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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Tuesday July 13, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 122)

PBS Finds FNC Biased; Limbaugh as Model; Soccer Team Too Sexy?

1) The networks gave a warm reception to the NAACP's lawsuit against gun manufacturers as it led CBS Monday night. NBC's Lisa Myers countered GOP concerns on HMO reform, contending that in Texas "those horror stories have not come true."

2) Al Gore's gun control measures don't go far enough to satisfy ABC's Charlie Gibson, but CBS's This Morning actually hit Gore from the right on gun control. Meanwhile, an ABC News promo spot proudly highlights Gibson pleading for gun registration.

3) PBS's NewsHour assessed the cable news networks and found bias at just the Fox News Channel as CNN founding CEO Reese Schonfeld insisted MSNBC and CNN don't display any ideological slant.

4) MSNBC's chief on FNC's prime time draw: "They've figured out how to take the success that Rush Limbaugh has had on radio and extend that into television."

5) Katie Couric dampened the soccer team's celebration, demanding they answer to "hard core feminists" upset by sexy photos of team members, something Couric agreed "I'm sort of conflicted about."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The NAACP's announcement that the group is suing gun manufacturers received a warm review from the networks on Monday night, especially CBS and NBC. Dan Rather avoided calling it liberal, referring to the NAACP as "one of the nation's most respected...civil rights organizations." CBS followed with a story on Al Gore's anti-crime plan which focuses on gun control, though Bill Plante did point out that Gore will have to explain why the administration has not pushed registration during the last seven years. ABC was the only broadcast network to run a full story on how the NAACP also complained at its convention that there are no blacks as leading characters in any new TV series set to begin this fall.

     The opening of the HMO reform debate on Capitol Hill also produced stories on all the networks, with NBC's Lisa Myers countering the GOP's argument: "But there were similar warnings of huge cost increases in Texas a few years ago when that state gave patients similar rights. And so far those horror stories have not come true." In fact, she maintained, HMO premiums have held steady and a doctor told her that with an appeals process in place HMOs are now less likely to deny care. She shot down one more GOP concern: "And despite predictions of a flood of lawsuits, less than a half dozen filed so far."

     Monday night, July 12, ABC led with the arguments over what to do with the surplus, CBS went first with the NAACP gun suit, CNN began with HMO reform and NBC Nightly News led by pairing two events of the day as anchor Brian Williams announced:
     "A striking confluence of events in this country today that called attention perhaps to what America was supposed to be and what it's become. Today in a swearing-in in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of the former Soviet leader became a United States citizen. The son of Nikita Khrushchev, the man who pledged to bury this country, is tonight officially a citizen of this country. At the same time, off the coast of Florida, the U.S. Coast Guard today was in another fight with another boatload of seemingly hopeless Cubans wanting to come to America. They were picked up at sea, they'll be turned back. There will be no citizenship for them."

     Williams later delivered this non-critical item about the NAACP's gun lawsuit:
     "There has been another salvo fired tonight in the battle over gun control. At its 90th annual convention the NAACP announced it is filing a lawsuit in an effort to break the backs of gun manufacturers. They say they just want change. They will not seek any monetary damages but instead they'd like to change the way the gun industry does business and restrict sales at those gun shows."

     Dan Rather made it anti-gun night on the CBS Evening News:
     "Good evening. There's several new fronts opening today in the fight over gun violence in America from the courts to Capitol Hill to the presidential campaign trail. But first the events surrounding a new lawsuit against the handgun industry. It was launched by one of the nation's most respected and largest civil rights organizations."

     Following Russ Mitchell's story Rather intoned:
     "There is new proof, if any is needed, that Democrats intend to make tougher gun laws, especially handgun laws, a defining election campaign issue up to and including the top of the ticket."

     Bill Plante picked up on Gore's gun control outline: "Surrounded by police in Boston the Vice President pushed further on gun control than President Clinton has ever gone. Gore wants to require a photo license for all new handgun owners."
     After a soundbite from Gore Plante explained how it would look like a drivers license and that Gore also wants to ban junk guns but that's just like a proposal Bill Bradley made in 1994. Plante concluded by highlighting how Democrats haven't put their concerns into action:
     "Public sentiment makes it easy for Democratic presidential candidates to call for stricter gun control. But the Vice President has another problem if he hopes to move in here at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He has to explain why, if gun registration is such a good idea, the administration he has served for the last seven years never tried to get it passed."

     Rather then read a short response from George W. Bush about how these new laws won't prevent criminals from committing crimes with guns.

