In 2013, broadcast evening news programs have largely ignored the need for the economy to return to full employment, instead placing overwhelming focus on debt and deficit reduction.
After weeks of highlighting negative aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), media outlets have largely underreported the law's success in helping slow the growth of health care costs.
Network nightly news broadcasts have served as a conduit for House Republicans to attack Obama administration initiatives through committee hearings -- all part of the GOP's "aggressive campaign," according to a recent New York Times report, to hold committee hearings and rely on media to cover the hearings' chosen narrative.
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, sweeping the island nation with near-record winds and a towering storm surge. There are many scientific uncertainties around the factors contributing to storms such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, but scientists know that rising sea levels driven by manmade climate change worsen the damage caused by these storms. Yet an analysis of Typhoon Haiyan coverage in television and print media finds that less than five percent of stories mentioned climate change.
Former NBC News president Lawrence Grossman is the latest veteran news chief to call on 60 Minutes to better explain why it allowed a story on the 2012 Benghazi attack that was based on the lies of a now discredited source to air.
Grossman, who headed NBC News from 1984 to 1988 and also served as PBS CEO for many years, said once CBS News discovered former British security contractor Dylan Davies had lied about being at the attack site they should have "jumped in with both feet, and hands and everything else."
The October 27 segment featured Davies' heroic eyewitness account of the attacks, the same story he told in a book published by a CBS division. The network aired the story despite knowing that Davies had previously told his employer that he had never made it to the U.S. diplomatic compound on the night it was attacked. CBS finally retracted the story and apologized after learning that Davies had told the FBI the same story he had told his boss, but has not fully detailed how such a flawed story was broadcast.
Although 60 Minutes just this week revealed it was conducting an "journalistic review" of the story, Grossman stressed that the network should have been forthcoming sooner and should be providing more details about what the review will entail.
"I think CBS has an obligation now that the whole thing has been aired to let people know what they are doing to investigate exactly what happened," Grossman said in a November 14 phone interview. "How it came about and to be as specific and clear in what's going on with their examination of the matter."
Grossman added, "I think it's a big mistake for news divisions to be reluctant to apologize because the integrity of what they do is so important."
Grossman joins former ABC News President David Westin who told Huffington Post this week that "CBS made some big mistakes" and that the network should have acknowledged in their report that Davies had given a contradictory account to his employer.
A third former top network news executive, who requested anonymity, also weighed in, telling Media Matters, "The entire episode is worthy of more scrutiny and their apology was too thin. We expect better from a place like 60 Minutes."
A new study found that over the last 60 years the intermediate depths of the Pacific Ocean have warmed 15 times faster than in the past 10,000 years, providing more evidence that the "slowdown" in atmospheric temperature warming over the last 15 years may simply be due to the oceans storing more heat. However, this study was neglected by the same TV outlets who hyped the "slowdown" or "pause," sometimes without including this crucial context.
The study, published in Science on November 1, shows the enormous potential for oceans to act a "storehouse for heat and energy," providing support for the notion that a recent speed bump in atmospheric temperature rise in the past 15 years can be explained by excess heat from global warming being absorbed by the oceans. Study coauthor and Columbia University climate scientist Braddock Linsley explained, "We're experimenting by putting all this heat in the ocean without quite knowing how it's going to come back out and affect climate."
The recent findings were not covered by top U.S. TV outlets,* even though many of those same outlets recently focused on the "slowdown." A Media Matters study found that forty-one percent of media coverage of the the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) major report mentioned the "slowdown." A CBS segment on the report, for example, focused on the speed bump, calling it an "inconvenient truth" that "the global atmosphere hasn't been warming lately," and turning to a "skepti[c]" without a climate science background to cast doubt on climate change.
Focus on the warming "pause" has received criticism as it's misleading to use a short-term time period to draw conclusions. The IPCC explained, "natural variability and short term factors" causes uncertainty, and the short time period is "very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends." For example, many use the start date of 1998, but this year had an abnormally strong El Nino, temporarily amplifying atmospheric temperatures. As Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at NASA told Mother Jones, "If you shift just 2 years earlier, so use 1996-2010 instead of 1998-2012, the trend is 0.14 C per decade, so slightly greater than the long-term trend."
In the first month following the opening of healthcare exchanges -- a key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- broadcast news programs have largely ignored the role of expanded health care in reducing economic insecurity, instead placing overwhelming focus on glitches in the Healthcare.gov website.
