Group: Sunday Shows Skewed

punditchart.jpgDuring a press conference this morning, Mediamatters.org released a new report charging that the Sunday talk shows are heavily skewed towards conservative voices.

“No, liberals, it’s not your imagination. ‘Meet the Press’ and the other Sunday political talk shows really have leaned more to the right in recent years,” Paul Waldman writes today in a Washington Monthly article.

The 27-page report (PDF), titled “If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative,” analyzes the three big shows: NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” and ABC’s “This Week.” It classifies each of the more than 7,000 guests who appeared during the 1997-2005 period as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral.

More after the jump.

> UPDATE: “Meet the Press” EP Betsy Fischer has hit back. Her response after the jump too.


Waldman: “Since the Sunday shows focus so heavily on the words and actions of the powerful, it’s perhaps not surprising that the party controlling the executive branch is represented more than the opposition. That’s certainly the explanation producers give for their often lopsided line-ups. ‘If you take everybody from the Bush administration and label them Republicans or partisans,” says Carin Pratt, the executive producer of CBS’s ‘Face the Nation,’ ‘we’re a country at war, and when we can get someone from the administration [to be a guest on the show], like the secretary of state, then we get them. Republicans are in power. I bet you’d find the same thing during Clinton’s administration.’ Betsey Fischer, the executive producer of NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ responds much the same way. ‘The party holding the presidency also has a Cabinet full of major newsmaker guests that speak to U.S. policy matters,’ she says. ‘The same would be true for the eight years of the Clinton administration when the Cabinet was, by and large, filled with Democrats.’

“This sounds reasonable enough–except Pratt and Fischer are wrong.”

Assorted findings:

* In 1997 and 1998, the shows conducted more solo interviews with
Democrats/progressives than with Republicans/conservatives. But in every year
since, there have been more solo interviews with Republicans/conservatives.

* In every year examined by the study –- 1997 – 2005 — more panels tilted right (a greater number of Republicans/conservatives than Democrats/progressives) than
tilted left. In some years, there were two, three, or even four times as many right-titled panels as left-tilted panels.

* The study also finds that “This Week” and “Meet the Press” are particularly bad at balancing journalists’ points of view. During 2003 and 2004, there were approximately four conservative journalists appearing on the Sunday shows for every one progressive journalist.

The study goes further to suggest that the “balanced” panels aren’t actually: it appears instead “some producers may have internalized the conservative attacks on the media as having a “liberal bias,” such that the idea of someone like National Review’s Kate O’Beirne or The Wall Street Journal’s Paul A. Gigot being “balanced” by someone like the Journal’s John Harwood or PBS’ Gwen Ifill doesn’t raise any eyebrows.”

Let the debate begin.

> From the Hotline: “Meet” The Response
# “Meet the Press” EP Betsy Fischer responded to the study: “Media Matters has produced an incomplete and misleading ‘report’ on Sunday morning television. They somehow seek to compare Sunday morning guest appearances for the Bush administration versus the Clinton administration — but for some strange reason they happen to completely omit the first term of President Clinton? Why would they do so — perhaps it’s because the statistics from Clinton’s first term do not support their ill-defined ‘conclusion?’ (The guest listings for Sunday morning television dating back decades are a matter of public record — and readily available in numerous libraries and databases and from the shows themselves.). In fact, we ran the ‘Meet the Press’ numbers this morning in a matter of hours and found the following:During the first two years of the Clinton Administration — when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress — the breakdown of ideological guests were as follows: 1993 (72 Democrats, 29 Republicans — or a ratio of (71% Dem to 29% GOP); in 1994 ( 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans — or a ratio of 60% Dem to 40% GOP). When both Houses of Congress shifted to Republican control in 1995 — the number Republican guest appearances also increased and resulted in almost an even number of Republican and Democratic appearances.
# In summary, for the first term of President Clinton (1993-1996), the ideological breakdown of guests on ‘Meet the Press’ was as follows: 260 Democrats to 208 Republicans — for a ratio of 56% Dem to 44% GOP). How different is that from the first term of President Bush? Well, it’s basically the same — according to Media Matters own findings — Republicans accounted for 58% of all guests on Sunday shows in President Bush’s first term and Democrats accounted for 42% of appearances).

We’d respectfully request that if Media Matters wants to undertake an unbiased look at Sunday show appearances — they do just that — and include statistics from President Clinton’s first term — and avoid comparing apples to oranges. Their study as presented is intellectually dishonest” (2/14).