     Starting Tuesday night the CBS Evening News will be running an Eye on America series on guns: "Armed America."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) Al Gore may have, as CBS's Bill Plante assessed, "pushed further on gun control than President Clinton has ever gone," but it's not far enough to satisfy ABC's Charlie Gibson. Just as he did with President Clinton back on June 4, on Monday morning Gibson demanded Al Gore defend not advocating registration of guns "as we do with every other consumer product."

     Gore heard tougher questions on CBS's This Morning as Russ Mitchell actually hit him from the right on gun control, but neither morning show took the opportunity to ask Gore to explain his hypocrisy over hiring consultant Carter Eskew who produced the tobacco industry's ads last year against the bills backed by Clinton-Gore. Gore also claimed he stopped taking tobacco money after his sister died of lung cancer.

     A new ABC News promo spot actually highlights the network's liberal bias on the gun issue, showing Gibson pleading with Clinton: "Polls have shown that this country would accept registration of firearms."

     -- Monday's Good Morning America. Here are Gibson's first three questions to Gore, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson, before Gibson asked about the primary fight and let the VP congratulate the U.S. women's soccer team:
     "Later on this morning, the Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore will present a new anti-crime agenda, his vision of how to make America a safer place, and the Vice President is joining us this morning from Washington....Your proposals on guns are the centerpiece of this crime package. Tell me what they are."
     "Your primary opponent, Senator Bradley, on Friday wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, in which he said this administration hasn't been tough enough on guns, and as I understand his proposals, they seem to be a bit tougher than yours. He says that he would restrict or, I'm sorry, he would register every handgun owner, not just a photo license for new purchasers of handguns, and put a ban totally on Saturday Night Specials. Do you think he goes too far?"
     "But I'm curious, if you favor registration of every handgun, why didn't you put it in the proposal? If you want to regulate handguns, why not do that as well, as we do with every other consumer product?"

     -- An hour later Al Gore got a few more challenging questions on CBS's This Morning from Russ Mitchell, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brian Boyd:
     "In your mind, give us the headline here, what's the most important measure you're going to propose today?"
     "Now of course, one of the measures is the gun control legislation you were speaking about there. The NRA has said before when this issue has come up, guns don't kill people, people kill people. How will this proposal stop violent crime in this country?"
     "Let me ask this Mr. Vice President, you've got about 17 months to go in your term as Vice President, are these proposals something you would like to see enacted before you leave office as Vice President, or is this a presidential campaign promise?"
     "Let's talk about the campaign, it is said that two of your top advisors are not speaking to each other, it is said the President has been disappointed in the way you've handled the campaign thus far, the First Lady's non-campaign for Senate is getting a lot of attention, how would you assess the state of your campaign right now?"
     "Realizing that the campaign is more than a year away, why do you think that George Bush holds a 15 point lead in the polls over you, you've been Vice President for seven years?"

     -- ABC, promoting its liberal bias by showcasing Gibson's liberal advocacy to President Clinton. Here's the text of a promo run during Sunday's This Week:
     Announcer: "ABC is America's broadcasting company. Home of America's most respected journalists."
     Peter Jennings: "You can get them with a good story. We're not historians, we're journalists."
     Announcer: "Unparalleled strength."
     Gibson to Clinton: "Polls have shown that this country would accept registration of firearms."
     Clinton: "You like to have an honest conversation? Let's have an honest conversation."
     Announcer: "Exclusive interviews, seamless reporting from broadcast to broadcast."
     Diane Sawyer: "There's always a place for original reporting."
     Announcer: "It's why more Americans get their news from ABC News. ABC News, part of America's broadcasting company."

     In that June 4 interview from the White House, Gibson urged Clinton to "roar on gun control," telling the President: "But when you went to Littleton, a friend of yours, who supports you on gun control, said to me in the last 48 hours, the President, because as he said Littleton has seared the national conscience, the President had a chance to roar on gun control and he meowed, and that was a friend of yours. There are very basic measures that could be taken that people agree on. We register every automobile in America. We don't register guns. That's a step that would make a difference."

     To watch a RealPlayer excerpt of this interview and to read a more complete transcript of Gibson's approach, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/cyberalert/1999/cyb19990604a.html


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) PBS's NewsHour on Monday night assessed the three cable news networks and discovered bias at just one. You guessed it: the Fox News Channel, which CNN founding CEO Reese Schonfeld maintained, wants "to be the most furthest to the right." Fox's Washington Managing Editor Brit Hume did get a chance to suggest they only look conservative because the other networks are to the left, but Schonfeld assured viewers neither MSNBC or CNN display any ideological bias.

