Sunday, March 27, 2016

Has Media Been Fair In Presidential Campaign Coverage ?

There have been a lot of people complaining about the media's coverage of this presidential campaign, and this chart shows that only 37% of the public thinks the media has done a good job (while 33% say they have done a poor job).

Some of this feeling could be due to sour grapes. The supporters of losing candidates generally always believe their candidate was not treated fairly (did not receive enough coverage). But while that is true, I believe those saying the media has not done a good job do have a point.

There was a time when the "Fairness Doctrine" was in effect (initiated in 1949) for broadcast news -- and the media had to provide equal time for all presidential candidates -- at least those in the major parties. But that doctrine was discontinued by the FCC in 1987. Now it doesn't matter how much time they give to each candidate.

And in its modern incarnation, broadcast news doesn't exist to be fair -- but to make money for its corporate owners. That means they cover only the news they think people want to watch. And that has meant some candidates (like Donald Trump) get enormous amounts of coverage, while others struggle to get any coverage at all.

Has the media done a good job? No, I don't think they have. But it isn't because they favor one candidate over the other. It's because they put corporate profits above all other concerns.

The chart above was made from a Rasmussen Poll -- done on March 20th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a 3 point margin of error.

1 comment:

  1. Just for clarification of an often-misunderstood point, the Fairness Doctrine never required "equal time for all presidential candidates." In fact, it didn't require equal time at all. The Fairness Doctrine in essence required broadcast (radio and TV) stations to cover issues of public interest and to do it in a way that was, as the name indicates, fair.

    (As a sidebar, the Fairness Doctrine had various forms over the years and not only does the general principle predate 1949, it predates the creation of the FCC.)

    The Equal Time doctrine was a separate rule. It required that candidates be given equal time in terms of time provided by the station. Some examples to make it clearer: You couldn't do a 10-minute interview with Candidate A without granting other candidates for the same office the same opportunity. You couldn't endorse Candidate A without allowing the other candidates equal time to respond. If you ran an editorial and allowed Candidate A to respond, you had to allow the other candidates to do the same. If you sold commercial time to Candidate A, you had to allow other candidates to purchase the same amount of time with the same conditions. And so on.

    "Equal time" had nothing to do with news coverage.


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