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Issues of poverty account for only 0.1% of reports on US television programmes

Marginalised everywhereIssues of poverty and people in the US living in poverty account for only a few reports per year in US television. This was far less than even 0.1 per cent of the reports on the nightly news programmes of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

In 2007, the bottom 50 per cent of households in the US possessed 2.5 per cent of the nation’s wealth, while the top 10 per cent possessed over 70 per cent. Over 33 per cent of US personal wealth was concentrated in the top 1 per cent of households alone, according to Institute of Policy Studies. While this wealth gap is discussed online and by pundits, Media Tenor International’s data show that it has received little coverage in US TV reporting since 2004.

In fact, issues of poverty and people in the US living in poverty account for only a few reports per year in US television. This was far less than even 0.1 per cent of the reports on the nightly news programmes of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. While there were somewhat more reports on people of extreme wealth, spiking in 2008 around the financial crisis, this topic also had low salience in US media, with an average of less than one report per network per month.

The basis of the study were 193,831 news stories on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News between 2004 and February 28, 2011. Altogether 195,882 news stories in international TV news in 2010 too were looked at. All stories are coded by trained human coders.

The middle class in the US, which is keenly targeted during election campaigns, and is a national symbol as much as a national fact for the country, also had visibility problems. Media Tenor data show that people identified as middle class by the media in the US received a very low volume of coverage and were barely more visible than the poor or extremely wealthy. Additionally, this coverage, which also represented less than 0.1 per cent of reports on the nightly news, was highly negative and often framed in terms of “attacks on the middle class” or “the disappearing middle class.”

Despite the middle class receiving the most attention in the US, it fared poorly in other Western nations as well. Those countries whose television media reported on their middle class at all – Germany, France, Spain and the UK – provided even less coverage than the US did, and all of that coverage was entirely negative.

“Whether or not the middle class is disappearing in the US or Europe cannot be ascertained when the television media seem to have already decided, based on these coverage volumes, that it does not exist,” said Racheline Maltese, Senior Analyst with Media Tenor. “Clearly, the discussion of personal wealth and income for segments of the society, as opposed to the society as a whole, is not on the agenda. Audiences may hear about how their country is faring economically with little insight into their own financial realities.”

Date posted: October 1, 2011 Last modified: May 12, 2018 Total views: 21