Diversity in Prime Time Cable News

Image from Media Matters Report

Media Matters released a study on diversity during primetime cable news programming.  It comes as no surprise, that none of the “Big 3” cable networks (CNN, Fox News, MSNBC) are meeting the mark in regards to diversity representation in their programming.  All three networks have a considerably higher representation of white male guests, hosts, and pundits far above their representation in the general population. As guests, men dominated primetime cable news programming. As noted by Media Matters:

Out of 1,670 total guests, CNN had the largest proportion of men -- 76 percent -- during the month of April. Women did not make up more than 33 percent of guests on any network.

What’s even more striking was the overwhelming percentage of white guests during primetime hours. White guests made up over 79 percent of the guests across the three cable news channels.

According to the Media Matters report, of the big 3 networks analyzed, MSNBC proved to be the most diverse; their show All In, with Chris Hayes ranks as the most diverse show in all of cable news:

All In had both the largest proportion of women and the largest proportion of non-white guests -- both 41 percent. All In also had the lowest proportion of white men -- again 41 percent. Hayes' show was the only evening cable news program to obtain such diversity.

Although All In was a standout show, all was not well among the scope of programs offered by MSNBC during their primetime lineup. The Rachael Maddow show ranks the least ethnically diverse primetime show on the network.  Out of 65 total guests in the month of April, only 7 were non-white according to the Media Matters study. 

This examination of inadequate diversity within prime time cable news, also highlights another issue within cable news programming; all too often news media host of color are often relegated to weekend time slots. Because minority voices are pushed to the weekend time slots, our perspective on current news affairs is frequently omitted from heavy discourse that occurs during primetime news broadcast altogether. What can also be drawn from this study is that the low percentage of minority political representation has a strong correlation to the deficiency of host, moderator, pundit, and guest representation on cable news.

Overall, there is a similar skew in representation in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives with limited representation of racial and gender minorities.  Therefore, it isn’t any surprise that white males are heavily over represented in cable news, which regularly relies on public officials to be guest.  We must demand more from our cable news outlets regarding diversity. Media diversity advocates and like-minded organizers must continue to bring attention to the lack of diverse voices at the most widely watched times in cable news. It is necessary for news media to have a wide variety of qualified voices to enhance the conversation for viewers and cultivate a stronger democracy.   Diversity in primetime news allows for equal representation of all points of view and offers varied perspectives, which reflects the ever-evolving demographics that make up America.