The ‘Berning’ Won’t Be Televised

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Senator Bernie Sanders has received significantly less media coverage than other candidates in the United States 2016 Presidential primary race. GDELT—an open database that monitors the world’s news media—created “2016 Campaign Television Tracker” to monitor how often each candidates’ name is mentioned on major television networks. The Campaign Television Tracker uses TV News Archive—a closed caption database—and includes stations Al Jazeera America, Bloomberg, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, FOX Business, FOX News, LinkTV, and MSNBC. According to this data, Donald Trump has been mentioned 406,453 times; Hillary Clinton’s 209,491 times; and Sander’s name 98,293 times, as of April 5, 2016.

Decision Data used TV News Archive’s data to determine what, if any, correlation there is between news coverage and Google searches. The report revealed a correlation between news-to-Google searches: When searches increase, media coverage increases; likewise, when media coverage increases, searches do as well. However their analysis “shows some candidates are being ignored and some candidates are being inexplicably preferred by the mainstream media.” The report showed that Sander’s proportion of coverage is significantly less than the other candidates’ coverage. If he were covered at the average rate, Sanders should have had 61,500 more stories, and 91,094 mentions—instead of 29,525—by January. The report also found that Clinton received a high frequency of coverage, despite no dramatic changes in polls and lower search interest.

In December 2015, Media Matters cited a Tyndall Report indicating that ABC World News dedicated 81 minutes of coverage to Trump compared to 20 seconds for Sanders. Media Matters also reported that the major nightly TV news broadcasts (NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, ABC World News) altogether dedicated 234 minutes to Trump, 110 minutes to Clinton, and 10 minutes to Sanders. Sander’s campaign cited the Tyndall Report and pointed out the lack of coverage despite having the largest rallies and just as many primary voters as Trump.

The corporate media coverage of Bernie’s blackout is limited. Callum Borchers of the Washington Post commented on the Tyndall Report, “If you’re not winning, saying outrageous things, or embroiled in an email scandal, it can be difficult to garner the attention.” The Atlantic put together an interactive graphic of GDELT’s Television Tracker in August 2015. The New York Times posted on op-ed on March 16, 2016, citing the Tyndall Report and a Huffington Post article that addressed the Bernie blackout.

Sources:  

Kalev H. Leetaru, “Analysis by the GDELT Project using data from the Internet Archive Television News Archive,” GDELT Project, April 5, 2016, http://television.gdeltproject.org/cgi-bin/iatv_campaign2016/iatv_campaign2016.

Eric Boehlert, “Report: ABC World News Tonight Has Devoted 81 Minutes To Trump, One Minute To Sanders,” Media Matters, December 11, 2015, http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/12/11/abc-world-news-tonight-has-devoted-less-than-on/207428.

Ryan Whitacker, “2016 Presidential Media Blackouts: Not Just Conspiracy,” Decision Data News, January 12, 2016, http://decisiondata.org/news/political-media-blackouts-president-2016/.

Student Researcher: Nora Kittell (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)