CNN: From Fake News to Fudging Ratings?

CNN has reacted very badly to the political rise of President Trump, promulgating fake news and presenting an echo chamber of negative commentary.  Now, the struggling news channel appears to be trying to manipulate the ratings.

Even if it’s not the originator of the Fake News model that now largely defines the MSM, CNN has certainly perfected it. This past week, the situation seemed to rise to a shocking new level with the CNN programs that followed President Trump’s prime time address to the nation on Afghanistan on Monday and his 80 minute speech Tuesday night to a campaign-style rally in Phoenix. On Tuesday, for example, CNN host Don Lemon followed Trump’s speech with a live appearance by the channel’s new contributor James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence in the Obama Administration. Putting it rather politely in an article on Wednesday, CNN said that Clapper:

. . . questioned President Donald Trump's fitness for office. “I really question his ability to be – his fitness to be –  in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it.”

Don Lemon

CNN is engaged in a desperate ratings war of attrition with its competitors the Fox News Channel (FNC) and MSNBC. In the new era of Trump, CNN, like MSNBC, has been trying to gain traction by being the go-to source for the Resistance and the Never Trumpers (RINOs who have opposed Trump from the onset of his campaign).

For CNN, the ratings battle has not been going well. On August 1, 2017, A.J. Katz, one of the leading and most objective analysts of the TV news business including the ratings, wrote in TVNewser:

It was a wild month in U.S. politics, and CNN had a tough time keeping up with the competition from a ratings perspective.

For July 2017, CNN was minus 48 percent in total prime time viewers, minus 29 percent in total day viewers, minus 48 in the prime-time demo, and minus 28 percent in the total day demo versus July 2016.

Because analysis of TV ratings is both a science and an art aiming at a moving target, CNN put out a “spin city” news release insisting that it beat MSNBC during the month of July 2017, “CNN #2 in Total Day in July Among [Viewers] 25-54.”

Adding Fake Ratings to Fake News?

Analyzing the cable news ratings for Monday August 21, the night of President Trump’s 9 P.M. E.D.T. speech to the nation – his first address as the commander-in-chief in prime time – I observed a strange anomaly which is being reported here exclusively. First, it should be noted that the viewers of cable news that evening were at least twice as numerous as the typical number for a weekday night because of the major public interest in the president’s address. This benefited all three news channels. The ratings are measured, as they always have been, by the Nielsen Company. Nielsen relies on the channels and networks to provide their schedules, including identifying the programs that aired during a certain time of the day or night.

Screen Shot CNN Monday Aug. 21, 2017 9:14 P.M.

Official Transcript CNN 9-10 P.M. Monday Aug. 21, 2017 confirming the hour credited to “AC360” consisted of President Trump’s address and Rep. Paul Ryan’s Town Hall

On Monday, MSNBC and FNC described their programming from 9:01 to 9:27 P.M. E.D.T. (or 9 to 9:30 P.M. in the case of MSNBC) as “Pres Address-Afghanistan” (FNC) and “MSNBC Special Coverage” (MSNBC), instead of The Five and The Rachel Maddow Show that normally air at 9 P.M. CNN, however, told Nielsen it was airing “Anderson Cooper 360,” even though, as with the other channels, President Trump was on CNN during that entire time. This means, in effect, that the ratings surge provided to CNN during that half hour by viewers tuning in to see President Donald J. Trump – ironically CNN’s nemesis – will be attributed to the lagging Anderson Cooper program!

Nielsen Ratings Raw Data CNN Prime Time Monday Aug. 21, 2017

Nielsen Ratings Raw Data FNC Prime Time Monday Aug. 21, 2017

Nielsen Ratings Raw Data MSNBC Prime Time Monday Aug. 21, 2017

In addition to the daily ratings, the weekly and monthly ratings will reflect the fake reporting of Cooper’s show as having generated double its usual ratings.

The previously mentioned television writer, A.J. Katz, was not fooled by CNN’s sleight of hand. In his article about Monday’s cable news ratings that was published the next day, Katz, without any mention of or comment on the anomaly in Nielsen’s raw data, correctly described the 9-10 P.M. hour on CNN Monday night as “Trump/Ryan.” (President Trump’s half hour address was followed immediately by a CNN town hall with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.) Unfortunately, Katz’s description is apparently not reflected in the record that counts, the Nielsen Company’s tabulation.

Other funny business has reportedly been going on to skew TV ratings lately. On July 6, 2017, a satirically titled article in the Wall Street Journal, “In TV Ratings Game, Networks Try to Dissguys Bad Newz from Nielsen,” described how the broadcast networks are misspelling the titles of poorly performing episodes of scheduled programs in order to fool the Nielsen company:

That explains the appearance of “NBC Nitely News,” which apparently aired on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend this year, when a lot of people were away from their TVs. The retitling of “NBC Nightly News” fooled Nielsen’s automated system, which listed “Nitely” as a separate show.

It appears that the growing lack of credibility in the reporting of news these days is not the only questionable practice being foisted on us by the mainstream news media.

Peter Barry Chowka is a widely published author and journalist. He writes most frequently these days for American Thinker.  His website is  Follow Peter on Twitter.

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