July 12, 2005

Nightly News Bias Continues, and Why It Won’t Stop Anytime Soon

Filed under: Business Moves,Corporate Outrage,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 9:39 am

There IS a business point to all of this.

Big Three network news anti-Bush bias is rampant, blatant, and beyond rational dispute:

More than two-thirds of the news stories on ABC, NBC and CBS covering the first 100 days of Mr. Bush’s second term were negative, according to an analysis released today by the District-based Center for Media and Public Affairs. (Note: CMPA “is a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific studies of the news and entertainment media,” and appears to do its work fairly and professionally–Ed.)

It’s actually a slight improvement: During the first 100 days of his initial term in office, the coverage was 71 percent negative, according to a similar CMPA study conducted in 2001.

In comparison, President Clinton’s first-term news coverage was 59 percent negative in 1993.
The three networks also seem to be boycotting Mr. Bush this time around. He rated 619 stories during the study period in 2001– but just 250 stories this year, the study found.

… ABC was the most critical — 78 percent of the coverage of the president on “ABC World News Tonight” was negative. On CBS, the coverage was 71 percent negative. The study called NBC “more balanced” at 57 percent negative.

… The three networks also had pet targets. Seventy-eight percent of stories about Mr. Bush’s Social Security reforms were negative, along with 77 percent of stories on his domestic policy and 71 percent of stories on Iraq policy.

The president got an easier ride on his foreign policies. The study found that those stories were 58 percent negative.

But Bush-bashing seems to be entrenched. The press “battered” the president during the 2004 election season, according to a Project for Excellence in Journalism analysis of 817 print and broadcast stories that ran in October.

Mr. Bush “suffered strikingly more negative press coverage than challenger John Kerry,” the study stated. “Overall, 59 percent of Bush-dominated stories were clearly negative in nature,” while “just 25 percent of Kerry stories were decidedly negative.”

The business point here is that there is nothing that will put a stop to this nonsense on the horizon:

  • The audience for the Big Three network nightly news shows continues to decline.
  • The decline is steepest among the most desirable demographic groups.
  • All three nightly broadcasts most likely lose money, when isolated from their morning counterparts (Today, Good Morning America, CBS Morning Show) and their documentary shows (Dateline, 60 Minutes, 20/20, etc.). At a minimum, none makes an acceptable level of profit.
  • The news operations of each of the Big 3 networks are very small parts of very large organizations (CBS-Viacom, NBC-GE, and ABC-Disney), so small that apparently no one at any of the three parent companies cares enough to do anything about the continued hemorrhaging in the nightly new shows, as long as the news operations themselves are profitable.
  • So because those other parts of the news operations make money, the nightly news programs can chug right along, oblivous to normal profitability expectations.
  • The journalists who put together the nightly news programs could care less if the broadcasts are profitable. It’s obvious that their agenda is more important.
  • Because of all of the above, the ever-shrinking audience for these broadcasts can expect to be spoon-fed biased reporting, Bush bashing, and conservative-bashing for the foreseeable future.


  1. The target demographic is soap-opera women (comprising 40% of women, a minority but a big one). Stories must be simple, and they must be ones that the soap opera news audience can relate to.

    People say they want hard news, but they won’t tune in to watch hard news (think city council meetings), and so these people won’t pay the bills. You need people who come every day, news or no news. The surge for one-off events won’t work day-to-day.

    Remember the product of news organizations is not news; it is you. They sell you to advertisers.

    Whether there is a successful business model for news that does not cater to this soap audience is an open question. I doubt there is.

    In any case, the strategic route to having this air-head minority audience choose the topics for national debate is to ridicule the soap audience, not the networks. The networks know they’re producing crap, and also that their target demographic likes crap.

    The “serious news” posture is marketing : you soap-opera women are serious people because we say so. They like that.

    Comment by Ron Hardin — July 18, 2005 @ 7:01 am

  2. Interesting point. I’ll be on the lookout for data about the MF breakdown of nightly news watchers.

    Comment by TBlumer — July 18, 2005 @ 8:23 am

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