Birth Control Mandate Is A Bigger Talk Show Story
24% - The newshole devoted to the contraception debate on radio and cable talk shows
The debate in Washington over requiring religious institutions to cover contraception in health plans, as originally mandated by the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, reached something of a political climax last week. Catholic leaders, contenders for the GOP presidential nomination, and Republicans in Congress, all joined the argument denouncing the policy for infringing on religious liberties. Some went so far as to claim the White House was engaged in a war on religion.
After originally defending the mandate for promoting women’s health, the Obama Administration conceded to the pressure on February 10 and agreed to modify how the law would be implemented. Insurers would still provide contraception coverage, but religious organizations would not be involved in the costs. While the change satisfied some critics, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decided it did not go far enough.
The story reached a new level last week, filling 8% of all the news studied by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which monitors the news agenda in a sample of 52 different news outlets. The week before, it barely registered in the news.
But the controversy was not covered to the same degree everywhere. Overall, it was the No. 4 story of the week in the media generally, trailing the election (22%), violence in Syria (12%) and the economy (10%).
The contraception story generated much more attention on cable and radio talk shows. There it accounted for nearly a quarter—24%—of the newshole last week. The only story to generate more news was the presidential election (36%).
By comparison, the story received the least attention on the front pages of newspapers (<1%), and it accounted for 5% of the top stories on news websites. Even on the three cable news channels the numbers varied. It filled 22% of the time on MNSBC, 15% on Fox and 4% on CNN.
Tricia Sartor of PEJ