REPORT: Cable Network Coverage Of Obama Speeches Lacks Balance


President Obama has given three high-profile speeches in July and August outlining an economic policy agenda for his remaining term in office as part of the White House's attempts to refocus the national media on pressing economic issues. An analysis of live coverage found that these speeches received unbalanced coverage across cable news outlets, with Fox News devoting by far the least amount of time.

President Obama Takes His Economic Message On The Road

Bloomberg: Obama Looking To "Regain Initiative On Economic Agenda." On July 23, Bloomberg noted the strategy behind the Obama administration's renewed campaign-style outreach to publicize its economic agenda:

President Barack Obama, looking ahead to renewed battles with Congress over fiscal policy and the debt ceiling, is seeking to revive his stalled economic agenda with a series of speeches over the next several weeks.


Obama wants to turn attention back to the economy -- and how his policies have added to job growth and stability -- following months during which the focus has been on the president's second-term job appointees, his push for a revision of immigration policy, attempts to block his signature health-care law and Republican-led investigations into his administration. [Bloomberg, 7/23/13]

Jay Carney: President Believes It Is Essential To Refocus On Economy. On July 24, en route to Galesburg, Illinois, aboard Air Force One for the first of the president's major economic addresses, White House press secretary Jay Carney explained that the economy "is the most important thing we can talk about, and that's why the President is giving this address today":

The President believes it's essential to refocus everyone's attention on the preoccupation of most Americans across the country, which is making sure that there are high-paying, solid jobs available; making sure that they're able to save a little bit for their retirement; that they can own their own home and that they can send their kids to college -- and afford to send their kids to college.  These are the basic building blocks of what it means to be part of the American economy and the uniqueness of the American economy.  So we think it is the most important thing we can talk about, and that's why the President is giving this address today. [The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 7/24/13]

Quinnipiac Poll: Voters Name Economy As A Higher Priority Than Alleged Controversies In Washington. On May 30, an updated Quinnipiac University National Poll showed respondents prioritized dealing with the economy and unemployment over further investigations of so-called Washington "scandals" by a margin of 73-22 percent. [Quinnipiac University National Poll, 5/30/13]

Network Coverage Of Obama Speeches Show Stark Contrast

Obama's Three Speeches Cover Broad Range Of Economic Agenda Issues From Job Creation To Housing. President Obama delivered major day-time economic policy addresses on July 24, July 30, and August 6 from Galesburg, Illinois, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Phoenix, Arizona, respectively. The first covered a broad range of policy ideas highlighting administration accomplishments and outlining an economic agenda for the remainder of the president's term in office. The second highlighted specific proposals aimed at stimulating sustainable job creation. The third focused on administration proposals to reinvigorate stable growth in the housing market. [The White House Office of the Press Secretary, 7/24/13, 7/30/13 and 8/6/13]

Huge Coverage Gap Among Networks. The three largest cable news networks -- MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News -- all aired live footage of at least one of President Obama's economic policy speeches. MSNBC provided more than two hours of live, unbroken, and uninterrupted coverage of the president's remarks. CNN allocated more than one hour of live airtime to the president. Fox News allocated less than eight minutes total to the three speeches.

Presidential Speeches Pass Fox Viewers Virtually Undetected

Fox, CNN Trail MSNBC In Coverage. The three networks were distinct from one another in total coverage allotted to the president's high-profile speeches. MSNBC covered the speeches more or less in their entirety, airing roughly 96 percent of the president's remarks live. CNN, after airing the president's first and longest speech in full, provided just less than 12 minutes of live coverage to the second and did not air the third. The network aired roughly 59 percent of the president's total remarks. Fox News aired just less than eight minutes of the president's first and most comprehensive speech, roughly 6 percent of his total remarks. The network did not cover his second or third speech.

Fox Cuts Away From Policy Speech For Royal Baby News. On July 24, approximately eight minutes into President Obama's hour-long policy speech, Media Matters noted that Fox News left the president's live remarks for a commercial break. Upon returning from break the network led with an update of the name chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for their newborn son. The network did not return to live coverage throughout the remainder of Obama's speech. [Media Matters, 7/24/13]


Media Matters viewed network coverage of each speech live on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC. Further review of each was done via internal video database recordings of the following programs for July 24, July 30, and August 6: America Live with Megyn Kelly, Andrea Mitchell Reports, CNN Newsroom, Martin Bashir, NewsNation with Tamron Hall, The Cycle, The Lead with Jake Tapper and Your World with Neil Cavuto.

Segments were considered "live" if they included the full remarks of the president without overlapping commentary or analysis.

Due to varying network delays, percentages were obtained using official White House transcripts with timestamps as a control baseline.

Graphs by Albert Kleine

Posted In
Economy, Housing, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN
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