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CNN Gives Candidates the Most Rope While FOX Has the Tightest Leash at GOP Debates

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FOX debate moderators speak at a 65 percent higher rate than those at CNN

cnnlogo10.pngThe Republican presidential debate season may have wrapped up Wednesday evening with the CNN-moderated gathering in Mesa, Arizona.

That debate, moderated by Jon King, continued a season-long pattern for the network of a relatively laissez-faire approach to the debates.

Let the candidates talk.

A Smart Politics study of the 17 debates conducted since the field first peaked at eight major candidates last fall finds a stark contrast between the networks in their role as moderators, with FOX moderators speaking 65 percent more than those at CNN.

The moderators for the six debates conducted by CNN since September (which alternated between Wolf Blitzer, Jon King, and Anderson Cooper), spoke for only 15.9 percent of the candidate-moderator share of the broadcast - less than any other media outlet.

By contrast, the moderators at the three FOX debates conducted during the last six months spoke for 26.2 percent of the time, with candidates at just 73.8 percent.

Overall, CNN debates saw candidates speak at a ratio of 5.12 minutes for every 1 minute of moderator speaking time.

At FOX candidates were allowed to speak for just 2.76 minutes for every 1 minute given to the moderators.

That translates into FOX moderators filling air time with an additional six minutes and 11 seconds of every hour of debate vis-à-vis those conducted by CNN.

Sandwiched in between these two networks were ABC (4.80 minutes for candidates to every 1 minute for moderators) and NBC (3.56 to 1).

The remaining debates hosted by Bloomberg / Washington Post (4.03 to 1), CBS / National Journal (3.38 to 1), and CNBC (2.91 to 1) averaged 3.42 to 1 collectively.

Candidate-Moderator Share of Speaking Time in 17 GOP Presidential Debates Since September by Network

Outlet
Candidates
Moderators
% Cand.
% Mod.
Ratio
CNN
461 min. 42 sec.
90 min. 14 sec.
84.1
15.9
5.12
ABC
137 min. 01 sec.
28 min. 32 sec.
82.8
17.2
4.80
NBC
188 min. 47 sec.
53 min. 05 sec.
78.1
21.9
3.56
Other*
196 min. 22 sec.
57 min. 22 sec.
77.5
22.5
3.42
FOX
208 min. 39 sec.
75 min. 38 sec.
73.8
26.2
2.76
* Other media outlets include those which hosted just one debate during this span: Bloomberg/Washington Post, CNBC, and CBS/National Journal. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Of the 17 debates conducted since last September, CNN debates ranked #1 (Florida, January 26th), #2 (Nevada, October 18th), #3 (Washington, D.C., November 22nd), #4 (Arizona, February 22nd), #6 (South Carolina, January 19th), and #10 (Florida, September 12th) for the largest share of candidate speaking time.

CNN's laissez-faire handling of the debates resulted in some of the bloodiest (and most memorable) moments on stage this primary season, such as the Romney-Perry battle in Nevada, the Romney-Gingrich bout in the last Florida debate, and the Romney-Santorum clash in Arizona on Wednesday.

(Perhaps the much-discussed and very slick "let's-get-ready-to-rumble" roll out candidate profiles produced by CNN introducing their debates were a sign of things to come.)

The three FOX debates, meanwhile, ranked at the bottom at #13 (South Carolina, January 16th), #16 (Iowa, December 15th), and #17 (Florida, September 22nd) for candidate speaking time.

Candidate-Moderator Share of Speaking Time by Debate Since September

Rank
Debate
Outlet
Cand.*
Mod.*
% Cand.
% Mod.
Ratio
1
FL #4
CNN
4,913
812
86.2
13.8
6.05
2
NV
CNN
4,563
801
85.3
14.7
5.70
3
DC
CNN
4,518
843
85.2
14.8
5.36
4
AZ
CNN
4,771
897
84.3
15.7
5.32
5
NH #3
ABC
3,989
764
83.9
16.1
5.22
6
SC #4
CNN
4,793
1,003
82.8
17.2
4.78
7
IA #2
ABC
4,232
948
81.7
18.3
4.46
8
FL #3
NBC
3,918
935
80.7
19.3
4.19
9
NH #2
Bloomberg / Washington Post
4,369
1,084
80.1
19.9
4.03
10
FL #1
CNN
4,144
1,058
80.3
19.7
3.92
11
SC #2
CBS / National Journal
3,326
984
77.5
22.5
3.38
12
CA
NBC / POLITICO
4,342
1,294
77.0
23.0
3.36
13
SC #3
FOX
4,270
1,316
76.6
23.4
3.24
14
NH #4
NBC
3,067
956
76.2
23.8
3.21
15
MI
CNBC
4,087
1,374
75.0
25.0
2.97
16
IA #3
FOX
4,374
1,647
72.6
27.4
2.66
17
FL #2
FOX
3,875
1,575
72.1
27.9
2.46
 
 
Total
71,551
18,291
79.9
20.1
3.91
* Denotes number of seconds. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

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Previous post: Santorum Given the Most Airtime at Arizona GOP Debate
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4 Comments


  • No surprise - The FOX folks seem significantly more 'in the know' w/less 'gotcha' questions. AC & GS (imagine Karl Rove being a moderator - it would NEVER be down) being the most blatant.

  • This is the most worthless study, it does not take in to account how many candidates at each debate, nor does it mention which network actually asked the most questions.

    cnn and abc asked questions that promoted the candidates to attack each other or at the very least comment on personal attacks each had made during the campaignso of course this type of back and forth is going to allow the candidates more time to as cnn hopes muddy up themselves or step in it.

    fox asked questions about current events and received answers that were with in the tme aloted,

    cn was just a free for all where some candidate hardly got involved at all as they were not singled out by another candidate for attack.

  • I was a FOX watcher for years, I remember going over to my friends home just to watch Bill O', because we believed he and Fox news was right on everything. Now we have opened our eyes and see nothing but lies. Bill O' has lost it and as well as FOX NEWS. They are nothing more then neo-con's in patriot's clothing. Don't think you got away from me noticing you either CNN, you're just a big LIBERAL controlled media outlet as well.

    FREEDOM from the lie's by the news media outlet is all we americans ask for.

  • This is significant only to political wonks, journalists, academicians, and others with skin in the game. It is interesting, but only serves to reinforce previously held political viewpoints by others interested in political events. I should point out that I am a centrist on political issues, liberal on social issues, and conservative on economic issues.

    It seems to me that debates should be debates. Moderators should not be a large part of the conversation. A free for all is exactly what should have occurred from the beginning. The organization of these debates was negotiated by the candidates with the sponsor, and in this case, the Republican party. These "debates" have really been more about PR than rational back and forth concerning issues of the day.

    Decent advertising would have gotten the candidates what they pay for. PR is free, but it is not always good for you. Exit, Gov. Perry, Rep. Bachman, etc. ...

  • Leave a comment


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