Does the rest of the world exist for US news broadcasters?


A randomised sample of 100 stories analysed from cable news outlet MSNBC revealed only three that covered world affairs.

A recent report from Columbia Journalism Review analysed coverage of global issues at one of the big three US cable news outlets, and what it found was damning.

Editor of online magazine Popula Maria Bustillos combed through 100 stories posted on news channel MSNBC’s YouTube page in October and found that just three were linked to world affairs.

Even then, it was really one: the stabbing death of UK Conservative MP Sir David Amess, which was covered in two clips. The third was on South Dakota’s role as a global money laundering capital, as was detailed in the Pandora Papers.

Meanwhile, there were six different clips dedicated to the topic of actor William Shatner’s Blue Origin space ride alone.

Diehard viewers of the network would “learn virtually nothing of events taking place outside the United States, which is where 7.57 billion of the earth’s 7.9 billion people live,” Bustillos wrote emphatically.

She also pointed to how MSNBC covered the question of NBA player Kyrie Irving’s refusal to be vaccinated, just as the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow was around the corner.

One of the few international stories to grab attention recently was the takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan. But even then, mainstream media’s coverage of it has been problematic.

“Cable news explained nothing to its audience about the facts on the ground in Afghanistan, preferring to turn the withdrawal of US troops into a political circus starring the nascent Biden administration,” Bustillos noted.

More glaring is that Asia did not make it onto the radar of a single story from the randomised sample.

With the US experiencing an inflation crisis that is directly connected to port and supply chain issues in Asia, and increasing climate-related disasters related to increased greenhouse gas emissions in Asian countries, what happens in Asia often impacts lives not just in the US but around the world.

“The United States does not exist in a vacuum, and there are a lot of reasons why an intelligent person wants to know as much as possible about our world and everyone in it,” Bustillos added.

Yet, especially in the US, its news media is failing to inform the public about a significant portion of the world to a worrying degree – outside of stories that tap into the bipartisan consensus around the ascendant US-China rivalry.

This ultimately highlights how the American media ecosystem operates writ large: when the rest of the world is invoked, it is generally because US interests are directly or tangentially at stake.

As former Canadian news broadcaster Catherine Cano once wrote, American broadcasters “don’t cover international news, they cover American international stories.”

The most-watched US cable news channel is Fox News, followed by MSNBC and CNN.

Fox News averages more than 1.49 million total primetime viewers, while MSNBC has 1.20 million viewers and CNN has 676,000 viewers.

Source: TRT World



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