Tag Archives: TV

Mediate Metrics Update

My sincere apologies to those who have been following my work, but I have come to the conclusion that I must suspend my efforts to measure political bias in the media, at least for the time being. The demands of other life priorities, coupled with the challenges of getting the system to work to my satisfaction, have made this decision necessary.

Despite this unfortunate turn, the effort was highly educational and afforded me certain perspectives on political news bias —- both in how it is delivered and in how it is received — that I will share with readers over the coming days, weeks, and months. Having devoted over 60 hours a week to this task for 6 months, one cannot help but gain a few insights along the way.

Perhaps most interesting (and amusing) was the reaction I received from the blogosphere when my efforts came to light. I have often commented that so-called media “watchdog” groups are all about watching the other dogs, and therefore lose their value for those who simply want a way of handicapping the political information they gather. But the most engaged viewers ARE partisan, and the feedback I received from them suggested that they were not interested in an objective bias metric. This phenomenon parallels the media construct of the day; “slanted” news outlets are far more popular than those which tend towards the middle, particularly in cable news.

Simply put, partisan viewers tend to be engaged and participate like sports fans at a pep rally.

Not surprisingly, some media people aggressively challenged the fundamental value of measuring news bias at all. My favorite comment came from a British journalist, who starkly said that,” I’m not so into the whole impartial journalism ideal. My ideal is fealty to the truth, not to balance.” When I first read that comment, I pictured a court room in which a lawyer imperiously states that, “I don’t have facts or witnesses, but I am uniquely blessed to know the absolute TRUTH!”

Short trial.

In fairness to that commenter, my view of media objectivity is not — nor has it ever been — robotic commentators stating cold facts without passion or perspective. Rather, it is a healthy balance of thoughtful, engaging analysis that fairly presents BOTH sides of key political issues. That, and the fact that I’m an early riser, is probably why I am a fan of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Viewpoints are intelligently and passionately delivered on both sides of any political topic, although the format equally exposes them to raging partisan criticism (especially when Joe Scarborough takes issue with his own). Still, for an independent like me, it’s a great way to hear a passionate, 2-sided discourse and form my own opinion, discounting for MSNBC’s over-arching liberal bias, of course.

One conclusion I could not help but come to is that those most passionate and engaged about their political views want to be affirmed by the media, not informed. Of course, those folks were not the market segment I was trying to reach, but they were the most vocal. The challenge for any media bias rating service like the one I had envisioned was reaching the next tier — those who are going about their busy daily lives, and simply grazing the news for political insights. As I have noted elsewhere, I cannot tell you how many times I have had conversations with uninitiated viewers who proudly state that, “The only news program I watch is the O’Reilly Factor … or Hardball …,” etc.

If such low engagement viewers and voters are acquiring their political insights this way … or from political news sound bites that resonate throughout our society at the speed of light … or from the deluge of Super-Pac ads sponsored by some seemingly high-minded “citizens” group …

… then we all have cause for concern.

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FLASH REPORT: Political Slant Ratings by Show – 1/30 to 2/3

Our latest TV News measurement metrics, targeting individual programs aired by the 3 major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and the top 3 cable news channels (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC), is fairly consistent with our previous studies.  As has been our pattern, we have limited our focus shows airing from 5 PM until 11 PM eastern time, Monday through Friday. Because of that, transcript coverage is less than normal since Florida primary coverage preempted several regular programs under study.

It’s worth noting that, particularly in the case of CNN, those special programs garnered Nielsen ratings of roughly twice the average of the programs they replaced (Erin Burnett Outfront & Anderson Cooper 360). For those who wonder why the media is obsessively covering the Republican primaries, your answer lies there.

CHART 1: Slant Rating by Show - January 30 to February 3

As always, content with a numerical rating above zero indicates a Republican slant, with ratings below zero representing a Democratic slant. In this case, however, those shows which are in the +2.0 to -2.0 range are shown in gray, indicating that they are in the “balanced” news category. The one notable exclusion this week is CBS Evening News, but our content coverage for it was exceptionally light. Red remains the color indicator for “slanted” news which favors the Republican party, while slanted content that favors towards the Democratic party is shown in blue. Those interested in the underpinnings of the Mediate Metrics slant rating system should review our January 31st post, or see our primer on Text Analytics Basics at: http://wp.me/p1MQsU-at.

