NUL Releases Diversity Study of Network Talk Shows; Study Reveals Absence of African Americans on Sunday Morning
WASHINGTON -- The following study was released today by the National Urban League on the diversity of network talk shows:
A DIVERSITY STUDY OF NETWORK SUNDAY TALK SHOWS
In 1958, Martin Luther King wrote: “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”(see note 1) Today, nearly 50 years after Dr. King’s incisive observation about America’s churches, we are facing another form of Sunday Morning Apartheid: the Sunday morning talk shows.
According to a study conducted by the National Urban League Policy Institute, Sunday morning network and cable talk shows, a significant source of information, analysis and opinion on government, politics, and social issues, consistently fail to include African Americans in their lineups, either as interview guests or analysts. Among other findings, the study reveals:
-- more than 60 percent of the programs broadcast during the 18-month period studied had no black guests;
-- fewer than 8 percent of the guests on these programs have been black.
-- more than 69 percent of the appearances by black guests on these programs have been by three people -- Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Juan Williams.
This exclusion of African American voices is not unique to Sunday morning talk shows; with few exceptions, the television news outlets regularly fail to adequately include African Americans, other minorities and women in the vast majority of their news programming (see note 2) However, the National Urban League Policy Institute limited its study to this particular genre for two reasons. First, unlike other network news and talk programs, the Sunday morning talk shows are generally similar in focus and format and, thus, offer consistent models for comparison. Second, Sunday morning talk shows play a unique and substantial role in the political discourse in America and, as such, lend themselves to greater scrutiny.
Sunday morning talk shows are more than a mere source of news; they are a crucial staple in the public discussion, understanding and interpretation of politics and government and other issues in the United States. Each Sunday, these programs signal what is news and who are the newsmakers. Their selection and presentation of guests determine who are the experts on a topic and what voices and views will be considered authoritative (see note 3). Sunday morning talk shows frame the perception and coverage of issues that have a substantial impact on the American public. Yet these programs consistently lack any African American participation in the discussion of these issues -- from the war in Iraq to the economy to electoral politics to Social Security to judicial nominations -- leaving the impression that interest in and analysis of these topics are “for whites only.”
The depth and breadth of the Sunday morning genre’s influence was illustrated in December 2002 when Trent Lott suggested during Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration that the nation would have been better off if the segregationist had been elected president in 1948. Only two major news outlets, the Washington Post and ABC World News This Morning, reported these remarks and only in very brief references. However, the following Sunday, the Meet the Press roundtable discussion took up the incident. The next day, virtually every major newspaper and television network reported the story. Within a week, the story had escalated to the point that Lott was forced to resign his leadership position. By month’s end, hundreds of stories had been run about this incident. (see note 4) While the extent of the influence of the Meet the Press roundtable on this story cannot be accurately measured, there can be no doubt that this discussion put this story “on the radar screen” and converted it from a passing brief to a major news story.
As this example attests, the Sunday morning talk shows, which are watched by approximately 10 million viewers each week, have a significant impact upon the development of political and policy issues, public impressions and understanding of the news and political and policy events in Washington and across the nation. According to a recent study, 66 percent of African Americans rely upon the mainstream media for information about politics and the U.S. government(see note 5). Yet when they turn to the main staple of news and analysis of issues of importance to them - the Sunday morning talk shows -- politicians, journalists, opinion-makers, and viewers of all races are presented with a virtually all-white tableau:
-- Ronald Reagan’s death in June 2004 prompted the Sunday morning shows to devote their entire programs to discussions of the Reagan years. Of the nearly three dozen guests who appeared on talk shows that Sunday, only three were African American - Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Juan Williams. On two of the five shows, the legacy of Ronald Reagan, a president who had an enormous effect on the black community, was assessed by all-white lineups.
-- During their intense coverage of judicial nominations and the Nuclear Option, the Sunday morning talk shows interviewed no African Americans about the issue.
-- In July 2005, every Sunday morning talk show addressed the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor and the nomination of John G. Roberts to succeed her. However, no black guests were interviewed regarding this issue and only one program -- Fox News Sunday -- included a black participant in its roundtable to discuss the Supreme Court retirement and nomination, despite the fact that this is a matter of great importance to the black community and a number of African Americans are actively involved in the issue.
The National Urban League Policy Institute studied the five Sunday morning political talk shows -- This Week with George Stephanopoulos (ABC), Face the Nation (CBS), Late Edition (CNN), Fox News Sunday (FOX) and Meet the Press (NBC) -- reviewing and analyzing all programs broadcast during the 18-month period between January 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005.
In analyzing the data, the Institute examined several variables, including:
-- number of black v. non-black guests;
-- number of programs with black guests v. number of programs with no black guests
-- type of guest (Senator, House Member, journalist, etc.);
-- frequency of appearances.
The study divided the programs into two segments: interviews and roundtable discussions (see note 6). For the purpose of our analysis, “guest” is defined as any individual who appeared on these programs one or more times, either as an interview subject or a roundtable participant. “Guest appearances” are defined as actual appearances by a guest. One guest could account for numerous guest appearances; for example, in determining the number of African Americans who have appeared as guests, Colin Powell is counted once. However, he has appeared 27 times during this period and, thus, accounts for 27 guest appearances.
