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  • How broadcast TV networks covered climate change in 2017

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Broadcast TV news neglected many critical climate change stories in 2017 while devoting most of its climate coverage to President Donald Trump. Seventy-nine percent of climate change coverage on the major corporate broadcast TV networks last year focused on statements or actions by the Trump administration, with heavy attention given to the president's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement and to whether he accepts that human-caused climate change is a scientific reality. But the networks undercovered or ignored the ways that climate change had real-life impacts on people, the economy, national security, and the year’s extreme weather events -- a major oversight in a year when weather disasters killed hundreds of Americans, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and cost the economy in excess of $300 billion.

  • Only one Sunday show talked to immigrants and DACA recipients

    While discussing Trump’s immigration proposal, only ABC’s This Week spoke with those directly impacted by it

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In discussions about President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration framework, ABC’s This Week was the only Sunday show that spoke to immigrants directly impacted by it. CNN’s State of the Union, Fox’s Fox News Sunday, CBS’ Face the Nation, and NBC’s Meet the Press only invited elected officials, members of the administration, and political pundits to discuss the issue.

    Trump’s proposal to lawmakers involves granting a path to citizenship for 1.8 million immigrants including those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, undocumented immigrants who would’ve qualified for the protections but didn’t sign up for the program, and others newly eligible. In addition, the plan calls for $25 billion for a border wall and other border security, eliminates the diversity visa lottery, enables the administration to increase its deportation capacities, and radically rolls back family-based immigration, which would sharply cut legal immigration. The proposal has been criticized for its ties to white nationalist ideology.

    Only ABC’s This Week spoke to immigrants and DACA recipients who would be directly impacted by the plan:

    When it comes to immigration coverage, media have a history of ignoring the voices of those affected the most by immigration policies. In September, only a day after Trump rescinded DACA, less than 10 percent of guests invited to discuss the policy on cable news networks were DACA recipients. Networks have often helped mainstream anti-immigrant extremism by inviting on members of nativist groups and normalizing pejorative nativist buzzwords.

    As Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on the January 28 edition of Reliable Sources, the way audiences learn about “people outside of our own communities is through the media.” As a matter of good journalism, networks should make an effort to elevate voices less heard, especially in a conversation as important as immigration policy.

  • Fox's Chris Wallace asks if GOP hurt its credibility by hyping "secret society" text, ignoring that Fox News hyped it too

    Fox News aired the phrase “secret society” over 100 times over two days, then went silent after reports showed the text was a joke

    Blog ››› ››› KATIE SULLIVAN

    On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace displayed a shocking lack of self-awareness when he asked his guest, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), if “Republicans hurt their credibility on real issues of bias when they make such a big deal about secret societies and palace coups?” referring to the GOP hyping a text message between two FBI employees referencing a "secret society." Wallace ignored Fox News’ role in hyping the texts, airing the term "secret society" over 100 times on Fox News over the course of two days, before stopping abruptly after it was reported the “secret society” reference was likely a joke.

    On January 22, Gowdy appeared on Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum along with Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-TX), where he announced that a text message between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page contained the line, “Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society.” According to a Media Matters analysis, Fox proceeded to air the phrase "secret society" over 100 times over the next two days. Then, on January 24, ABC News noted that the message "may have been made in jest," reporting that the full text message read: "Are you even going to give out your calendars? Seems kind of depressing. Maybe it should just be the first meeting of the secret society." The next day, Fox hosts, anchors, and guests stopped mentioning the phrase "secret society" almost entirely, with only a few quick mentions on some of the evening shows.

    From the January 28 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

    CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): WALLACE: I want to ask you one last question, we're running out of time here. There's clearly some troubling evidence and clearly the Strzok-Page memos [texts] are deeply troubling, and, you know, go to it in investigating that. There also have been some issues of potential hype by Republicans, and I want to give you an example. This week Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) brought up the issue of a secret society inside the Justice Department. Here he is. 

    [...]

    WALLACE: Don't Republicans hurt their credibility on real issues of bias when they make such a big deal about secret societies and palace coups? 

    REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC): Yes. Republicans are the best I've ever seen at taking good facts and overstating them and therefore changing the narrative. I don't know what they meant by secret society. I didn't use the phrase. It is fair to ask them. But if it were a joke, Chris, then was it also a joke to mention the insurance policy? Was also a joke to talk about impeachment the morning after President Trump won? Was it also a joke to say I have no interest in participating in an investigation if he is going to be cleared. There's a pattern, and Republicans are better served by letting the texts speak for themselves. I have no idea what they meant by that. I don't know if it was a joke or not. It's not my job to figure it out. These two witnesses need to come in and tell us what they meant by it and everything they else said over the course of 18 months, Republicans would be well served, let the texts speak for themselves. Let the jury make up their mind and quit engaging in hyperbole, which we seem to do a lot. 

  • Sunday shows barely mentioned the 2018 Women’s March

    The longest mention was a meager 20 seconds on NBC’s Meet The Press. Other shows were worse.

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Mobilus in Mobili / Creative Commons License via Flickr

    The day after the start of the second annual series of Women’s Marches all over the world, the major Sunday political talk shows were nearly silent on the historic protests, only briefly mentioning the topic across all five shows.

    On January 20 and 21, one year after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of protesters turned out in hundreds of marches and other events in the U.S. and worldwide to unite to support women’s rights. The protests emphasized encouraging women to engage in the political process and expressing shared disdain for the oppressive policies of the Trump administration. According to Politico, there were an estimated 600,000 attendees at the Los Angeles march alone. One of the March’s main events, called #PowerToThePolls, took place in Las Vegas, NV, on January 21 and aimed to register one million voters.The Women’s March described the effort as targeting “swing states to register new voters, engage impacted communities, harness our collective energy to advocate for policies and candidates that reflect our values, and collaborate with our partners to elect more women and progressives candidates to office.”

    Despite the worldwide impact of the marches, the major Sunday political talk shows  -- which include CNN’s State of the Union, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday -- were nearly silent on the topic. These shows often set the tone and priorities for media coverage for the rest of the week.

    On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos briefly acknowledged the “Women’s Marches in hundreds of cities all across the country” in his opening monologue, and later in the show, panelist Karen Finney mentioned “all the people who were marching in the streets yesterday.” No one responded directly to her comments about the marches. On CBS’ Face The Nation, conservative outlet The Federalist’s publisher Ben Domenech noted the “pro-life March For Life that happens every year, followed by the Women’s March on the other side” while discussing Trump’s first year in office.

    The only significant discussion, defined as a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people, of the weekend’s marches was on NBC’s Meet the Press, where panelists remarked on the event in a meager 20-second exchange. Host Chuck Todd also mentioned the “hundreds of thousands of women march[ing] across the country protesting the president, many with an eye towards more women winning office this November” in his opening monologue.

    In 2017, CNN and MSNBC extensively covered the first annual Women’s March, while Fox News’ minimal coverage was criticized. That march was one of the largest protests in US. history.

  • Rupert Murdoch's Trump support pays off

    Disney deal, FCC action will make the conservative mogul an even more potent force in U.S. media

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Rupert Murdoch, the 86-year-old conservative mogul who heads Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, is attempting to reshape his sprawling media empire in a way that could vastly expand his role in U.S. political life.

    Murdoch’s greatest asset in that endeavor is President Donald Trump, whom Murdoch has cultivated by serving as his informal adviser and giving him fawning coverage through his news outlets. That effort now appears to be bearing fruit.

    Yesterday, the White House publicly signed off on a deal that would allow Murdoch to refocus his holdings on news programming, while Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a step that would allow Murdoch to dramatically expand those holdings.

    Together, those steps could lead to a future where Fox’s pro-Trump commentary is piped into local broadcast news stations across the country.

    Over the last 65 years, Murdoch turned a newspaper he inherited from his father into a news and entertainment goliath on four continents, with his News Corp and 21st Century Fox companies controlling substantial holdings in newspapers, publishing, and television and film production and distribution.

    But Murdoch’s efforts at expansion have been stymied in recent years, while rival media companies consolidated and new threats arose from technology companies. Most recently, British regulators wary of Fox’s news practices stalled Murdoch’s bid to purchase the European broadcaster Sky PLC due to pressure from media experts and advocates, including Media Matters and Avaaz, placing in jeopardy a deal he has sought for years.

    With his buying options restricted, Murdoch chose to sell instead. On Wednesday morning, The Walt Disney Co. announced a $52.4 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, including its prized movie studio and television production arm, regional sports networks, cable channels FX and National Geographic, and its stakes in Hulu and Sky, among others. The move is a shocking retreat from the entertainment world, where Murdoch has been a major player for decades.

