Nets Downplay Economic Growth, Spend Just 52 Seconds on 2017 GDP

The U.S. economy grew at a 3.3 percent rate in the third quarter, according to the latest estimate from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released Nov. 29.

Guess how much time ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows gave that good economic news?

None.

The rate announcement was slightly higher than expectations from some Wall Street economists, according to Business Insider. But unlike Business Insider, Bloomberg and others, the network evening shows entirely ignored the major economic measure the night of Nov. 29.

Network silence about good economic news has happened a lot since President Donald Trump took office — especially when it came to gross domestic product (GDP) reports. 2017 GDP estimates started coming out in April, but since then less than a minute of evening news coverage was spent reporting them on ABC World News with David Muir and CBS Evening News. NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt didn’t spent any time on them at all.

The BEA releases GDP estimates each month like clockwork, revising each a few times before issuing the final rate of quarterly growth.

Shockingly, there were only three combined mentions of GDP on nights that the BEA issued a new estimate, providing network viewers with a mere 52 seconds of news on the state of the American economy. Thirty-four of those seconds aired on CBS Evening News, 18 seconds on ABC World News with David Muir.

Both networks reported the first estimate of 2017 quarterly economic growth on April 28, which was a “disappointing” 0.7 percent, according to World News with David Muir. Evening News made sure to point out that it would make Trump’s promise of getting annual economic growth to 3 or 4 percent very difficult.

CBS fill-in anchor Anthony Mason declared, “He has his work cut out for him.”

That disappointing rate was the BEA’s very first estimate (called the "advance" estimate), and it was later revised up. THe final reading for the quarter was 1.2 percent. None of the revision announcements were reported by the evening news shows.

On July 28, Evening News covered the GDP report again following the 2.6 percent initial estimate of second quarter growth. That night, Mason said the “economy is picking up” and pointed out it was “more than double the first quarter rate.”

However, when that was revised up again in August to an “impressive” 3 percent (which even the liberal New York Times admitted was a “substantial acceleration”) the networks were silent. Again, the rate was revised upward and finalized at 3.1 percent by October 2017, but the evening shows’ silence prevailed.

In October, all three evening news programs ignored the story again when the BEA estimated third quarter growth was 3 percent. U.S. News & World Report said the economy was showing “resilience” to the hurricanes, and Business Insider exclaimed, “GDP hits 3%, crushing estimates despite hurricanes.”

Now November’s GDP report can be added to that already long list of economic news censored by the network evening news shows this year.

Methodology: MRC Business watched ABC World News, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News each night on the days the BEA released GDP estimates between April 28, 2017 (the first estimate for Q1 2017) through Nov. 29, 2017 (first estimate of Q3 2017). CBS Evening News brief coverage on Jan. 27, was not included because it pertained to Q4 of 2016. Nexis transcripts were also analyzed to confirm results.


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Economy ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Anthony Mason David Muir
Julia A. Seymour's picture