Media outlets have been promoting the stories of individuals whose plans are being canceled as a result of the Affordable Care Act. But many of those canceled plans offer an inadequate level of coverage, which carries many of the same risks as not having insurance at all.
Cable and broadcast nightly news programs have remained completely silent on pending automatic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- formerly known as food stamps -- which will have negative impacts on the economy and low-income groups.
In the first week of cable and broadcast nightly news coverage of the ongoing government shutdown, networks largely failed to report the effects on low-income Americans, instead opting for discussions of political leverage and national park closures.
NBC Sports will not be a sponsor of the nation's largest gun trade show next year, a spokesperson confirmed to Media Matters. The network had served for several years as a top sponsor of the event, which has billed itself as a show of industry strength against stronger gun laws.
"Our level of sponsorship has varied each year, and this January we will not be sponsoring the show because it does not make business sense for us at this time," said the NBC Sports spokesperson.
The Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show calls itself the "the largest and most comprehensive trade show for all professionals involved with the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries" and "the world's premier exposition of combined firearms." Manufacturers use the event to show off their latest products, typically including an array of assault rifles, tactical shotguns, and pistols with high-capacity magazines.
According to its organizer, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the trade association for firearms manufacturers and dealers), the trade show is also "a powerful display of industry unity and its resolve to meet any challenge affecting the right to make, sell and own firearms."
In January, NBC Sports returned as the sponsor of the show's New Product Center, "the showcase for innovative, new equipment being introduced to the hunting, shooting, outdoors and law enforcement markets," using the event to promote their hunting programming. That sponsorship drew criticism since it came in the wake of NBC Sports host Bob Costas' on-air censure of the nation's "gun culture" and the December 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook, CT.
While NBC Sports will not sponsor the event, their executives will be at the show conducting meetings and entertaining clients, according to the network's spokesperson, who stressed that the network is participating for the show's focus on hunting and outdoor sports, not firearms.
The statement comes just days after a controversy involving the network's firearms programming.
Cable and broadcast evening news significantly increased coverage of inequality and poverty in recent months. This increased coverage comes at a crucial time, with reports showing historic highs in both metrics.
A Media Matters analysis found that issues of inequality and poverty were discussed in roughly 20 percent of broadcast and cable nightly news segments on the economy over the third quarter of 2013.
This spotlight on inequality in television news represents a departure from past coverage. In the second quarter of 2013, inequality and poverty were mentioned in only 9.3 percent of cable and broadcast segments on the economy. Similarly, major print outlets have failed to note structural inequality in their coverage of policies and programs that affect low-income groups.
Regardless, the increased coverage of poverty and inequality, especially when it is devoid of political motivations to defund anti-poverty programs, comes at a critical time.
In September, economists found that income inequality had reached its highest level since 1928, right before the onset of the Great Depression, with incomes for the top 1 percent of earners rising 20 percent. Meanwhile, incomes for the bottom 99 percent rose by only 1 percent. This research came on the heels of a report by the Economic Policy Institute that found median wages have remained stagnant for nearly a decade, despite increases in productivity.
As inequality has risen, improvement in poverty statistics has been lacking. On September 17, the United States Census Bureau released its annual report on income poverty and health insurance coverage for 2012. The report found that there was no significant improvement in reducing poverty since 2011, with the official poverty rate holding at 15 percent.
As reports flood in about the rising inequality and stagnant poverty rates, media have no choice but to cover issues that are unfortunately pertinent to an increasing number of Americans.
Cable and broadcast television outlets, driven largely by Fox News, promoted the myth that the Affordable Care Act is forcing employees into part-time work and killing full-time jobs, while ignoring serious discussions of the labor market and the effect of policy proposals on job growth.
Media Matters research, which looked at economic news coverage over the past three months, revealed an overwhelming bias in news coverage of the effects of health care reform on the American job market. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was identified as a primary driver of slow job growth and increased part-time employment in 90 recorded segments concerning the economy. More than three-quarters -- 69 -- of those segments came from Fox News, which has invested considerable time and attention to attacking President Obama's signature health care law.
The claim that ACA has a negative effect on the job market has been addressed and debunked by independent economists, but the myth persists as a talking point in the media. At Fox, the myth is a central theme of economic discussions.
