NBC and ABC Opposing Reports on Same Story

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on February 17, 2010

NBC’s Nightly News and ABC’s World News on Tuesday provided drastically different reports on the Obama administration’s announced plans to build the country’s first new nuclear power plant in 30 years. Nightly News host Brian Williams showcased liberal concern and fretted, “…[Obama’s] critics are openly wondering what it is he’s up to.

The segment by correspondent Anne Thompson attacked Obama from the left on the plans for the “controversial” new plant. She highlighted Friend of the Earth CEO Erich Pica complaining, “There are reactors across this country that have tons of waste just sitting there, waiting for something to happen.”

Over on World News, however, reporter Jake Tapper actually included a former anti-nuclear activist, Dr. Patrick Moore, to argue for the power plants. Tapper first explained that “plant design and equipment requirements have been upgraded. Plants are now required to be able to shut down automatically.”

He then featured a clip of Moore, a former founder of Greenpeace: “You look at the actual figures, you have to expect that nuclear industry is generally one of the safest industries we have.”

Both ABC and NBC displayed concerns about safety.

However, only the World News correspondent informed viewers on how Americans feel about the issue: “According to a recent poll, 52 percent of the American people now support the construction of new nuclear power plants, and that’s a majority of Republicans, but a minority of Democrats, who oppose nuclear power.”

Tapper pointed out that perceptions of nuclear power in the U.S. have changed and become less negative. One reason Americans might have had a low opinion of such power plants was the relentlessly negative coverage from the media. In the book, The New Media Elite, authors S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman and Linda Lichter looked at nuclear power coverage from 1970 to 1983.

They explained the findings [Emphasis added]:

…A substantial majority of television stories displayed spin, and the anti-nuclear side predominated by a margin greater than two to one. The individual networks ranged from a two to one negative margin at CBS (40 to 19 percent) to three to one at NBC (47 to 15 percent).