In a mere three days, the Big Three network morning shows have devoted more coverage to the birth of the British royal baby then they gave to news of the IRS scandal since that story broke 74 days ago.
Since Monday morning, ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today show and CBS This Morning deluged American viewers with 187 minutes worth of hype about another country's monarchy. In contrast, the same programs provided only 157 minutes, over ten and a half weeks, for a serious political scandal.
NBC, ABC and CBS began reporting on the IRS harassment of Tea Party groups back on May 11 and have averaged two minutes and six seconds of coverage per day (two hours and 36 minutes total). Since the Duchess went into labor Monday morning, those same shows cranked out about three hours, eight minutes of coverage, or an average of 62 minutes, 35 seconds per day (for all three networks).. That translates to a rate of coverage 34 times more intensive for the royal baby than for the royal mess in Obama's IRS. [See graph below.]
Just this week, ABC committed more than twice as much airtime (62 minutes) to the royal baby than it has to the IRS scandal since May 11 (just under 24 minutes). NBC's baby coverage (just under 100 minutes) nearly doubled the 52 minutes they have devoted to the IRS.
For its part, CBS has given more overall coverage to the IRS scandal (one hour, 20 minutes), compared to just under 26 minutes for the royal baby. But even then, CBS's daily coverage of the IRS amounts to just 65 seconds a day -- better than ABC (19 seconds per day) or NBC (42 seconds per day), but a far cry from their coverage of the new prince this week (an average of six minutes, 16 seconds per day).
In fact, none of the broadcast network morning shows has even mentioned the IRS scandal since June 28. New developments, such as the IRS snooping into 2010 Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell's tax records (and the mysterious destruction of the related computer records) have gone unnoticed, as have revelation that IRS employees were ordered by superiors to send data on the Tea Party to then-chief counsel (and Obama appointee) William Wilkins (although CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley raised that with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in an interview Wednesday night).
No one is suggesting that the networks shouldn't devote time to a ratings-friendly subject such as the birth of the royal baby. After all, GMA, Today and CBS This Morning have a largely female audience who are very interested in Prince William, his wife and new son.
However, the supposedly serious evening newscasts, Nightly News, World News and the CBS Evening News, led their programs Tuesday night with the royal birth.
The point is clear: When the networks want to devote energy, manpower and resources to a topic (such as this new baby), they can. The IRS scandal – and its possible danger to Barack Obama – isn't a subject these programs care about.
[Thanks to MRC interns Nathan Roush, Jeffrey Meyer and Paul Bremmer for research assistance.]