NBC Nightly News Unemployment benefits expire

Research/Study Research/Study

Republicans spent months obstructing a COVID-19 relief bill. Broadcast evening news shows are ignoring it.

  • Broadcast evening news shows failed to properly contextualize the current deadlock in Congress over the extension of unemployment benefits and a new coronavirus relief bill, leaving out important information about Democrats’ already passed House bill and Republican infighting. Among 13 segments, just three mentioned the Heroes Act that Democrats passed in May, and only two mentioned Republican opposition to their own Senate plan.  

    In May, House Democrats passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act, a bill that would have sent a second round of stimulus checks to Americans and extended the $600 dollar unemployment insurance through January. Republicans in the Senate refused to take up the bill for a vote, letting the unemployment benefits expire on July 31. Additionally, Senate Republicans waited until the last minute to present their own bill, the Heals Act, on July 27, just days before the unemployment benefits were set to expire and amid opposition within their own party.

    Media Matters looked at the CBS, NBC, and ABC evening newscasts since July 27  and found that only 23% -- three out of 13 -- segments on COVID-19 relief negotiations mentioned the passage of the Heroes Act in May. NBC Nightly News failed to mention the Democrats’ passed bill a single time in six segments, and CBS Evening News mentioned it only once in four segments. ABC World News Tonight mentioned the Democratic bill in two out of the three segments. 

  • Video file

    Citation From the July 31, 2020, edition of NBC Nightly News

  • The networks also largely ignored that Republicans are divided among themselves on the spending bill, with only two out of the 13 segments across the nightly news shows mentioning Republican infighting on the contents of their own relief bill. 

    Networks must avoid the “both sides” framing of the unemployment benefit debate and inform viewers of Democrats' efforts to extend unemployment relief benefits and many Republicans' opposition to another spending bill. 

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts of ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News from July 27 through August 4 in the SnapStream video database for mentions of “stimulus,” “relief bill,” “aid package,” or “unemployment” in order to find segments discussing the negotiations over congressional COVID-19 relief spending bills.