Jamison was unconcerned. “No, your paper reports real news. Trump doesn’t read that kind of stuff.”