ABC, NBC, CBS spent more time covering border crisis in April than previous five months combined, study

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ABC, NBC and CBS spent more evening airtime covering the crisis along the southern border in April than they did during the previous five months combined, according to a new study. 

The conservative Media Research Center examined evening newscasts on ABC, NBC and CBS from November through March and the border crisis was only covered for 14 minutes combined over the five-month period. Much of the 14 minutes was about whether President Biden was going to end Title 42, which has been used since March 2020 to expel a majority of migrants at the southern border due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and not the crisis itself, according to NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck. 

In April, the Department of Homeland Security reported there were 234,088 migrants encountered at the southern border, the highest number in the Department of Homeland Security’s history, as Title 42 was set to expire.

From April 1-30, “NBC Nightly News” devoted 13 minutes and 30 seconds to the border crisis, nearly topping the previous six months of coverage from the trio of networks combined. “CBS Evening News” managed to spend seven minutes and 30 seconds on the story, and ABC’s “World News Tonight” spent five minutes and 57 seconds on the surge of migrants. 


ABC, NBC, CBS spent more time covering border crisis in April than previous five months combined, study

ABC, NBC and CBS spent more time covering the border crisis in April alone than they did during the previous five months combined, according to the Media Research Center. 
(Photo Illustration)

Houck, whose team at NewsBusters – a project of the Media Research Center — conducted the study, feels the reason why the border crisis hasn’t received more attention is simple. 

“It reflects poorly on the administration. Americans understand – it doesn’t take a lot to understand the fact that, you know, the federal government is in charge of one’s borders. That goes for any country. And the fact that things are so porous, regardless of the circumstances or the reason for people wanting to illegally immigrate to the United States, it reflects poorly on the president in power, no matter who it is,” Houck told Fox News Digital. 

“And the fact that it hasn’t been going well under Joe Biden’s watch means that the media are going to do everything they can to try and cover it up. They’d much rather talk about other issues, or if they do talk about it, they’d rather talk about contrived fake stories such as the fake horsewhip story. Or again, talk about Title 42 in context of COVID, not in terms of context of immigration and border crossings,” Houck continued. “They’d much rather talk about really anything else.” 


Houck noted that it’s not a complete media blackout, as there has been some coverage, but he feels it would be handled differently if the president weren’t a Democrat. 

“We’re getting stories here, we’re getting stories there, but it’s not a consistent drumbeat that you would normally see… if it were under a Republican president,” Houck said. 

ABC, NBC, CBS spent more time covering border crisis in April than previous five months combined, study

NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck feels coverage of the crisis along the southern border would be more thorough if President Biden wasn’t a Democrat.  
(Reuters / Getty Images)

Houck’s team, with MRC research director Scott Whitlock at the helm, combed through months of content to determine how little coverage the border emergency has received.

“We look at all of them to find stories via transcripts, via watching them, through use of Nexis to watch all of these shows and look at ones that focus on immigration,” he said. “And if it focuses on immigration, or is tied to immigration, we time it out and it’s really that simple… that’s how we come up with these large numbers and very precise numbers with minutes and seconds, as opposed to speaking in big generalities.” 


Title 42 was due to expire on Monday but Judge Robert Summerhays temporarily blocked the Center for Disease Control’s move to end the public health order. He sided with Republican arguments that the order was lifted in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), and that it would hurt the states by increasing costs related to healthcare, driving licenses and education. He said it would also increase migrant numbers at the border. Houck believes coverage of the border will likely “continue to be minimized” as long as Title 42 remains in place but he’s hopeful ABC, NBC and CBS will come around. 

“It’s incumbent upon these broadcast networks to cover all sorts of stories. You know, they have the resources to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time… the border is something that Americans care about because it has a trickle-down effect. Most chiefly among them, crime and the illegal drug trade, specifically fentanyl,” Houck said. “Those sorts of things affect Americans, are killing Americans.”

ABC, NBC, CBS spent more time covering border crisis in April than previous five months combined, study

Coverage of the border crisis picked up as Title 42 was set to expire.
(John Moore/Getty Images)

Houck is aware there are “a million things going on in the world,” but feels the border crisis should be among the top priorities for series news organizations. 

“Based on our study, you’re not seeing that right now,” he said. 


Many younger observers dismiss newscasts on ABC, NBC and CBS as “old relics of past eras,” Houck said, but he noted they continue to attract large audiences on a nightly basis and many Americans still rely on them for news. 

Last week, ABC’s “World News Tonight” averaged 7.4 million viewers, “NBC Nightly News” averaged 6.1 million and “CBS Evening News” managed 4.5 million, according to TVNewser.

“That’s a lot of people, that is far more than CNN or MSNBC, you know, daily subscribers to The New York Times, the physical print copy,” Houck said. “These broadcast networks, there are still a large audience for them, and over 7 million people on the leading newscast is not something to dismiss.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report. 


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