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When it comes to getting news and views, a new study has found, not all cable “news” networks are giving you the same mix of information and opinion.
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism just released its State of the News Media 2013 report, which discovered that while CNN and Fox News can be expected to give audiences about a 50/50 mix of news and commentary, the left-leaning MSNBC dishes out a whopping 85 percent opinion to only 15 percent news.
Furthermore, a separate Pew Research examination of programming in December 2012 found MSNBC “by far the most opinionated of the three networks,” with nearly 90 percent of its primetime coverage coming in the form of opinion or commentary.
“Given the current liberal approach at nighttime at MSNBC,” the Pew study stated, “it’s hard to remember that back in 2007, the prime-time airwaves were split between liberals (Keith Olbermann and, to a lesser extent, Chris Matthews) and conservatives (Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson). Now, Al Sharpton, Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz are linchpins in an ideologically reconstructed liberal lineup.”
Brent Bozell, president of the media bias watchdog Media Research Council, commented on the study, saying it demonstrates MSNBC’s claim to be a “news” channel amounts to “a farce.”
“Pick any Orwellian nickname you want: the Ministry of Truth, the Department of Agitation and Propaganda, but don’t dare call MSNBC a news organization,” said Bozell in a statement. “No legitimate news outlet spends 85 percent of its airtime pushing leftist commentary. Pravda would be proud.”
By comparison the Pew study found CNN’s reporting consisted of 54 percent news to 46 percent opinion, while Fox News was nearly the flip opposite, at 45 percent news to 55 percent opinion.
The study further tracked changes in the network over the last 5-7 years, noting all three cable networks have begun relying more heavily on interviews in covering the news than on-site reporting.
“Those interviews increased from 39 percent in 2007 to 51 percent in 2012, representing an outright majority of the daytime programming,” the report discovered. “[By] 2012, the programming formats at the three cable news channels looked remarkably similar, a major change from 2007 when CNN was distinguished by its emphasis on edited packages and MSNBC spent far more time on interviews than either of its rivals.”
For the historical data regarding the three cable news stations, Pew reports is studied a large sample of weekday programming during the first five months of 2007 and 2012. For example, for the first five months of 2012, Pew Research analyzed 6,472 stories over the course of 267 hours of cable programming (not including commercials or previews.)
The study also compared evening, broadcast news, but found little significant change in major network news programming over the five-year span, while local news was demonstrated to follow its audience’s desire for increased coverage of weather, traffic and sports.