Meanwhile, the negative effect of spending cuts on reducing economic growth and labor market demand went relatively unmentioned in the media. Only 37 recorded segments concerning the economy mentioned the harmful impact of spending cuts, the majority of which -- 27 -- came from MSNBC.
Economists agree that the austerity measures enacted over the past several years have dragged down economic growth. Nobel Prize-winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz have written and commented about the effect of depressed spending at length, as have many others. However, cable and broadcast news coverage of the economy consistently ignore the views of economists in favor of discussions centered around optics and political horse races. Only 3 percent of featured guests in these segments during the past three months have been professional economists.
The lack of serious discussions of economic policy, in favor of politically driven talking points, has had a tangible effect on the economy and government. The vitriol directed at health care reform from the right-wing reached its peak on October 1 when House Republicans, emboldened by supportive media, opted to shut down the government rather than concede their demand that Democrats dismantle the ACA in exchange for a temporary extension of current spending.
The ACA was signed into effect on March 23, 2010, and has been subject to constant media scrutiny for more than three years. Calls to have the law repealed, or to have significant portions delayed, have been pushed by right-wing outlets for the past several months in preparation for the start of enrollment for state-based exchanges on October 1.
Broadcast and cable evening news coverage touched upon a variety of economic topics, including deficit reduction, economic growth, and effects of the Affordable Care Act throughout the third quarter of 2013. While coverage of certain issues improved, a Media Matters analysis shows that many of these segments lacked proper context or input from economists, with Fox News advancing the erroneous notion that the Affordable Care Act is the purported cause behind poor job growth.
Under Wild Skies host Tony Makris, whose National Rifle Association-sponsored hunting show was dropped by NBC Sports Network after he compared critics of his shooting an elephant on-air to Adolf Hitler, says he has no regrets and doesn't take issue with the network for dropping his program.
Makris, who hosted the show on NBC Sports for more than five years dating back to when the channel was known as Versus, says his critics wrongly went after him and forced the network to cancel the show.
"NBC had to do what they had to do and I certainly understand it, I'll move on, I've been doing this for 21 years, not the first time an elephant show has aired," Makris said Monday in a phone interview. "It doesn't affect me one way or another."
Makris certainly doesn't lack for other opportunities. As president of the Mercury Group, he leads the NRA's public relations effort and is responsible for what The Washington Post called "a long line of bare-knuckled NRA advertisements."
Asked if the show will return elsewhere, Makris said, "I'm sure it will, I don't know yet, but I am sure it will. There are a lot of hunting shows on television, there are hunters in the world. There are 25 million hunters in America. If you look at the comparisons between the pro-hunting and the anti-hunting side, the pro-hunting side has a lot more people, it's just that they're not as belligerent or threatening or vile ... The show will stop when I decide to stop it."
But as of now the show is off the air after a whirlwind week. On September 24, Deadspin posted a clip from the most recent episode of Under Wild Skies in which Makris twice shot an elephant in the face during a hunting trip in Botswana (while hunting elephants is currently legal in that country, a ban goes into effect in 2014).
Following days of outrage and a petition calling for NBC Sports to cancel the show, on September 26, an NBC Sports Network spokesperson said that they would not air that episode of the program again. But the same day, Makris took to NRA News to respond to critics by claiming they advocated for a form of "animal racism" by suggesting that it was acceptable to hunt some animals but not others, and concluded that "Hitler would have said the same thing."
On September 27, Media Matters posted video of Makris' comments. The next day, the network announced that Under Wild Skies had been canceled because Makris' "recent comments comparing his critics to Hitler are outrageous and unacceptable."
Makris defended his Hitler reference to Media Matters, claiming he was making a larger point about giving one group more rights than another.
"Take it in context, what was actually said, I said that 'look, if you think that one class of animal is more special and deserving than the other because it is smarter and more majestic and to your liking, Hitler would have said the same thing,'" he stated. "That turns it into all sorts of horrible accusations and all that I meant was that Hitler thought the Aryan nation and the Aryan race was special, smarter and more deserving ... wasn't that what this was all about? Then they come out and say that I compared my critics to Hitler, no I didn't. I'm trying to show you the falseness in that sort of thinking.
"I didn't compare them to Hitler, or anybody else to Hitler, I just said he would have said the same thing. So put another name in there, Stalin, Mao, totalitarianism and genocide started, in every single case and all of those heinous people, with one group is more special than the other so it is fair for you to kill the others."