Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Special Report: How the Right Continues to Dominate the Sunday Talk Shows

If It's Sunday, It's Still Conservative
Special Report: How the Right Continues to Dominate the Sunday Talk Shows

On the Sunday after the midterm elections, in which Democrats took control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years, viewers tuned in to NBC's Meet the Press to hear what the Democratic win meant for the country -- only to discover that host Tim Russert did not have any Democrats on at all. Instead, Russert's guests were Republican Sen. John McCain (AZ) and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (CT), who ran in the general election as an Independent after losing the Democratic primary. And after an election in which the public's opposition to the Iraq war was a central issue, Meet the Press hosted two guests who support the war.

But that incident is hardly an aberration. In a new report by Media Matters for America -- If It's Sunday, It's Still Conservative: How the Right Continues to Dominate the Sunday Talk Shows, we show that the Sunday shows -- Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- have consistently given Republicans and conservatives an edge over their Democratic and progressive counterparts in the last two years, the period of the 109th Congress. And, as our analysis shows, the recent shift in power in Washington has yielded mixed results, at best.


* Despite previous network claims that a conservative advantage existed on the Sunday shows simply because Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, only one show, ABC's This Week, has been roughly balanced between both sides overall since the congressional majority switched hands in the 2006 midterm elections.
* Since the 2006 midterm elections, NBC's Meet the Press and CBS' Face the Nation have provided less balance between Republican and Democratic officials than Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday despite the fact that Fox News Sunday remains the most unbalanced broadcast overall both before and after the election.
* During the 109th Congress (2005 and 2006), Republicans and conservatives held the advantage on every show, in every category measured. All four shows interviewed more Republicans and conservatives than Democrats and progressives overall, interviewed more Republican elected and administration officials than Democratic officials, hosted more conservative journalists than progressive journalists, held more panels that tilted right than tilted left, and gave more solo interviews to Republicans and conservatives.

Now that Congress has switched hands, one would reasonably expect Democrats and progressives to be represented at least as often as Republicans and conservatives on the Sunday shows. Yet our findings for the months since the midterm elections show that the networks have barely changed their practices. Only one show - ABC's This Week - has shown significant improvement, having as many Democrats and progressives as Republicans and conservatives on since the election. On the other three programs, Republicans and conservatives continue to get more airtime and exposure.

In the months ahead, will the networks address the imbalance in their guest lineups? Or will they continue with business as usual?

We urge you to read the report and take action. Tell the networks to address our findings and consider whether the Sunday shows serve the public interest by continuing to give conservatives the edge in setting the terms of the national debate.

Download the Report