Friday, November 03, 2006

Fun With Numbers: Media Bias Dept.

I know, I'm not supposed to be blogging, but this story really got me. It's a sleazy effort to make FOX News look bad by selectively using numbers, or not using them.

The author frontloads the story with lots of hard numbers showing FOX's supposed decline; then he goes on:
But Fox's problems go deeper than that. If it was just the dearth of big stories this year, all the other cable networks would be down as well. Two were actually up in October.

CNN has also been down steeply this year in total viewers and 25-54s but not as much as Fox, and in October its 25-54 primetime audience was essentially flat at down 1 percent.

And both Headline News and MSNBC were actually up in that demo last month, by 18 percent and 19 percent.
Notice the comparison of year-to-year trends with last month numbers. Notice how, if the point of rebuttal is that 2005 was an anomalous year, he doesn't go back to 2004 to compare trends without the anomaly! (I tried to find the 2004 numbers, but without luck.) Also, notice the lack of hard numbers for the other networks.

Curious what those numbers might be? Try looking here or here. What you see is that FOX is still smoking the competition. Even with downward drifts, they still are far ahead.

Which is a point the author seems afraid you'll realise. Hence hiding the numbers. Pathetic.

And lastly, notice how the author states a political thesis:
As the network most identified with conservative America and in particular the Bush White House, Fox News is suffering the most from the disenchantment among conservatives over the war and the political scandals.

The news formula that worked for so long is now working against it, they say, as fewer of those disenchanted viewers bother to tune in to watch the news.
... and then quotes from three "independent" scholars who support it.

Another reporter taking the facts of a situation -- which ought to be bricks, immutable -- and using them isntead as clay to mould a thesis not entirely supported by those facts.

INSTANT UPDATE: Ah hah! Found some 2004 numbers here (scroll about halfway down), which undercut the author's thesis for certain.


August 11, 2004

FNC: Total day: 915,000 / Primetime: 2,058,000 / O'Reilly: 2,666,000 / H&C: 1,793,000 / Greta: 1,714,000

CNN: Total day: 412,000 / Primetime: 730,000 / Zahn: 554,000 / King: 985,000 / Brown: 652,000

MSNBC: Total day: 205,000 / Primetime: 363,000 / Olbermann: 383,000 / Norville: 372,000 / Scarborough: 333,000

CNBC averaged 139,000 in total day and 177,000 in primetime. Dennis Miller had 293,000, McEnroe had 66,000 viewers. This is the 14th night in a month where MacEnroe has averaged less than 100,000 viewers a night.
So, when we compare those numbers, we get this:

2004 2006
FOX 915 1002
CNN 412 501
MSNBC 205 313
CNBC 139 222

Hmmmm.... Viewer growth all around, and FOX is still beating the pants off CNN. (Though you can have "Fun With Numbers" by pointing out that CNN had 20% growth over the two year period vs. FOX's 10%. Wow! Double the growth!)

Half the viewers.

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