David Brock on the conservative dominance of the Sunday shows in February 2006. Six years in an age of 24-hour news cycles is forever. Six years ago, we were discussing the embassies destroyed in Denmark and Norway over the publication of
April 19, 2012

David Brock on the conservative dominance of the Sunday shows in February 2006.

Six years in an age of 24-hour news cycles is forever. Six years ago, we were discussing the embassies destroyed in Denmark and Norway over the publication of political cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. Sarah Palin was a little known former mayor of Wasilla, running for the governorship of Alaska, touting the "Bridge to Nowhere". The housing market was hurtling ever upwards with little thought of the bubble bursting. And six years ago, Media Matters came out with a study that showed what we liberals have known all along: the Sunday shows are completely weighted towards the conservative point of view.

Fast forward to 2012. We have a new Democratic president; both a tea party movement and an Occupy/"We are the 99 percent" movement; Face the Nation is an hour long; MSNBC joined the Sunday show game with two shows. But fundamentally, who gets the lion's share of the national dialog? Conservatives. Still.

Evaluating the four Sunday morning talk shows--ABC's This Week, NBC's Meet the Press, CBS's Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday--for the eight months from June 2011 through February 2012, FAIR found a distinct conservative, white and male skew in both one-on-one interview segments and roundtable discussions.

According to the study, published in the April issue of FAIR's magazine Extra!:

  • Of one-on-one interviews, 70 percent of partisan-affiliated guests were Republican. Those guests were overwhelmingly male (86 percent) and white (92 percent).
  • The broader roundtable segments weren't much more diverse: 62 percent of partisan-affiliated guests were Republican. More broadly, guests classified as either Republican or conservative far outnumbered Democrats or progressives, 282 to 164. The roundtables were 71 percent male and 85 percent white.
  • U.S. government sources--current officials, former lawmakers, political candidates, party-affiliated political operatives and campaign advisers--dominated the Sunday shows overall (47 percent of appearances). Following closely behind were journalists (43 percent), most of whom were middle-of-the-road Beltway political reporters.
  • "The Sunday morning shows are the showcase debate programs for the national news networks," said FAIR's Peter Hart. "It's a shame they aren't interested in having many actual debates."

    Well, bless them for quantifying what I've been saying every Sunday for six years. But what struck me about FAIR's report isn't the confirmation of conservative bias, but how small the pool is of people asked to opine on the nation's issues:

    Unlike the one-on-one interviews, these roundtable segments include some voices from outside the two parties; partisan sources—who leaned Republican, 180 to 109—accounted for less than half of the guests. But the nonpartisan guests didn’t alter the right’s advantage, with Republicans and/or conservatives making 282 appearances to 164 by Democrats and progressives (categories that are less interchangeable). Middle-of-the-road Beltway journalists made 201 appearances in roundtables, which serves to buttress the argument that corporate media’s idea of a debate is conservative ideologues matched by centrist-oriented journalists.

    Women were just 29 percent of roundtable guests. The ethnic diversity was similarly woeful: 85 percent white and 11 percent African-American, with 3 percent Latino. Other ethnicities made up an additional 2 percent of roundtable guests.

    And those numbers come with significant qualifications; Fox News Sunday, for instance, featured the greatest number of African-American roundtable guests—but 24 of those 27 were Fox pundit Juan Williams. ABC’s This Week featured 19 African-American debate guests, 13 of whom were Democratic strategist Donna Brazile.

    [..]The most frequent overall guest during the eight months [of the FAIR study] was ABC conservative George Will, who appeared 34 times. Neocon Bill Kristol appeared on the Fox roundtable 24 times, while right-wing pundit Liz Cheney made nine appearances on Fox and ABC debates. The most frequent interview guest was Rep. Michele Bachmann, who made 17 one-on-one appearances. Republican Sen. John McCain, a Sunday show fixture, was interviewed eight times.

    It's the same people, week after week. Most frequent guest George Will has been named the most incorrect pundit in a media study. Most frequent political guest Michele Bachmann (I was as surprised as you to find out it wasn't John McCain) holds the distinction of the most "Pants-On-Fire" lies on Politifact. Fox News Sunday's perennial panel member Bill Kristol is so invariably incorrect that he has spawned his own tumblr site called "Bill Kristol is always wrong" categorizing all the lies and partisan-motivated crap that he spews.

    These are the people polluting the national dialog: those who have little regard to facts or truth telling. Few liberal voices, fewer voices of color or women. No voices of the working or lower classes.

    That is why John Amato wanted to focus on the "bobbleheads", as we term them. That is why it is so important to highlight those egregious clips week after week. Because no matter what they tell us, this is not a conservative country. They just want you to believe it is.

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