The study revealed, among other things:
-- 61 percent of all of the Sunday morning talk shows featured no black guests;
-- 78 percent of the broadcasts contained no interviews with black guests;
-- 8 percent of the guest appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows are by black guests;
-- Of the more than 2100 guest appearances on Sunday morning talk shows during the period studied, only 176 have been by black guests. Three guests -- Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Juan Williams -- account for 122 of these 176 appearances;
-- The appearances by guests other than Rice, Powell and Williams account for less than 3 percent of all guest appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows;
-- More than 600 people have appeared as guests once or more on the Sunday morning talk shows during the period studied. Twenty-six of these guests have been black;
-- Only 2 percent of the broadcasts featured interviews with more than one black guest;
-- Three of the four programs presenting political roundtable discussions had no blacks in their roundtable discussion in more than 85 percent of the shows broadcast; (see note 7)
-- While Senators and House Members were featured more than 500 times during the period, black representatives appeared only nine times;
-- Of the more than 75 Senators and House Members who appeared as guests, only three -- Charles Rangel, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Harold Ford, Jr. -- were black. None of the other 40 members of the Congressional Black Caucus appeared on any of these programs during the 18-month period studied;
-- Only three African American women -- Donna Brazile, Condoleezza Rice and Donna Brazile -- appeared on any Sunday morning talk show during the pertinent 18-month period.
This Week with George Stephanopoulos (ABC)
-- 73 percent (56) of the broadcasts had no interviews with black guests.
-- 9 percent (17) of the 196 interviews broadcast were with black guests. Twelve of these 17 interviews were with Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. Two of the interviews were conducted with Barack Obama during his Senate race. The other three interviews were with Alan Keyes, Rev. Wilton Gregory and former Rep. Floyd Flake. No other blacks were interviewed during the period.
-- While thirty-five current Senators and Representatives were interviewed during this period, not one black Senator or Representative was interviewed.
-- 94 percent (63) of the 67 roundtables had no black participants
-- 4 percent (7) of the 199 roundtable participants have been black. Only four black persons participated in the 67 roundtables during the 18-month period studied. In addition to Donna Brazile and Kweisi Mfume, who appeared three and two times, respectively, Tavis Smiley and football player Darrell Green participated in a discussion on drugs in sports.
Face the Nation (CBS)
-- 88 percent (67) of the broadcasts had no interviews with black guests
-- 5 percent (8) of the 164 interviews broadcast were with black guests
-- 60 percent (3) of the 5 roundtables had no black participants.
-- 20 percent (2) of the 10 roundtable participants have been black.
-- One black guest has participated in Face the Nation Roundtables in the past year: Colbert King, who appeared twice during the last two months of the period studied.
Late Edition (CNN)
-- 62 percent (48) of the 78 broadcasts had no black guests.
-- 5 percent (34) of the 662 interviews broadcast were with black guests. Thirteen of these interviews were with Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. Two of these interviews were with Shaquille O’Neal and Grant Hill, who discussed that evening’s NBA All-Star game.
Fox News Sunday (FOX)
-- 78 percent (61) of the broadcasts had no interviews with black guests
-- 7 percent (16) of the 219 interviews broadcast were with black guests. Twelve of these interviews were with Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. The other four interviews were with Rev. Wilton Gregory, J. Kenneth Blackwell, Donna Brazile and Eric Holder.
-- 9 percent (7) of the 76 roundtables had no black participants
-- 22 percent (71) of the 322 roundtable participants have been black. This program is unique in the fact that it regularly features a black roundtable participant, Juan Williams, who appeared in 71 of the 76 roundtables. However, Williams is the only black roundtable participant the program featured in the period studied.
Meet the Press (NBC)
-- 86 percent (66) of the broadcasts had no interviews with black guests
-- 7 percent (12) of the 184 interviews broadcast were with black guests. Seven of these 12 interviews were with Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. The other five interviews were with Barack Obama and Rep. Charles Rangel, both of whom appeared twice, and Kofi Annan. Of the forty six Representatives and Senators who have appeared on Meet the Press, Rep. Rangel is the only black Member of Congress to appear.
-- 85 percent (33) of the 39 Roundtables had no black participants.
-- 8 percent (9) of the 120 roundtable participants have been black. These participants were Gwen Ifill, who appeared 6 times, Eugene Robinson, who appeared twice and Rev. Al Sharpton, who appeared once.
(note 1) Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958
(note 2 ) See, e.g., “Who’s Talking? An Analysis of Sunday Morning Talk Shows,” The White House Project, December 2001. “In every category of speaker and on every topic, women were under-represented in terms of the available pool of speakers, experts, and elected officials.”
(note 3) While many of the guest appearances on Sunday morning talk shows are by Senators, Members of Congress, Administration and foreign government officials, they comprise a minority of the guests who appear on these programs. The substantial majority -- 65 percent -- of guests on these programs are journalists and non-federal government officials.
(note 4) SOURCE: Lexis/Nexis
(note 5) “The Ethnic Media in America: The Giant Hidden in Plain Sight,” Center for American Progress, LCCREF, New California Media, 2005
(note 6) Three of the five programs regularly included political roundtable discussions. One program --- Face the Nation - included roundtables in five of its 76 programs. Late Edition presented only interviews and had no political roundtable discussions.
(note 7) The fourth, FOX News Sunday featured a black roundtable participant on 71 out of 76 roundtables.
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- National Urban League Policy Institute
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