MediaMatters did an important recent report on the rather extreme racial and gender bias in the distribution of experts/guests who appeared on three major cable news networks (Fox, CNN, MSNBC) during the prime-time hours for one whole month (May 2008). Examining nearly 1700 guest appearances, they found that
67 percent of the guests on these cable programs were men, while 84 percent were white. MSNBC showed the greatest gender imbalance, with 70 percent of its guests being male. CNN and Fox News were not far behind; each of those networks featured 65 percent male guests
It comes as no surprise as to who had the worst record, the most monolithic guest roster:
Fox News was the whitest network, with 88 percent white guests. CNN and MSNBC were close behind, with both featuring 83 percent white guests.
The representation of Latinos, who now makeup 14-15 percent of the U.S. population, was very poor. They
made up only 2.7 percent of cable news guests. The worst of the three networks on this score was MSNBC, which featured only six Latino guests out of 460 prime-time appearances during the entire month.
Asian Americans and Middle Eastern Americans were all but invisible on the networks:
During the month of May, Fox News and MSNBC each featured a single Asian-American guest. Across the three cable networks, there were only four appearances by guests of Middle Eastern descent, two on Fox and two on CNN.
And not one Native American was a guest on any of the networks during that whole month. However, the affirmative action “quota” for white men on the programs was quite high, as it has been for centuries:
Though white men make up only 32 percent of the population, they made up 57 percent of the guests on prime-time cable during this period.
And Americans of color as a group were only represented at about half their proportion in the U.S. population. Again, not surprisingly:
Every prime-time cable news host is white, and all but two . . . are men.
It is interesting how just how “diverse” the U.S. cable new media really are not. In effect, the communications networks called the “mass media” are part of a larger white-dominated societal networking system.
In recent decades white elites—especially white male elites—have continued to dominate the construction and transmission of new or refurbished racial ideas and images designed to buttress the system of racial inequality, and they have used ever more powerful means to accomplish their ends. The mass media now include not only the radio, movies, and print media used in the past, but television, music videos, satellite transmissions, and the Internet. Given that most whites have little recurring, sustained, or equal-status contact with African Americans and other darker-skinned Americans, their views of such groups are significantly reinforced and created by those of their informal networks and those racial stereotypes in the white-generated media images of the still white-controlled mass media. (See here)