REPORT: On health care reform, networks highlight perceived setbacks far more than progress

››› ››› ELBERT VENTURA & ROB SAVILLO

In two studies, Media Matters documents that TV news networks have repeatedly given considerably more attention to perceived setbacks to progressive health care reform efforts than to events that signal progress for those efforts.

In their health care reform coverage, media have repeatedly given considerably more attention to perceived setbacks to progressive reform efforts than to events that signal progress for those efforts. A Media Matters for America analysis of transcripts available in the Nexis database has found that broadcast and cable news featured almost twice as many segments mentioning the American Medical Association's (AMA's) reported opposition to a public insurance plan as segments mentioning the AMA's recent announcement that it supported the House Democrats' health care reform bill, which includes a public plan.

That finding is consistent with an earlier Media Matters study showing that the number of cable news segments in Nexis mentioning an initial Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of an incomplete version of a Senate health committee draft bill was far greater than the number of segments mentioning a later CBO analysis. That later analysis showed that an updated version of the bill would cover more people for less than the earlier scoring had suggested. Media Matters has also documented a pattern in which media suggest that President Obama's reform effort is in serious jeopardy, despite events -- including the AMA endorsement and revised CBO score -- that indicate reform efforts have made substantial progress.

Following the June 10 publication of a New York Times article reporting that the AMA "will oppose creation of a government-sponsored insurance plan," broadcast and cable news networks ran a total of 23 segments from June 11 through June 14 that mentioned or discussed the AMA's reported stance, according to a search of transcripts available in the Nexis database. By contrast, following the July 16 announcement by the AMA that it supported passage of the House Democrats' health care reform bill, the networks ran a total of 12 segments from July 16 through July 20 mentioning or discussing the AMA's endorsement:

The results echo a previous Media Matters study looking at cable news coverage of the CBO scores of the Senate health committee draft bill. The study, which analyzed transcripts available in the Nexis database, found that on June 15 and 16, cable news networks ran at least 15 segments that mentioned a June 15 preliminary analysis by the CBO of part of the bill, frequently highlighting claims that the bill cost too much for the number of Americans it insured. However, from July 2 through July 6, only one cable news segment mentioned that in a July 2 analysis of an updated version of the bill, the CBO concluded that the legislation would cover more of the uninsured for a lower price:

Methodology

Media Matters tallied every segment on ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and NBC available in the Nexis database that featured a mention or discussion of the AMA's reported opposition to the public option -- first reported online on June 10 on the New York Times' website, but appearing in the paper's print edition on June 11 -- from June 11 through June 14. We also tallied every segment from July 16 through July 20 that featured a mention or discussion of the AMA's support, announced July 16, of the House health care reform bill. July 20 was included to compensate for the release first appearing the afternoon of July 16 rather than the morning. The search string "American Medical Association or AMA" was used. Repeat episodes of programs that came up in the search were not included.

The methodology for Media Matters' study of cable coverage of the CBO scores is available here.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN
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