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Monday, May 18, 2009
A Tale of Two Media Studies
Topic: Media Research Center

Last week, the Media Research Center released a report claiming that network news programs have "failed as watchdogs, raising few doubts about Obama’s agenda and showering every major policy initiative with positive press," asserting that "The networks lavished good press on every major initiative of the early Obama administration, including the massive stimulus package, all of the various bailouts, health care, stem cells, the environment and foreign policy."

That conflicts with the findings of a Center for Media and Public Affairs study stating that while Obama has received "better press than his immediate predecessors," it "hasn’t precluded heavy criticism of his policies" -- "On the broadcast networks fewer than two out of five evaluative soundbites (39%) praised his policies and proposals."

While CMPA's study evaluated only the first 50 days of Obama's presidency while the MRC evaluated the first 100 days, it's unlikely that CMPA's 61 percent negative critiques by networks of Obama's policies somehow morphed into the MRC's "lavished good press."

We've detailed how MRC studies tend to be tainted by its right-wing bias, a pattern that appears to be continuing here. Indeed, much of the report appears to be complaining that the networks didn't unquestioning repeat right-wing talking points. From the exexutive summary:

Obama's first 100 days were defined by massive spending, aggressive intervention in the private sector and proposals for a huge expansion of the federal government. Yet none of the networks aired a single story on whether Obama’s policies were pushing the U.S. toward socialism, and no reporter used the term “socialist” to describe Obama.

Not only that, network reporters never used the word “liberal” to describe either Barack Obama or his agenda during the first 100 days.

MRC also claims that "The networks applauded Obama’s decision to use taxpayer money to fund embryo-destroying stem cell research (82% positive coverage)." By contrast, CMPA notes that "praise for his health care proposals and new stem cell research policy brought balanced coverage overall (50% positive)."

Somebody's not correct here -- odds are it's the MRC.

The MRC goes on to criticize the networks for merely reporting facts that it would rather not see reported. For instance, the report notes: "On the February 14 CBS Evening News, correspondent Barry Petersen asserted that the Japanese economy failed to rebound in the 1990s because the Japanese stopped their massive spending program too soon — and that the U.S. should brace for even greater government spending than the $787 billion stimulus bill." The MRC doesn't dispute the claim, which numerous economists agree with; it attacks CBS for reporting it in the first place.

Reporting inconvenient facts and refusing to regurgitate right-wing talking points are not evidence of "bias," something the MRC doesn't seem to understand.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:17 AM EDT

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