    But Murdoch would retain the news companies that have helped make him a fixture in U.S. politics -- Fox Broadcasting network, its local broadcast televisions stations, Fox News, and Fox Business -- which, along with Fox Sports, will be spun off into a new company.

    “The new Fox will draw upon the powerful live news and sports businesses of Fox, as well as the strength of our Broadcast network,” Murdoch said in a statement. He will also come away with a sizable cash hoard and what he’s said is a $2 billion annual cash flow, which will allow for dramatic expansion of that company, if the deal goes through.

    Analysts say the corporate megamerger is similar to AT&T’s proposed acquisition of CNN corporate parent Time Warner, which Trump savaged on the campaign trail and the Justice Department has sued to block.

    But Trump loves Fox News’ often sycophantic coverage of his administration and hates CNN’s more critical reporting, and so his view of this deal seems very different. Trump reportedly called Murdoch for assurance that he wasn’t planning to sell Fox, and yesterday White House press secretary Sarah Sanders publicly lauded the deal.

    These shockingly inappropriate moves suggest that the administration may apply different standards to proposed mergers based on whether the president approves of the companies involved.

    There’s good reason for the White House to be pleased: Murdoch now appears focused on growing the conservative news apparatus that helped make Trump president.

    Reports suggest that he plans to purchase more local television stations and use Fox News to provide them with programming. This will require additional help that the Trump administration seems eager to provide.

    Murdoch currently owns 28 television stations in 17 markets, including several of the nation’s largest, but was constrained from further purchases by the FCC regulations intended to preserve competition in media ownership. Murdoch has raged against the commission’s limitations for decades.

    But Trump’s pick for FCC chair, Ajit Pai, has moved quickly to strip away the regulations holding moguls like Murdoch in check. In party-line votes this year, the Republican commissioners have eliminated several restrictions preventing further media consolidation.

    And yesterday, the FCC voted to review the cap that currently prevents a single company from reaching more than 39 percent of U.S. television households.

    If the cap is raised or eliminated altogether, Murdoch would be able to snap up television broadcast stations -- perhaps by purchasing ownership chains like Gannett or Hearst -- and drastically expand his reach.

    But what will those new stations air? Fox’s stations currently benefit from programming provided by its scripted television production arm, 20th Century Fox TV. With that company sold to Disney, Fox stations will need to find a new, cheaper source of programming.

    One way to do that, analysts suggest, will be to take advantage of Murdoch’s news companies, beaming Fox News content onto the broadcast airwaves.

    “They obviously have a strong news product which they haven’t really cross pollinated with their broadcast network that much,” Katz Media Group’s Stacey Schulman told Variety. “In light of that and the fact that they’re losing a big content library and production arm, you might see more news production coming from the Fox News side showing up on the network.”

    Increasing the scale of the broadcast network company would have financial benefits for Murdoch. But buying more stations in crucial swing states would also give him more political power, allowing him, in turn, to continue to pay back the Trump administration for its deregulatory zeal.

    Murdoch’s stations already use Fox News' personalities to push its conservative viewpoint to some extent. The company’s reshaping -- and potential expansion -- will dramatically drive up the demand for that content.

    Fox’s model could come to resemble that of Sinclair Broadcast Group, the conservative network of stations owned by the conservative mogul David Smith and his family, with must-run news packages pushing right-wing views produced by a central news programming office and sent out to stations across the country.

    Murdoch has feuded with Smith for decades, and Sinclair, already the nation’s largest local news provider, has also sought to dramatically expand its station holdings amid Pai's deregulatory frenzy

    The next few years could see a battle for dominance between two right-wing billionaires who use their news apparatuses to promote their conservative politics, overlapping with a presidential re-election campaign featuring the man who made their expansions possible.

  • Fox's Chris Wallace ignores Ben Shapiro's history of bigotry and misinformation

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    In his weekly “power player of the week” segment, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace presented a glowing profile of former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro without acknowledging Shapiro’s history of bigotry, extremism, and misinformation.  

    On the December 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace lauded Shapiro’s “special brand of combative conservatism,” and noted that his “militant conservative views” sometimes “spur protests.” What Wallace failed to tell his viewers is that Shapiro has a long track record of promoting racism, sexism, and extremism. In addition to Shapiro’s bigotry, he also has a penchant for misinformation,.

