TV news viewers are decreasing—despite significant events on domestic and international fronts.
“American soldiers are dying in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Iraq almost daily, questions are continuing to swirl around the Bush administration’s case for the March invasion and United States Marines are poised off the coast of Liberia,” wrote Jim Rutenberg in a recent article in the New York Times.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“At home, decisions by the Supreme Court prompted national debates on affirmative action and gay rights, a basketball star stands accused of sexual assault and the California governorship suddenly hangs in the balance,” he continued. “And yet, television news viewers are tuning out.”
Broadcast TV news audiences are lower this summer than two years ago, when stories of shark attacks and Chandra Levy ruled the airwaves, Rutenberg wrote.
NBC has managed to avoid the ratings downturn, but both ABC and CBS have lost noticeable viewership, with “CBS Evening News” garnering its worst rating in more than a decade in June.
The Times also reported, based on figures from Nielsen Media Research, that Fox News Channel had increased its viewership, but that cable news counterparts CNN and MSNBC had lost viewers.
With TV news ratings generally in the tank, some have started to offer theories as to why.
“I’m not sure that national import and national interest always correspond,” Jack Wakshlag told the Times. Wakshlag is head of research for the Turner Broadcasting System, which manages CNN.
But Rutenberg referenced expert TV news tracker Andrew Tyndall, who said that NBC and Fox News have covered the Iraq war more than other outlets, thus disputing the claim that Americans don’t care about current events.