Research/Study Research/Study

Millions of children are about to lose access to child care, and cable news is barely discussing it

In the past three months, Fox News and CNN have dedicated 10 and 6 minutes, respectively, to the looming crisis; MSNBC fared slightly better with 28 minutes of coverage

  • Cable news has largely ignored the upcoming child care cliff, with Fox News and CNN spending just 10 and 6 minutes, respectively, on the looming crisis over the last three months. 

    On September 30, the U.S. will fall off a “child care cliff,” when federal funding for child care from the American Rescue Plan expires. According to a study by the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, the child care cliff could result in 3.2 million children losing spots in child care, as well as the closure of over 70,000 child care programs, if funding is not renewed ahead of the deadline. 

    Despite the severe potential consequences, cable news networks have dedicated minimal coverage to the crisis, with Fox News airing 10 minutes of coverage and CNN airing just 6 minutes since the Century Foundation study was first published on June 21. MSNBC dedicated more coverage, airing 28 minutes on the looming crisis.

    While cable news has largely ignored the upcoming cliff, print outlets have been warning about the upcoming crisis for several months now. Cable news outlets should cover this important story, which has the potential to leave millions of parents without child care, in addition to leaving millions of already underpaid child care workers without jobs.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC for any of the terms “American Rescue Plan,” “childcare,” or “child care” within close proximity of any of the terms “cliff,” “end,” “run out,” “fund,” “crisis,” “lose,” or “without” or any variation of any of the terms “drop,” “expire,” or “eliminate” from June 21, 2023, when the Century Foundation published its report on the child care cliff, through 2 p.m. ET on September 25, 2023.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the child care cliff was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the child care cliff. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the child care cliff with one another.

    We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a multitopic segment mentioned the child care cliff without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the child care cliff scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.