Since our analytical coverage varies by program and date, so does our confidence in the associated show ratings. The exact amount of program coverage is shown in the Table 1 below, but we have graphically indicated depth-of-coverage by way of color shading in Chart 1. For example, the cones representing CBS Evening News, Special Report (Fox), and NBC Nightly News were purposely made lighter to reflect the relatively small transcript coverage for those particular show. We should also note that our version 1.4 classifier did exhibit some anomalies that caused our NBC Nightly News ratings to be disproportionately skewed towards favoring Republicans.

TABLE 1: Slant Rating by Show - January 30 to February 3

Further information about our rating system can be found in previous posts, or by contacting us via email at: barry@mediatemetrics.com

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LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS?: Impact Report #2 Provides the Answer(s)

Is there a liberal bias (or as we prefer to call it, political news slant) in the U.S media? It depends largely on which news content you think matters most.

Based on the data we currently have under analysis, early indications are that the leading broadcast and cable new outlets lean towards the Democratic party. With that said, the recently released Pew Research Center News Interest Index indicates that more people are now turning to cable news for information about the 2012 presidential campaign than to other forms of media. Adjusting for their findings yields an entirely different result.

For Impact Report #2,  we have quantified the amount of network slant (aggregate speaker bias plus editorial influence) and combined it with viewership data in order to assess the total “Impact.” In this installment, we have computed the weighted-average Impact Rating for each network during the weeks of January 16th and January 23rd, focused on their evening/weekday news programming. The results are depicted below:

Aggregate Slant Impact: Weekdays - January 16 to 17

Aggregate Slant Impact: Weekdays - January 16 to 27

As in all of our charts, content favoring the Republican party is represented in red (greater than zero), while that which leans towards the Democratic Party is shown in blue (less than zero). We have indicated depth-of-coverage by lightening the base colors as required. For example, the bases representing NBC,CBS, and to a lesser degree Fox News, were purposely made lighter to reflect the limited transcript coverage for those particular networks. Regardless, the basic message depicted in chart above is that the slant rating base is amplified by the number of people viewing the content. The table below shows the numerical analysis supporting the chart:

The Cumulative Slant Ratings  in column 2 were derived from data previously discussed and shown at this site on Wednesday, February 8th. We have also factored in viewership data for the networks and programs under review. As you can see, the cumulative rating for this report — across all networks and programs we are studying —  slightly favors Democrats/Liberals, as indicated by the numbers highlighted in light blue.

If, however, we account for the Pew Research data, which states that 36% of people regularly go to cable networks to learn about Presidential campaigns (and, we presume, national political news in general) versus only 26% turning to national nightly news programs, our cumulative results shift in favor of Republican/conservative interests (as highlighted in light red).

Liberal or conservative media bias? It all depends on whose news one views.

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TREND REPORT #1: Political Bias by TV Network

The chart at right summarizes the slant ratings for the networks we have thus far analyzed in January. Our previously published Flash Reports are useful snap shots, but the trend analysis better portrays the long-term political orientation of the networks, programs, and time periods we are studying.

The lines and markers in our graph represent the high/low/weighted average slant ratings for each network in our previous 2 weeks of analysis. Even with this relatively small data set, trends are beginning to emerge.

ABC has operated within a very tight range, as had CNN, indicating that they are quite purposeful about their political orientations — and none too slanted, either.

CBS and (especially) NBC have favored different parties each week, but our analytical databases are the lightest for those 2 networks. Their weighted averages currently favor the Democratic party (depicted in blue. with numerical ratings less than zero), but time will tell where they each level out at.

Not surprisingly, Fox News and MSNBC both show the largest partisan bias. Since Fox’s evening line-up does contain some “balanced” news programming (such as “Special Report with Bret Baier” and “The Fox Report with Shepard Smith”), the fact that their relative weighted slant rating is lower than MSNBC’s comes as no surprise. At some point, we may analyze the balanced news program category by itself to see how political messaging is interwoven within it.

Tomorrow, we will use this data as the basis for our weekly Impact Report to quantify the combined effects of bias and reach. As mentioned in previous posts, bias is not by itself determined by the number of media outlets delivering a slanted message. Rather, it is akin to the advertising concept of share of voice, in which the number of  ad impressions is combined with the total available inventory, as well as the size of the audience that is receiving it.

