Liberal media bias, including opinion programming

An objective study requires an objective methodology that relates news coverage to positions on issues. UCLA released such a study at the end of 2005. http://newsroom.ucla.edu… They defined “liberal” in accordance with the Americans for Democratic Action scoring of issues. The ADA rates Congress people on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being “perfectly” liberal. The average ADA score, weighing districts by population, is 50.1 I will note that in 2005 congress was considerably to the left of center, so the comparison is to a left-of-center center. Nonetheless, the study is objective relative to the center of Congress.

“Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal. … The fourth most centrist outlet was “Special Report With Brit Hume” on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News” to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.” …

“The researchers took numerous steps to safeguard against bias — or the appearance of same — in the work, which took close to three years to complete. They went to great lengths to ensure that as many research assistants supported Democratic candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election as supported President George Bush. They also sought no outside funding, a rarity in scholarly research.”

So 18 of 20 of the mainstream media news outlets had a liberal bias. Keep in mind that editorial pages are not included in the study, only news reporting. The New York Times editorial page is not pulling their score to the left, and the Wall Street Journal’s editorials are not pulling them right. Bill Moyers is not counted on PBS, only Jim Lehrer.

The bias in mainstream media is unmistakable. The strict definition of news source is relevant because viewers have an expectation that news reports are unbiased, whereas they ought to have more suspicion about the bias in commentary. Liberals argue otherwise.

Liberals argue that the conventional definition of "news source" used by UCLA should be broadened to include opinion programs, so that conservative talk radio and Fox News commentary will be counted. If that definition is adopted, the bias is still overwhelmingly liberal. For example, the viewership of the liberal-biased network evening news is by itself more than all of Fox News and conservative talk radio combined, and when everything is totaled there is more than three times as much liberal slant in media as conservative.

Here are the numbers:

The evening news programs on the three major networks have a combined total viewership of 20.3 million http://www.mediabistro.com… The three network’s morning shows, which are produced by their news departments, total 12.3 million viewers. http://www.mediabistro.com…

Total circulation of the top 100 big-city newspapers is roughly 20 million http://en.wikipedia.org… From the UCLA study, we can reasonably estimate that about 90% have a liberal bias. Looking at the list of newspapers, only the New York Post (circulation 500K) stands out as obviously conservative. The Wall Street Journal, we know from the UCLA study, has liberal news reporting despite conservative editorial policies. So 18 million circulation is in the liberal bias column.

In prime time, Fox News has an average of about 2.3 million viewers. CNN and MSNBC total about 2 million http://www.stateofthemedia.org… The article does not give the number for their Headline News directly, but from the proportions watching specific shows that are given, a reasonable estimate is about 0.6 million.

Talk radio audiences are computed on a weekly basis, so Limbaugh’s estimated audience of 14.25 million translates to 2.9 million daily. Hannity has about 2.7 million, Savage 1.7 million, and Ingraham 1.1 million. http://www.washingtonpost.com… Limbaugh sometimes claims 20 million, but that’s only in peak weeks, not the averages. Talker’s Magazine’s list of hosts http://talkers.com… shows that liberal talk radio programs equal conservative programs after the 15th position in audience size. For positions five through 15 audience size varies from about 1 million to about 0.7 million. Two programs have little political content. Figuring 0.85 million for ten programs, the total excess for all of conservative talk radio is 2.9 + 2.7 + 1.7 + 1.1 + 8.5 = 16 million.

The Daily Show has about 2 million nightly viewers and the Colbert Report 1.5 million. http://www.nofactzone.net… Letterman, featuring ridicule of conservative on virtually every program, has about 2 million viewers. Public Television has a mix of programming, outside of their official news programming, that is predominantly liberal. the total is probably around 2 million, based on scattered info on the PBS web site. The major networks are now featuring specials devoted to adulation of the Obama Administration, and there are a wide assortment of left-leaning entertainment programs like Saturday Night Live and South Park.

So for liberal media, the total viewership is about 20.3 + 12.3 + 18 + 2.6 + 2 + 1.5 + 2 + 2 = 60.1 million, plus uncounted additional numbers from network news specials, and entertainment like SNL and South Park. For Conservative media, the totals are 2 + 2.3 + 16 = 20.3 million. The liberal bias, based upon Con’s expansive definition of "news sources" is about 3:1 over conservatives, not even counting all the liberal media entertainment bias.

Liberals argue that the conventional definition of "news source" used in studies of journalism should be broadened to include opinion programs, so that conservative talk radio and Fox News commentary will be counted. If that definition is adopted, the bias is still overwhelmingly liberal. For example, the viewership of the liberal-biased network evening news is by itself more than all of Fox News and conservative talk radio combined, and when everything is totaled there is more than three times as much liberal slant in media as conservative.

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3 Comments on “Liberal media bias, including opinion programming”

  1. MTGAP Says:

    This is an interesting study, but has some vague points.

    1. They found a bias of 50.1 in Congress, but how could they possibly get accurate to one tenth of a percentage point?

    2. 18 of the 20 news sources were found to be liberally biased, but by how much?

    3. I’d be interested to know how they actually determined a news source’s political position. They explained it pretty well for congressmen, but didn’t go into much detail on news sources.

  2. Roy Latham Says:

    The 50.1 percent refers to the weighing relative to population. Population is known that accurately. You’d have to read the study to determine how biased the outlets were. We do know that if the media were unbiased, half would left-of-center and half right-of-center, not 18 and 2. The study determined the news source bias by comparing the sources cited in the media features to the sources cited by the Congress people. For example, a right-leaning congressman will cite the Cato institute more than his left-leaning colleagues. Those patterns are then detected in the media outlets.


  3. I find the studies claiming 90% of newspapers have a liberal bias to be quite compelling. As a journalist myself graduating Gonzaga University this year, I have yet to find a conservative journalism teacher. Newspapers have become a political platform for liberals, disguised as being neutral, but often leaving out the most important facts. Most journalists just can’t help it. They’re very opinionated people, who become journalists because of their desires to change the world. This inevitably works its way into their writing, as I’ve seen time and time again.


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