As Trans-Pacific Partnership Debate Rages, Broadcast Evening News Stays Silent

Media Largely Ignore Negotiations Of Sweeping Free Trade Deal


Broadcast nightly news programs have remained silent on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) over the past three months of weekday programming, even as Congress is scheduled to vote this week on whether to grant President Obama authority to finalize the terms of the massive trade deal. The coverage blackout continues a trend extending back to 2013.

On May 12, the Senate plans to vote on legislation that would grant "fast-track" trade promotion authority to Obama as he attempts to complete negotiations among the 12 member nations that comprise the TPP. "Once Congress grants a president trade promotion authority, lawmakers have the ability to vote up or down on a final trade agreement, but they forfeit the right to amend the deal or filibuster it," The New York Times explained.

Debates over the merits of the deal itself and of granting the president trade promotion authority have erupted among Democratic and Republican members of Congress, but coverage of the negotiations has been largely absent from evening news programming on the major broadcast networks.

A Media Matters analysis of ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC's Nightly News from August 1, 2013, through May 10, 2015, found that the programs completely ignored the trade negotiations and related policy debates. Only PBS NewsHour devoted substantive coverage to the TPP, with 14 total segments:

PBS NewsHour Is Completely Alone Covering The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Coverage of the TPP among major cable outlets has been similarly one-sided. Since August 1, 2013, MSNBC has mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 124 evening and primetime segments, the overwhelming majority of which (103) came during The Ed Show. Fox News trails far behind with just 12 mentions of the TPP over that time period, 10 of which have come since February 1, 2015. CNN has been almost completely absent from the discussion, registering only 2 mentions of the trade negotiations:

If Not For MSNBC, Cable Viewers Would Know Little About TPP

Previous research, including Media Matters' methodology, on the lack of media attention for Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations dating to August 2013 can be found here, and here.

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