Media coverage of baby vs music vs politics

August 9th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

iSentia blogged:

It’s often argued that in the modern news cycle the mainstream (MSM) can downplay “hard news” issues in favour of lighter topics that appeal to a celebrity obsessed culture. This is said to decrease coverage of “hard news” topics when they are forced to contend with “distractions” for agenda dominance.

The GCSB Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament, would grant broad powers for the Government Communications Security Bureau to spy on New Zealanders, while at present their remit extends only to foreign intelligence. This is controversial, and it is widely agreed that the GCSB Amendment Bill constitutes an unusually large imposition of state power. At the 27 July “Stop the GCSB Bill” protest in Wellington, a speaker cited the MSM’s reluctance to cover the GCSB Amendment Bill as one of the barriers to its opponents mobilising against it.

So the GCSB bill is a serious “hard news” topic of major public interest, and recently it has had to contend with “distractions” like the birth of the “Royal Baby” Prince George, and the high-rating talent show X Factor. To see whether the MSM did indeed ignore the GCSB story, I compared nine weeks of New Zealand press, broadcast and internet news coverage of these three issues, comprising almost 5,000 unique media items.* This is a quantitative analysis – no assessments were made about the tone or accuracy or completeness of coverage, or whether it tended to support any ideological position. That’s another project. Here we’re just looking at the media space given to each issue across news media outlets.

This is what I found.

GCSB led by volume, with more than half the coverage. In terms of reach, the Royal Baby was the winner in the end, garnering close to 50% of the total audience due to extensive syndication on commercial radio and television coverage in late July. The GCSB story was much more prevalent in press and low-audience internet media. By either metric, X Factor coverage was the lowest by a considerable distance.

So good to see the hard news story did get more stories than the silly stuff.
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8 Responses to “Media coverage of baby vs music vs politics”

  1. kowtow (8,323 comments) says:

    I’m not surprised the GCSB bill led by volume,theMSM did make a lot of noise about it.Mainly around Vance and Dunne.But there’s precious little serious content or analysis.

    Same with Prince George,lots of oh ahh,very little around the Constitution,which is what the real issue was.

    In short, our media(generally) are a bunch of screaming girls.

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  2. Manolo (13,580 comments) says:

    It can be said that for the verbally incontinent P.G. there is no other issue than the GSCB.

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  3. JeffW (326 comments) says:

    I suspect this analysis is bollocks. Firstly, it is connected to the MSM itself. Secondly, the coverage has tended to be anti-National, hence in line with the MSM’s bias. In addition, where are the other “hard news” stories about the melons communist tendencies; the “hard news” stories about Labour’s lurch to the left, the “hard news” stories about unsustainable government expenditure, etc.

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  4. Than (463 comments) says:

    The volume statistic is probably distorted in the GCSB case, since the MSM themselves were involved and they wanted to write as many stories as they could about their outrage. It would be interesting to see the study repeated, but with the “hard news” story being something the media themselves don’t have a direct stake in.

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  5. graham (2,333 comments) says:

    Than – absolutely. The GCSB bill has received huge coverage from the MSM due to huge self-interest.

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  6. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    The GCSB is not hard news , its a beat up of huge proportions.. to quote Graham at 12.49

    The GCSB bill has received huge coverage from the MSM due to huge self-interest

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  7. All_on_Red (1,581 comments) says:

    Of course its prominent. What do you expect? Any chance for the media to put the boot into Key, they will do it. They know that only a few % points swing and National are in trouble.
    Biased self serving pricks.

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  8. Harriet (4,854 comments) says:

    “…..Media coverage of baby vs music vs politics….”

    Yeah but…….each and every week…….hundreds of babies are aborted in NZ!

    You’d think that abortion would make the MSM headlines most weeks given the abortion rate, and there is also currently a huge interest in the arguements ‘for and against’ in Texas abortion law, but it doesn’t make the headlines, which of course then means that the MSM ‘makes the news’ – or in the case of dead babies – ‘doesn’t make the news’. Shameful really.

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