Television news networks have produced shortsighted and often hollow coverage of the nation's rising gasoline prices, often hosting political figures rather than energy experts or economists to comment on the issue and overlooking key policy solutions that could ultimately lower those rates.
In an analysis of television news' coverage of gas prices between Jan. 1 and Feb. 29, Media Matters concluded that Fox News has overwhelmingly covered the issue compared to every other major network, with at least 55 percent of its coverage suggesting that President Barack Obama is responsible for the soaring prices. During that period, Fox News aired almost 200 segments focusing on the issue but actually mentioned gas prices in more than 250 segments. It's closest competitor, CNN, aired about 120 segments about gas prices during that period -- but mentioned the subject in more than 150 segment -- while MSNBC showcased just over 50 segments devoted to the subject while mentioning it in about 80 during the same time frame.
Network television news programs, perhaps because they don't run on the same 24-hour news cycle as cable outlets, devoted far less time to gas prices -- NBC, CBS and ABC all aired less than 25 segments. Newspapers devoted a fraction of their space --typically less than 20 articles -- to the issue.
Media Matters reports that news outlets have typically promoted U.S. drilling and construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as way to bring down the price of gas. Meanwhile, policy solutions such as higher fuel economy standards and investments in renewable energy efforts, both of which have been advocated by the Obama administration, have been largely ignored by pundits.
Despite the focus of television news, recent polls indicate that most Americans don't blame the Obama administration for high gas prices, currently hovering beneath $4 a gallon. Last week a Bloomberg News poll found 66 percent of Americans, consisting of Republicans and Democrats alike, blamed oil companies and Middle East nations for the price spike, while an additional survey from the National Journal found that majority of respondents also blamed the manipulation of prices by large energy companies and tensions in the Middle East.