Supported Browser
  • About Us
  • Subscribe
  • Contact us
Marketing - BLOG

Honesty’s price: CNN and Media bias

Miklos Sarvary |

A recent article in The Economist (Sept 21, 2012), “Unbiased and unloved” reports the stagnation of CNN’s viewership relative to its competitors. According to data from Nielsen, from 1998-2012, CNN’s daily viewership in the US has been relatively flat averaging 0.5 million viewers while its competitors, Fox News and MSNBC show steady growth. More painfully even, in the last few months, there is a decline for CNN while its competitors benefit – as expected – from the election period. Fox News has over a million daily users while MSNBC has just passed CNN at over 0.4 million.

The article attributes this decline to CNN’s lack of political bias. While CNN clearly provides high quality news, often being the first to identify scoops, its commentaries are well balanced and this does not entertain the audiences. Indeed, there is plenty of research showing that people want to hear what they already believe, so an elaborate and objective political argument will appear boring to them. This may well explain the slow decline of viewership and is perfectly consistent with recent economic research on media bias.

What to do however? Should CNN also become a biased news provider. For one, it would likely lean on the left to compete head on with MSNBC. The two channels already share the same number of viewers as Fox News, so increased head-on competition wouldn’t help CNN’s case. Instead, CNN decided to experiment with diversifying its program offering by providing documentaries on top of news, but again, is this really a good idea when competition in that area (e.g. HBO) is far more sophisticated and already provides a broad set of alternatives?

I believe that the solution lies in debates! The channel could be an impartial platform for political debates between advocates of both the right and the left. There is nothing more entertaining than a good fight and, if it is organized well, the channel can make sure that the political affinity of the winner alternates, thus retaining its unique impartial positioning. A great example of this approach is the highly successful Munk debates series. In any case, it would be a pity to lose the unique honest news channel in the U.S. especially in these trying times in U.S. politics.

Add a comment Already a member?
We welcome your comments and encourage lively debate. However, to ensure the quality of discussion, our moderators reserve the right not to publish personal attacks, abusive comments or overly promotional content. You can view our Terms & Conditions
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Your Privacy

INSEAD takes your privacy very seriously. For this reason, we inform you that the data collected via the form above is processed electronically for the purpose(s) specified in this form and will not be used outside this framework. In accordance with the Data Protection Act of 6 January 1978 amended by the GDPR, you are granted statutory rights of access, modification, update, deletion and limitation of treatment of your personal data. You may exercise these rights at any time by writing or sending an email to INSEAD at [email protected]. You have the right, on legitimate grounds, to object to the collection and processing of your personal information. For more information, please see our privacy policy.