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Story which appeared in the January 6, 2000 Washington Times:

Study: TV newscasts draw bead on guns; 10-to-1 imbalance found in reports

By Lily Nguyen
The Washington Times

Network television newscasts overwhelmingly promote an anti-gun view, a new study concludes.

"It's clear that when it comes to the gun debate, TV news is not an objective referee. It is a partisan player that has chosen sides," said L. Brent Bozell III, chairman of the Media Research Center, which yesterday released the study, "Outgunned: How the Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate."

     The two-year study analyzed 635 stories on gun policy by four major networks - ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC - and found that while 260 stories could be classified as neutral, stories that advocated more gun control outnumbered stories that opposed such measures, 357 to 36.

     "That translates into an astounding 10-to-1 ratio of news segments advocating gun control - hardly what any objective observer would consider balance," said Mr. Bozell.

     The three network morning shows - ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS' "This Morning," and NBC's "Today" - produced a total of 353 segments dealing with gun policy. Of those stories, the MRC rated 193 as anti-gun, 15 as pro-gun, and 145 as neutral.

     "Good Morning America" was the most anti-gun program, according to the MRC study, with 99.7 percent of its stories advocating gun control. "Today" ranked second, with 82 anti-gun stories to 10 pro-gun segments. CBS was the most "balanced," with a 79 percent tilt of anti-gun stories.

     MRC also analyzed guests on the morning shows and found that advocates of gun control appeared 82 times, compared with 37 gun-rights spokesmen. Neutral guests appeared 58 times on the morning shows.

     During the two-year span, TV viewers saw a total of 300 segments dealing with gun policies on the four evening news shows studied - ABC's "World News Tonight," "The CBS Evening News," CNN's "The World Today," and NBC's "The Nightly News."

     Of these segments, 164 advocated gun control, while 20 opposed it. According to Mr. Bozell, ABC's "World News Tonight" was the most biased, with a 9-to-1 ratio and NBC's "The Nightly News" was the least, with a bias of five anti-gun stories for every pro-gun story.

     "It's a sad day for balance when 'the best' means a bias of 5-to-1," said Mr. Bozell.

     MRC analysts compared sound bites in the nightly news and found the four network shows produced 296 advocates and 150 opponents of gun control.

     The MRC offered three recommendations:

     * Networks should balance their news coverage by presenting facts on both sides of the debate equally. "I don't know why there's such a fear about debate," Mr. Bozell said.

     * News programs should choose themes from both sides of the argument, including "programs that have proven track records in dropping crime rates," Mr. Bozell said, as well as "the positive uses of weapons in self-defense."

     * Gun-policy stories "should provide factual context . . . instead of loaded emotional anecdotes and phrases."

     Joining Mr. Bozell in announcing the results of the study was conservative radio talk show host Oliver North, a member of the National Rifle Association board of directors.




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