    Shapiro frequently expresses anti-Muslim and racist views, once tweeting that “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.” He is quick to downplay police brutality, arguing that, “if you don’t commit a crime, you’re not going to be arrested for it,” and has claimed that income inequality between races in the United States “has nothing to do with race and everything to do with culture.”

    It is not the first time that Wallace has ignored the obvious failings of his weekly “power players,” nor is it the first time that media outlets have failed to hold Shapiro accountable for his hateful and dangerous views. Just last month, The New York Times published a flattering portrait of Shapiro, referring to him as “the cool kid’s philosopher.” From the December 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:

    CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): If you've ever wondered who will eventually succeed Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity as the voice of conservative opinion, it may just be Ben Shapiro. Who's that? Here's our power player of the week.

    BEN SHAPIRO: In a free country, it is up to you to succeed or fail on your own merits. So, get off your ass and do it.

    WALLACE:  Yes, Ben Shapiro talks fast. But then for most of his 33 years, he’s been a man in a hurry.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SHAPIRO: I’m Ben Shapiro. This is The Ben Shapiro Show.

    [END VIDEO]

    WALLACE: He’s the host of the most listened to conservative podcast in the country.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SHAPIRO: I do like that that Trump does have a rotating series of about 10 insults that just keeps going around and around.

    [END VIDEO]

    WALLACE: He’s the editor of The Daily Wire, which gets 100 million pageviews a month. And he’s a big presence on college campuses, where his militant conservative views spur protests.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SHAPIRO: You’re not a man if you think you’re a man.

    WALLACE: This exchange with a 22-year-old college student over transgender identity has attracted 47 million views on Facebook.

    SHAPIRO: Why can’t you identify as 60? What is the problem with you identifying as 60?

    [INAUDIBLE]

    SHAPIRO: You’re right. Age is significantly less important than gender. You can’t magically change your gender. You can’t magically change your sex. You can’t magically change your age.

    [END VIDEO]

    WALLACE: At the University of Utah, he listed what he calls the hierarchy of victimhood in America.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SHAPIRO: So, there’s LGBTQ, and then black folks. Then there’s Hispanic folks. And then women. And then Jews. And then Asians. And then way down at the bottom, white, straight males. Right? Those are the people who are at the very bottom. And then their opinions do not matter at all.

    [END VIDEO]

    WALLACE: Shapiro has been called the voice of conservative millennials. How are conservative millennials different from conservative baby boomers?

    SHAPIRO: By the time a lot of conservatives hit baby boomer age, there's a mentality that’s set in that they're always losing and that every choice, every political choice particularly, is a lesser of two evils choice. If you’re conservative millennial, I think that you tend to be a little bit more idealistic, just as younger people are generally.

    WALLACE: While he applauds some of President Trump’s policies, he says the tweets are needlessly divisive and turn off his generation.

    SHAPIRO: Young people in the United States dramatically dislike this administration and they dramatically dislike the Republican Party. And it is President Trump’s responsibility, for conservatives anyway, to fix that. And sitting there on Twitter and retweeting Britain First is not going to do that.

    WALLACE: Shapiro worked for Breitbart in the campaign, but quit when he said it was turning into a Trump propaganda arm. As for Steve Bannon:

    SHAPIRO: I think that Steve is very interested in being perceived as powerful, as being perceived as a mover and shaker. But I don’t think he’s nearly as much of a mover and shaker as he wants to be seen as.

    WALLACE: As we said, Shapiro has always moved fast. At age five, he dressed for Halloween as John Adams. By age 17, he wrote a nationally syndicated political column.

    SHAPIRO: I skipped a couple of grades. I was a virtuosic violinist. I actually, when I went to college, thought that I was going to double major in genetic science and music. So, I was always pretty driven.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SHAPIRO: Things that I hate.

    [END VIDEO]

    WALLACE: And his only plan now is to keep pushing his special brand of combative conservatism.

    SHAPIRO: Sometimes the best way to get a message across is to just speak bluntly. And so, I'm not going there to deliberately offend people. I'm saying things that I think are true with precisely the amount of verve I think necessary to convey the message.

