Sunday Shows Still Leaning to Right, Study Says

Mar 13, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By Ira Teinowitz and Michele Greppi

For the second year in a row, conservative voices dominate the broadcast networks’ politically driven Sunday newsmaker shows despite the Democrats taking control of Congress in January, a media watchdog group charges.

Media Matters for America held a press conference Tuesday in Washington to hit the high points in its latest report, titled “If It’s Sunday, It’s Still Conservative.” The complete report is available at www.SundayShowReport.com.

The group said ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” was the only show to have improved its overall balance since the last report but that the debate still “skewed to the right.”

The group characterized CBS’s “Face the Nation With Bob Schieffer” and NBC’s “Meet the Press With Tim Russert,” as well as “Fox News Sunday,” as “dominated by more right-leaning voices” since the last report.

Democratic Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, wrote the executive producers of the network talk shows asking them to do more to even the balance of political and journalist guests. They said reporters for conservative publications are featured far more often than reporters for progressive publications.

The letter said the newsmaker shows occupy “a singular place in our political culture”: Creating a national debate. “Consistently booking Republicans and conservatives in higher numbers than Democrats and progressives gives the public a skewed and imbalanced perception of the national discourse,” the letter said.

“The discussions held on the shows frequently determine the scope of official debate in Washington, legitimizing some views and, by their absence, marginalizing others,” said Rep. Woolsey.

“You have a lot of Democrats who have opinions in regard to the way the attorney general’s office, the secretary of state’s office, vice president’s office and the president’s office itself is operated,” she continued. “The media should not be dominated just by those who are making those decisions. The media needs to give access to alternative points of view. We know from Iraq how much danger there is if you just allow the administration to dominate with their point of view.”

Rep. Woolsey also targeted the makeup of the shows’ reporter roundtables.

“Instead of getting nonpartisan reporters to honestly discuss the issues, the American public gets the Robert Novaks of the world talking off of a set of White House talking points.”

The reaction from network news representatives was largely off the record because they believe they answered the same charges last year.

But Media Matters does not want to accept the stated goals of booking the Sunday shows: to get the most powerful guests who can speak to the hottest issues in the news that week and to make news that will get the show mentioned in the press Monday.

“That [being] said, we always endeavor to represent all sides of the political debate,” an ABC News rep said.

“We want to thank Media Matters for drawing attention to ‘Fox News Sunday,’ which is the most quoted program in Monday morning’s papers,” a Fox rep said.

(Editor: Horowitz)