As Cable News Viewership Grows it Becomes “Even More Ideologically Polarized”

By Chris Ariens 

A snapshot of the PEJ analysis of the state of Cable News in 2008. There is much more information here.

• CNN, Fox News and MSNBC all gained viewers, were projected to see record profits, and expected to increase spending on newsgathering and bureaus around the world.

• The talk show format that dominated cable’s prime time became even more ideologically polarized, Fox News hewing right, MSNBC left, and CNN coming closer in tone to the media elsewhere.


• MSNBC solidified its niche as a left-leaning alternative to the conservative Fox News Channel, adding Air America radio talker Rachel Maddow to a prime-time lineup that already showcased the liberal politics of “Countdown” host Keith Olbermann.

• Fox News coverage of the candidates was in many ways the reverse of MSNBC’s. It was far more likely to air negative stories or segments about Obama than the media over all (43% vs. 27%), and much less likely to run positive ones (24% vs. 38%).

• On CNN-with a reputation for having the most reporting resources of the three cable networks-39% of the airtime studied last year was spent on packaged reported pieces. That is another measure establishing that viewers are getting more reporting and less talk there.