New Study Shows Only 22% Of Cable News Is News

( A new study from the Media Research Center confirms what most cable news viewers instinctively knew. There is precious little “news” on cable news.

MRC monitored the three top 24-hour cable news networks – MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel — to assess how much of their content consisted of hard news (ie factual reporting) and how much was opinion, analysis and spin.

The study revealed that cable news devotes only 22.3 percent of all airtime to reporting hard news. Putting it another way, for every hour of broadcasting, only nine minutes and fifteen seconds of that hour is spent on news reporting. The total amount of airtime for hard news is even eclipsed by the total amount of airtime devoted to commercial advertising.

An additional 16 percent of all airtime is taken up by interviews with newsmakers.

A staggering 60 percent of 24-hour cable news programming consists of host commentary, panel discussions or “analysis” from a panel of talking heads.

The lack of hard news is especially bad during primetime. Just 9.3 percent of programs airing between seven and midnight consists of fact-based news reporting.

Even the Big Three network morning shows – known for fluff and lighthearted features – contain more hard news than the 24-hour cable news networks.

The Big Three network’s evening news broadcasts, by comparison, spend 72 percent of airtime on factual news reporting.

MRC concluded that this lack of hard news on cable “news” channels is due in large part to the current fixation on political issues. This obsessive politically-driven programming has absorbed large swaths of programming time previously dedicated to other topics.

Sixty percent of cable news programming centers on US political issues, pushing once hot-button topics off to the side. Only fifteen percent of news coverage involved crime.

Surprisingly, even in the age of COVID, only seven percent of the broadcast day went to health news. However, for the purposes of its analysis, MRC considered politically-centered reporting on the pandemic as “political reporting.”

So if a story was about how this or that politician was handling the pandemic, MRC placed that story under “political” rather than “health.” Only the segments that focused on reporting the spread or extent of COVID infections were counted as “health” stories.

Major accidents, the economy, business or financial reporting, sports and weather combined only accounted for six percent of all cable news programming.

MRC’s survey was conducted prior to the explosive events in Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul.