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Truthiness! Fox going light on scandal coverage

Fox News Channel has paid almost no attention to the phone-hacking scandal consuming its parent company compared with rival 24-hour news networks, a study confirms.
Image: Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch
News Corporation Chief Rupert Murdoch and his son James as they give evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee on the phone hacking scandal on Tuesday.Parbul / AFP - Getty Images file

Many media analysts and even casual observers have noticed that the phone-hacking scandal dominating headlines in Britain and the United States has been a somewhat smaller story in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Now comes proof in the form of a study that found cable channels MSNBC and CNN dedicated five or six times more airtime to the topic than News Corp.'s Fox News Channel.

The study, by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, analyzed four hours of daily prime time television and one hour of daytime programming from July 6 through 8 and July 11 through 15, peak days for the exploding scandal over phone hacking by reporters at the British tabloid News of the World.

"We thought we would take a very clear, empirical look at how much coverage Fox, MSNBC and CNN have given it," said Mark Jurkowitz, associate director of the project.

The study found that during the time period studied, CNN and MSNBC each devoted roughly 16 minutes per night to the topic, compared with only three minutes on Fox.

In daytime coverage, CNN spent about four minutes per hour on the scandal, while MSNBC spent about half that much time. The total at Fox was closer to 30 seconds per hour.

All three channels carried live daytime coverage of Tuesday's hearing before the British Parliament, where Murdoch and his son James appeared.

Calls to Fox News Channel's media relations department were not returned by publication time.

(MSNBC cable is a unit of NBC Universal, which jointly owns with Microsoft.)

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal, which has covered the scandal, defended Murdoch and its parent company News Corp. in a strident editorial.

"It is also worth noting the irony of so much moral outrage devoted to a single media company, when British tabloids have been known for decades for buying scoops and digging up dirt on the famous," the Journal said.

The Journal's chief executive officer Les Hinton, a top News Corp. official who worked for Murdoch for 52 years, was forced to resign because of his role overseeing News of the World, which was shut down July 10.

The relatively light coverage on Fox has provided fodder for news pundits and comedians including Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show."

One episode that was noticed was a segment on the Fox News show "Fox & Friends" in which guest Bob Dilenschneider of the Dilenschneider Group compared hacking cases involving Citicorp and Bank of America with that of News Corp.

Eric Wemple of the Washington Post pointed out that Dilenschneider is comparing the banks, who were victims of hacking, to News Corp., which allegedly employed phone hackers.

"We expect a light touch when News Corp. (sort of) covers News Corp.," Wemple wrote. "But at least get the logic right!"