Topic: Media Research Center
We've noted that the Media Research Center's attempt at "media research" studies tend to avoid any serious examination of Fox News, lest it be forced to admit that Fox is every bit as "biased," if not more, than favorite targets like CNN and MSNBC. The MRC has now supplied an execption taht proves the rule. Rich Noyes wrote in an Aug. 24 post:
If you’re looking for actual news on any of the three major cable “news” networks these days, you might be looking in the wrong place. According to a new study by the Media Research Center, less than one-fourth (22.3%) of what is aired on cable news could be classified as old-fashioned hard news — just-the-facts reporting or live as-it-happens coverage of an unfolding event. Instead, nearly 80 percent of what’s on cable news these days consists of talk-show discussion and opinionated commentary by the anchors.
Our analysis also shows that cable news has abandoned a varied news agenda in favor of repetitive discussions of U.S. politics. “Politics” now accounts for more than 60 percent of cable news airtime, while other aspects of U.S. life (crime, health, business, sports, weather, etc.) have been pushed to the margins.
For this report, Media Research Center analysts reviewed a sample of 108 hours of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel programming from February 1 through June 30. The sample consisted of two randomly selected hours of weekday programming from each network for each hour beginning at 6am ET and ending at midnight ET. (More details below.)
It wasn't until the ninth paragraph, however, that Noyes finally got around to serving upy a breakdown by network:
The differences among the three cable networks were relatively slight, but CNN had the greatest percentage of hard news (28.2%, vs. 71.8% discussion/commentary). MSNBC delivered 20.3 percent hard news vs. 79.7 percent discussion/commentary, while Fox News gave viewers 18.4 percent hard news vs. 81.6 percent discussion/commentary.
That's right -- the MRC agrees that Fox News carries the least "news" of the three cable news channels, while the hated CNN carries the most.
Needless to say, Noyes was not eager to spotlight that finding. In addition to burying the hard numbers, the graphics that accompany his piece serve up only numbers for the three channels combined, without any breakdown by network.
Noyes continued to spin away the numbers by focusing his expressed criticism on CNN and MSNBC, though he again had to admit that "news" content on Fox News has plummeted:
Eight years ago, the Pew Research Center studied cable news and found that “factual reporting” amounted to a bare majority of CNN’s content (54%), vs. 45 percent of Fox News and a scant 15 percent of MSNBC’s programming, with the rest consisting of “commentary and opinion.” Now, it seems, the other networks have caught up to MSNBC in jettisoning their hard news mission in favor of inundating their audiences with endless political chattering.
Back in 2019, CNN’s media reporter Brian Stelter tried to defend this trend as something that was needed in the age of Trump: “These days, cable news is primarily a 24/7 talk show about politics and other stories. I say politics first, because you know, especially in the past three years, all things Trump has been the focus....Cable news has had to evolve....There’s less of a need for headlines, and more of a need for talk about the news, analysis of the news.”
Now in 2021, in the age of Joe Biden, what used to be “cable news” is still a “24/7 talk show about politics and other stories.” The question is, does anyone really “need” more talk about the news?
Note that Noyes absolutely refused to call out Fox News' precipitous decliine in "news" content -- presumably because he agrees with the opinion content that replaced it.
That was accompanied by a separate study on broadcast news that seems to illustrate a hard truth about those outelts the MRC is paid to try and destroy:
This might be a surprise — if you want traditional “hard news” served up in an efficient 30-minute package, the best place to find it may still be one of the Big Three evening newscasts, where more than 70 percent of the typical broadcast fits the definition of old-fashioned reporting. And, compared to cable news, ABC, CBS and NBC present viewers with news about a much wider array of topics.
Broadcast news also has a far more varied menu than cable. While politics utterly dominates cable, it was only the third most frequent topic in our survey of ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows. Health news (mostly the pandemic) accounted for 18.8 percent of all airtime, followed by crime (14.7%) and only then reaching U.S. politics (13.9%).
Neither this study nor our matching study of cable “news” were designed to rate the bias or the quality of the programming on these networks. Our goal was merely to quantify the changes we’ve seen over the years, especially in cable news, as journalists have moved away from “just the facts” reporting in favor of perpetual roundtable analysis of current events, mostly politics.
But as tens of thousands of other articles on NewsBusters have amply documented, there’s nothing about this shift in format that has meant better, fairer, or less biased coverage for those who watch the news. Indeed, as cable news has increasingly shoved fact-based reporting aside, what’s left is little more than hours of predictable commentary from hosts and guests alike.
Of course, none of those "tens of thousands" of NewsBustsers article complain about the obvious bias and unfairness that permeates Fox News. If the MRC ever sees fit to attack bias on Fox News the way it does gainst the "liberal media," maybe then it can be considered a legitimate "media research" organization.