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It's Not Your Imagination: Sunday Shows Do Need A Makeover

MediaMatters conducted a study of the ideological tilt of guests on the Sunday shows. To no one's surprise, they discovered what we all knew to be true: there is no balance.


I realize this will not be a terrible shock to anyone who pays attention to Sunday talking heads shows, but lean in for the secret anyway. Yes, it's true. With only a couple of exceptions, the Sunday shows are full of old conservative white men who outnumber progressive/liberal voices by a substantial margin. If one were to split the "neutral" classification down the middle on the graph at the top, it would still leave conservatives as the dominant voice on Sunday television.

MediaMatters studied all of the guests on the Sunday shows from the beginning of January through April 5th. They concluded that Sunday shows need a major facelift in terms of ethnic and diversity and much more balance in terms of the ideological points of view represented.

In the first three months of 2013, the broadcast networks' Sunday morning talk shows once again skewed strongly to the right and featured a startling lack of diversity among guests. For better or worse, these shows -- ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- occupy an elevated space in the national political discussion. This is where influential people -- like senators, representatives, presidential administration officials, Fortune 500 chief executives, and leaders of prominent non-profit organizations, for example -- get to set the terms of debate and frame the issues of the week. The shows enjoy considerably high ratings as well -- approximately 10 million weekly viewers collectively, according to recent numbers from TV Newser.

With that in mind, who the broadcast Sunday shows invite on as guests has significant implications for how discussions on major issues are framed. And once again, Republicans and conservatives have an edge over Democrats and progressives on these programs.While our report found that elected and administration officials hosted on these shows were much more likely to be Republican than Democratic, between the lines is an even more salient point: The findings run in stark contrast to previous trends and statements from the networks themselves.

The numbers on how women and minorities are represented on these shows are striking, and that runs across all of the networks with one exception: Up with Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry both defied the norms on MSNBC. It would be good for other networks to pay heed and consider shaking up their bookers' contact list a bit.

The entire report is fascinating. You can read the full report here.

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