  • 4 ways right-wing media are shilling for tax reform (and why they're wrong)

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Right-wing media have been relying on debunked myths and partisan spin in order to defend the Republican tax overhaul efforts, which have passed in the House of Representatives and advanced in the Senate. Conservative media figures are pushing falsehoods about the corporate tax rate and the impact the proposals would have on the wealthiest Americans while downplaying the negative impacts of repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

  • Trump administration officials use Sunday news shows to lie about GOP tax bills

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appeared on Sunday news shows and lied about the effects of the House and Senate tax bills. In their current forms, the bills will raise taxes for many middle-income Americans, provide a tax break for wealthy Americans and corporations, and significantly increase the deficit.

    On Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, Mnuchin mischaracterized the bill by claiming that “middle-income people are getting cuts, and rich people are getting very little cuts or in very certain cases increases.” In fact, under the Senate version of the bill, families earning less than $75,000 will see a tax increase while the wealthiest Americans and corporations will see rates go down and enjoy special carve outs, including a tax exemption for private jet management. Host Chris Wallace also pointed out that the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the bill that just passed the House of Representatives would give “80 percent of its cuts to corporations, businesses, and wealthy families.” From the November 19 edition of Fox News Sunday:

    Similarly, on CNN’s State of the Union, Mulvaney falsely claimed that the Senate bill “absolutely [would] not” cost at least $1.5 trillion, in direct contradiction a number of studies that estimate the cost of the bill would be as high as $1.8 trillion. From the November 19 edition of State of the Union:

  • Sunday news shows completely ignore growing Whitefish scandal in Puerto Rico

    Whitefish, the inexperienced, Montana-based firm that was contracted without a competitive bidding process to restore power in Puerto Rico, was charging “eye-popping” rates. Meanwhile, a month after Maria, 70 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power.

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT


    Rich Renomeron / Creative Commons License

    The Sunday news shows on broadcast networks and CNN all completely ignored the growing scandal over the small Montana-based firm Whitefish Energy Holdings that had recieved a $300 million contract from Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to restore power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The contract, which was facing increasing scrutiny, was canceled late Sunday afternoon.

    E&E News first reported on Whitefish’s contract with PREPA in stories on October 6 and October 9, revealing that PREPA decided not to take advantage of a mutual aid program among 1,100 electric companies that could have helped to quickly restore power on the island, where about 70 percent of residents still have no electricity. Instead, PREPA awarded a contract to the Montana-based firm, which at the time had only two full-time staffers.

    On October 23, The Washington Post reported that Whitefish is based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, that Zinke and Whitefish CEO Andy Techmanski know one another, and that Zinke’s son worked for the company during one summer. Zinke’s office said he had no role in Whitefish securing the contract. BuzzFeed further reported on October 24 that a major donor to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Republican National Committee, Joe Colonnetta, is the head of one of Whitefish’s major funding sources, private equity firm HBC Investments. However, the report noted, “It’s unclear whether Colonnetta, who did not respond to a request for comment, has specific connections to Whitefish, or whether his stake in Whitefish Energy is simply a business investment.”

    The most recent version of the leaked contract stated that “FEMA had ‘reviewed and approved it for compliance with its disaster recovery regulations.” But, according to The Washington Post, FEMA denied that it gave “any preliminary approval for the deal, which was reached without competitive bidding. The contract prevented PREPA from making “any claim against Contractor related to delayed completion of work” and barred government agencies from auditing or reviewing “cost and profit elements” of the deal. But the deal came under fire for the “eye-popping” hourly rates Whitefish was charging:

    Much of the controversy that has surrounded the contract has focused on the high rates Whitefish is charging for labor. The contract shows those labor rates are pricey indeed: $240 an hour for a general foreman and $227 for a lineman. The per diems are also expensive: almost $80 a day for meals, and $332 a day for lodging. Employee flights are billed at $1,000 each way.

    For subcontractors, the bulk of Whitefish's workforce, the prices go even higher. A general foreman costs $336 an hour and a lineman, $319.

    FEMA now says it has “significant concerns” with the deal, which was canceled this afternoon hours after Puerto Rico’s governor urged the utility to cancel the contract. CNN and MSNBC gave the Whitefish story significant attention this week amid the rise of serious questions and discrepancies that have been flagged. But the Sunday political shows, which are influential in Washington and which can help hold government agencies and lawmakers to account, barely discussed Puerto Rico at all, and they ignored the deal completely.

    Methodology: Media Matters searched TVEyes for mentions of “whitefish,” “white fish,” “San Juan,” and “Puerto Rico” on CNN and the Washington, D.C. affiliate stations of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co. during their scheduled air times, and found zero relevant results.