     In the piece, CBS News veteran Terence Smith who jumped to the NewsHour last year, observed that CNN emphasizes foreign news more than MSNBC or FNC. Smith added:
     "Observers see an ideological distinction among the channels as well."
     Reese Schonfeld, founding CEO, CNN: "It's clear that Fox's position is always to be the most furthest to the right."
     Smith: "Brit Hume does not dispute that. But he says that Fox's ideological tilt is only noticeable in contrast to that of the other news organizations, which he describes as liberal."
     Hume: "We're probably noticeably in our coverage to the right of the other news organizations which puts us, I think, right smack dab in the center."
     Smith: "Reese Schonfeld believes it's numbers not ideology that drives MSNBC."
     Schonfeld: "MSNBC will do whatever it takes to get the most audience and if that includes bringing in Oliver North that's fine. If they could find some left-wing equivalent of Oliver North I think they'd hire him in a minute just for the ratings."
     Smith: "And CNN?"
     Schonfeld: "CNN is too disorganized as it always was to have any real overall direction in terms of politics."

     But not too disorganized to produce the Tailwind hit job which matched a left-wing ideological worldwview.

     And a note to Schonfeld: MSNBC has found "a left-wing equivalent of Oliver North." He's Paul Begala who is paired with North on Equal Time. Of course, MSNBC's tilt to the left comes more from the fact they re-play NBC News stories all day than the fact they try to get people to watch solo liberals for an hour in prime time, like John Hockenberry. North has never been given an hour without a liberal counterweight.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) While MSNBC flops with liberal hosts like John Hockenberry in prime time, whom the network dropped last week, MSNBC's own chief credited FNC's prime time success to following Rush Limbaugh's formula.

     Asked in the July 12 Electronic Media trade magazine published on Monday, "What is Fox News Channel doing that seems to be working in prime time?", MSNBC General Manager Erik Sorenson replied:
     "They've figured out how to take the success that Rush Limbaugh has had on radio and extend that into television. They have strong personalities and really talented guys in Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and certainly relative to their daytime and weekends, their weekday prime time is, relatively speaking, pretty strong."

     So why doesn't MSNBC do the same and offer viewpoints not heard on network television, a strategy exploited by talk radio?

     MSNBC has more prime time viewers than FNC, but when you factor in the larger number of cable homes with access to MSNBC you find that FNC is actually doing better. As noted in the July 6 CyberAlert, in the second quarter of this year CNN captured 812,000 prime time viewers, MSNBC 285,000 and FNC 254,000.

     But, as Terence Smith pointed out in his NewsHour piece cited in item #3 today above, CNN is 75 million households while MSNBC is available in 49 million and FNC in 41 million, or 17 percent fewer homes than MSNBC. Take 254,000 and add 17 percent and you get 298,000, or 13,000 more viewers than watch MSNBC and a more accurate estimate of how many would watch FNC if as many could as can choose MSNBC.


soccer0713.jpg (18067 bytes)cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) The whole nation is celebrating the World Cup win for the U.S. women's soccer team, but NBC's Katie Couric demanded two players answer to liberal feminists who might be upset by how they used sex to sell the team and themselves.

     Since Disney/ABC paid to show the game the network got the team first on Monday morning, showcasing them for the entire 7:30am half hour on Good Morning America, thus not letting Today have them until the 8:30am half hour. (ABC also withheld access to video clips of the final moments and post-game celebration, which is why you may have noticed that NBC showed only still shots on Monday and the CBS Evening News played noticeably poorer than normal quality video, probably off a VCR.)

     Returning for a second segment with the team after an ad break Today co-host Katie Couric brought on a dour mood:
     "And we're back with a couple of members of the U.S. women's soccer team. You know I just had to ask you all this question because I'm sort of conflicted about it and I know you all are too. Brandi [Chastain] and Julie [Foudy]. But I know Brandi, for example, you posed. It was a beautiful photograph. I mean you have an incredible body, may I say that on national television? [shot of nude photo of her from side with vital parts covered, in Gear magazine] But you know, I'm wondering about some of the mixed signals that little girls might be getting. I asked somebody earlier this morning. Sex sells. So in order to sell soccer do you have to sell sex? But what about the whole concept of 'booters with hooters' and not 'soccer moms, soccer mommas!' And kind of making you all appealing on that level. Do you feel completely comfortable with that or should you tell me to lighten up?"

     "Soccer mommas" is reference to a Letterman gag when they showed a picture of the team wearing Late Show T-shirts. Chastain maintained she was just showing how you can be athletic and strong.

     Couric followed up: "Is that how you feel Julie? I know you were in Sports Illustrated in a bikini running with your husband which is a completely innocent photo but I'm sure some hard core feminists are gonna say, 'Wait a second what's going on here?'"

     In the midst of a joyous celebration NBC News insisted upon inserting liberal whining into the non-political event. And the media wonder why the public finds them too cynical. -- Brent Baker


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