REPORT: Cable News Ignores TX Fertilizer Plant's Regulation Violation

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN

In reporting on the factory explosion in West, Texas, cable news virtually ignored the fertilizer company's storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate at the plant, which is 1,350 times the amount that is allowed to be stored without disclosure to the federal government.

Reuters: Plant Had Been Storing 1,350 Times The Allowed Amount Of Ammonium Nitrate

Reuters: TX Fertilizer Plant Was Storing "1,350 Times The Amount Of Ammonium Nitrate That Would Normally Trigger Safety Oversight By The U.S. Department Of Homeland Security." On April 20, Reuters reported that the West, Texas, fertilizer plant that exploded on April 17, owned by West Fertilizer, had been storing 270 tons of ammonium nitrate. Reuters noted that "[f]ertilizer plants and depots must report to the DHS when they hold 400 lb (180 kg) or more of the substance," which "can also be used in bomb making," but that West Fertilizer "did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do." [Reuters, 4/20/13]

Cable Networks Failed To Highlight Fertilizer Plant's DHS Violation

CNN Never Reported On West Fertilizer's Reporting Violation. Between 8:38 am on April 20, when Reuters' story was published, and 9:00 am on April 23, CNN featured 24 segments about the plant explosion. None of the segments noted that West Fertilizer violated federal regulations by failing to disclose its storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate. [Media Matters search of TV Eyes, 4/20/13-4/23/13]

MSNBC Featured One Segment Out Of 16 That Mentioned Reporting Violation. MSNBC featured 16 segments on the story during that time frame, 15 of which did not mention Reuters' report of the plant's violation. Only host Chris Hayes spent several minutes discussing Reuters' report on the April 22 broadcast of his show. [Media Matters search of TV Eyes, 4/20/13-4/23/13]

Fox News Featured One Segment Out Of 23 That Alluded To Reporting Violation. Out of 23 segments on the West, Texas, explosion during that time frame, one Fox News segment alluded to the plant's reporting violation. On April 21, Fox & Friends Sunday co-host Alisyn Camerota discussed the explosion with environmental safety expert Professor Tim Murphy, who noted, in response to Camerota's questions about safety precautions, that the plant had stored a "large amount of ammonia nitrate fertilizer" that should have been reported to authorities. [Media Matters search of TV Eyes, 4/20/13-4/23/13]

 cable west tx

Methodology

Media Matters conducted a search of TV Eyes' database between 8:30 am on April 20 and 9:00 am on April 23 for each of the three cable networks. Only full segments or news briefs about the explosion were counted -- teases for full stories were not included.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Government, Cabinet & Agencies
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN
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