Veteran international reporter, Jim Lobe, recently put together some eye-opening perspective on the state of world news coverage on American television. Citing the respected Tyndall Report, Lobe reports that “foreign-related news coverage by the three major U.S. television networks fell to a record low during 2008.”
Taking at look at this chart on the Tyndall Report site, you can see a steady decline in international coverage by the networks over the past decade. From a combined total about 2500 minutes in 1998, the networks dropped down to about 1900 total minutes of world news coverage in 2008.
Lobe also cites a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that some 70 percent of the public in 2008 relied on television as a main source for national and international news last year.
The conclusion couldn’t be clearer – or more troublesome. Americans’ main resource for world news is giving them less and less coverage with each passing year.
And that’s only half the story. The same Tyndall Report chart also shows that the most-covered international story by far in 2008 was the Summer Olympic Games. The Games were an important event, for sure. But they certainly didn’t have significant impact on the urgent issues shaping our world today. Subtract coverage of the Games from the total time the networks dedicated to international news coverage and the picture looks dimmer still.
Lobe quotes Moises Naim, editor of the prestigious Foreign Policy magazine: “It’s ironic and paradoxical that at a time when we have a financial crisis that is global in nature, this country is fighting two wars, and the destinies of the population is more than ever linked to events that happen beyond the national borders of the United States, that the networks decide to cut back their foreign coverage.”
Perhaps the real irony is that the struggling network news divisions are using their balance sheets to justify cutbacks in foreign news bureaus. But as Naim suggests, those cuts come at a great expense. If America is to work its way out of this global financial crisis and maintain its leadership position in the world, Americans are surely going to need to be equipped with an understanding of the forces affecting us all in our global community.
This is where we at WNET.ORG are playing a vital role. With its nightly nationwide 26-minute broadcast, our Worldfocus series adds 6760 minutes of dedicated international news coverage to American television every year. In other words, we’ve more than tripled the combined coverage of the three major networks. And that’s not even considering that Worldfocus has a 24/7 website with regular updates and additional coverage.
For a nation facing historic challenges in an increasingly interconnected world, ignoring international news is not an option. With Worldfocus, we’re bringing world news home to America – just in the nick of time.