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FLASH REPORT: Political Slant by Show – 1/23 to 1/27

Building on our previous post, today we our publishing a separate version of our TV news measurement metrics which focuses on the political slant of individual programs aired by the 3 major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) and the top 3 cable news channels (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC), based on our enhanced 1.2 classifier. The analysis is focused on shows airing from 5 PM until 11 PM eastern time, Monday through Friday.

CHART 2: Slant Rating by Show - January 23 to 27

We’ve constructed this chart slightly differently than in the past. As always, content with a numerical rating above zero indicates a Republican slant, with ratings below zero representing a Democratic slant. In this case, however, those shows which are in the +2.0 to -2.0 range are shown in gray, indicating that they are in the “balanced” news category. The one notable exclusion this week is NBC Nightly News, but our content coverage for it was exceptionally light. Red remains the color indicator for “slanted” news which favors the Republican party, while slanted content that favors towards the Democratic Party is shown in blue. Those interested in the underpinnings of the Mediate Metrics slant rating system should review our January 31st post, or see our primer on Text Analytics Basics at: http://wp.me/p1MQsU-at.

Since our analytical coverage varies by program and date, so does our confidence in the associated show ratings. The exact amount of program coverage is shown in the Table 2 below, but we have graphically indicated depth-of-coverage by way of color shading in Chart 2. For example, the cones representing CBS Evening News, Special Report (Fox), and NBC Nightly News were purposely made lighter to reflect the relatively small transcript coverage for those particular show.

TABLE 2: Political Slant by Show - 1/23 to 27

Further information about our rating system can be found in previous posts, or by contacting us via email at: barry@mediatemetrics.com

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FLASH REPORT: Media Bias by Network – 1/23 to 1/27

Week 2 of our media bias/slant ratings, based on our new-and-improved version 1.2 classifier,  shows some consistencies and variances from our 1/16 – 20 report of last week.

CHART 1: Slant Ratings by Network - Jan. 23 to 27

NOTE: Net content favoring the Republican Party in Chart 2 is portrayed in red; net content favoring the Democratic Party is shown in blue.

CBS and NBC’s party slant ratings, in comparison to last week’s, actually flipped in both cases. This is not altogether surprising, given that content under analysis for those 2 networks is relatively light, and that the nightly news shows we evaluate for both are “straight” news programs. In contrast, the party alignments of Fox, CNN, ABC, and MSNBC remained consistent, week-to-week.

As noted last Monday, our transcript coverage varies by network, program, and date. Correspondingly, our rating confidence is directly proportional to the amount of transcript text available for classification.The exact amount of coverage per network is shown in the table to the right, but we have graphically indicated depth-of-coverage in Chart 1 by way of color shading. For example, the bars representing the slant ratings for both NBC and CBS were purposely made lighter to reflect the relatively small transcript coverage for those particular networks.

Mediate Metrics’ slant measurement system is currently focused on weekday transcripts from the national nightly news programs on the 3 major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), along with programming aired from 5 PM until 11 PM eastern time on top 3 cable news channels (CNN, Fox, and MSNBC). Compared to last week, coverage under analysis is significantly improved for ABC and NBC, but has decreased for CBS.

For those new to our site, the numerical slant ratings supporting the Chart 1 emanate from a custom text analysis “classifier,” built to extract statements of political slant from TV news transcripts. (For more on the underlying technology, see our post on Text Analytics Basics at: http://wp.me/p1MQsU-at.) We have trained our classifier to interpret political slant quite conservatively, conforming to strict guidelines for the sake of consistency and objectivity. As such, the ratings we present may be perceived as under-reporting the absolute slant of the actual content under review, but the appropriate way to view our ratings is as relative to similar programming.

To properly evaluate editorial content, we have concluded that the Republican presidential primaries and candidates are subject to intense scrutiny. Related news content tends to be disproportionately negative, and often times does not contain a clear inter-party comparison — an element we consider a crucial condition for the proper evaluation of political slant. As such, we have excluded statements about the Republican Presidential primaries and candidates from our slant ratings at this juncture, unless parallel references to the Democratic party are mentioned in parallel.

We’ll publish slant ratings by program for the same January 23 – 27 time period tomorrow.

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