Last week, the Massachusetts Senate race boosted Fox News to a major ratings win, beating out the USA Network, the longtime top-ranked basic cable network in prime time. The LA Times’ Matea Gold notes that “in prime time, the network’s focus was on politics far more than Haiti.” Fox News Executive Vice President for Programming Bill Shine responded by attacking other networks, especially CNN, for covering Haiti at the expense of “big stories in America”:
But in prime time, the network’s focus was on politics far more than Haiti. According to a news analysis by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, Fox News devoted 44% of its airtime to the Senate race and 16% to Haiti.
That was the case for MSNBC’s left-leaning prime-time commentators as well: The network spent 51% of its airtime on the Senate race and just 11% on Haiti. CNN chose the opposite route, devoting 67% of prime time to Haiti and 19% to the election.
“Look, what happened in Haiti was just horrific,” said Shine, who said the network devoted significant resources to covering the story and showcased the coverage throughout the day. “But there are also some big stories in America that we chose not to ignore the way that other networks seemed to.”
Fox News was one of the few networks that chose to not broadcast the Hope for Haiti Now benefit concert. Instead, Bill O’Reilly aired a segment about Sarah and Bristol Palin’s “body language” during their Oprah interview and Sean Hannity conducted an interview with Karl Rove on the Obama administration’s approval ratings and health care reform.