Nieman Foundation at Harvard University Media Nation UMass Boston

July 29, 2004

Front Page
By the Numbers


About Us
Contact Us

Boston Globe

Resources for
Media Watchdogs

By The Numbers

Viewers Flee Conventions Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The national television audience for political conventions has erroded substantially over the years, and the Big Three networks have responded by cutting hours of coverage they devote to them. At the same time, the rise of the all-news cable networks has attracted an increasing share of the TV audience.

Source: CBS. 1988 to 1996 cable network numbers are for CNN only.
2000 cable network numbers include CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

Network Coverage Takes The Plunge Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Convention coverage on NBC, CBS and ABC has plunged since the 1960s to just three hours for each national political convention this year. According to a Harvard study, each broadcast network's coverage peaked at 36 hours in 1968, partly because of the riots in Chicago that disrupted the Democratic Convention. In 1972, ABC broadcast other programs such as movies during prime-time hours, according to the center's Thomas Patterson, but he noted that ABC later returned to more complete coverage. Patterson attributes the big fall-off in 1988 to declining ad revenue and the rise of CNN, the sole cable news network at the time.

Source: Vanishing Voter Project, The Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press Politics & Public Policy, Harvard University

Not Much Nourishment Monday, July 26, 2004

Americans continue to cite network television news programs on the Big Three (NBC, CBS and ABC) as a major source of political news, but as this chart demonstrates, they are getting a slender diet. The time the nets have devoted to campaign coverage sank from 1,728 minutes in the run-up to the 1988 Dukakis-Bush conventions to 967 just eight years later. NBC Nightly News made the biggest cuts. Where once the networks seemed inspired by their public-service mission, lately their news judgments seem motivated more by audience tastes. Studies show that young people, the prime target for today’s demographic-driven news, shun politics.



Source: ADT Research. Weekday network nightly news campaign coverage since Labor Day of the previous year (in minutes)



Media Nation TM © 2004 University of Massachusetts Boston and
Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. Legal notice