Feb 3, 2010

Is Russia Today the New CNN?

It looks like Russia Today has now become the most-watched foreign news channel in the United States, besting Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, France 24, Euronews, and China Central Television. The problem is that RT is supposed to be a news channel. The Nielsen numbers don’t shed any light on the number of viewers who watch because RT also happens to be the best comedy channel on television.

The ratings are so impressive, however, that guys like Steve Randall over at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting now argue that channels like RT "are comparable to CNN" when it comes to international reporting.


But until RT pays Dr. Sanjay Gupta to wear a pastel tie, adopt an affected British accent and tell us that a rural hospital in Magadan has just cured cancer, we’re not buying it, Steve.


Anonymous said...

This study is dubious.

According to a survey by Nielsen Media Research, many people in Washington, DC now turn to Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, France 24, Euronews, and China Central Television to get their foreign news.

That's one city. How many people?

These channels are broadcast by MhZ in Washington, DC and available to audiences who do not have cable, but a digital box and rabbit ears. Therefore, RT is broadcasting propaganda, er, news when CBS is showing inane sitcoms.

However, Russia Today easily led the pack, with a daily audience over 6.5 times bigger than that of Al Jazeera English, the second most popular source of TV news among foreign broadcasters in the U.S. after BBC.

What is the audience of Al Jazeera in numbers? RT may be 6.5 times larger, but it could still be marginal -- not really support for the claim that there is increased interest in foreign broadcasting. How can Al Jazeera be number two after the BBC if RT has a bigger audience? What is another foreign broadcaster in the U.S. aside from the Beeb and Al-Jazeera? For example, the MhZ Chinese channel is only in Mandarin, and quixotically broadcast with Chinese subtitles.

Randall, a senior analyst at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog group, thinks many people are turning to foreign media outlets because there is so little coverage devoted to foreign affairs on U.S. network and cable television news.

How many people? Back to the previous point -- those with digital boxes and rabbit ears are likely to tune into RT, not CNN, for the simple reason that they don't have CNN. How many people, besides me, do not have cable in Washington, DC?

Pirates(and)Diplomats said...

All reasons why FAIR is a bit off the mark, I fear.

The Expatresse said...

I thought rabbit ears went out last summer . . . isn't everyone in the US digital now? (You can tell how well I know my own country anymore . . .)

Leos Tomicek said...

I love the illustration. :-))