Intended for healthcare professionals

Reviews TV

Revealed: the stories that broadcasters did not want to cover

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 03 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1089
  1. Gary Schwitzer, assistant professor (
  1. School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

    Healthcare reform was a more important issue in the run up to the 2004 US presidential election than it had been since the Clinton administration health reform effort a decade ago. Yet an analysis I carried out suggests that local television news channels—a major source of news for many Americans—virtually ignored health policy in 2004. Viewers were far more likely to see one-sided political ads on health policy topics running during the commercial breaks in newscasts than they were to see independent coverage of health policy issues during the newscast itself.

    I monitored health policy news coverage throughout the 2004 election year on three local television stations—each of which won a national award in 2003 for excellence in television journalism. The stations are located in diverse parts of the country—Seattle (KIRO), Chicago (WMAQ), and Tampa (WFLA). I analysed each late night newscast on each station from 1 January to 2 November 2004–326 hours of newscasts. Any story that discussed any of the following themes was counted as a health policy story: health costs, quality, uninsured, managed care, prescription drugs, Medicare, Medic-aid, rationing, resource allocation, chronic illness management, health benefits in labour negotiations, presidential candidates' health plans, and national/state/local healthcare reform.

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    Candidates' healthcare proposals were conspicuous by …

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