American television news outlets continue to devote sparse time to one of largest banking scandals in history. The controversy over whether major banks have been manipulating the LIBOR, a crucial interest rate that banks use to borrow money from one another, has been gathering steam for more than a month since U.S. and U.K. regulators fined British bank Barclays $450 million for its role in trying to rig the rate.

CNN’s Erin Burnett has explained that LIBOR is “an interest rate at the core of our entire economy,” adding, “It’s really not wrong to say that if you can’t trust LIBOR, you can’t trust anything in banking.” According to The Economist, the LIBOR is used “as a benchmark to set payments on about $800 trillion worth of financial instruments.” Baltimore City filed a lawsuit against major banks in the first of what may be a wave of such actions, alleging that the LIBOR manipulation potentially cost it millions of dollars in investment returns.

Despite the enormous implications of the scandal, ABC’s World News and NBC’s Nightly News both ignored the story in the 16 days after news of the Barclays fine broke, as we documented earlier this month. In the 16 days following the period of our original study, the LIBOR blackout has continued on ABC and NBC’s flagship evening news programs. Those programs have gone more than a month without mentioning the controversy.

CBS Evening News devoted more than five and a half minutes to the story in the first 16 days following the Barclays fine, but has not returned to the scandal in the subsequent 16 day period despite a host of new developments.

After spending roughly six and a half minutes combined covering the scandal on their evening newscasts and opinion programming between June 27 and July 12, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News devoted less than 32 minutes to stories related to the controversy from July 13 to July 28, with more than two-thirds of that coverage coming from CNN.

These same news outlets spent significantly more time on trivialities like shark sightings and the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce than on the banking scandal. For context, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN spent 44 minutes combined on the LIBOR scandal during their evening programming from June 27 to July 28. By contrast, these same outlets devoted nearly 65 minutes to stories about sharks for only the first sixteen days of that period.

Far from being a dormant story, fallout from allegations that the LIBOR has been manipulated has been steady.

On July 14, the New York Times reported that the U.S. Justice Department had “identified potential criminal wrongdoing by big banks and individuals at the center of the scandal” and was building criminal cases “against several financial institutions and their employees.” The Times explained that the “prospect of criminal cases” was expected to “rattle the banking world.”

The scandal has also reached Capitol Hill, with both Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke being questioned about regulators’ response to allegations that banks were manipulating the LIBOR. During his appearance in front of the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said the LIBOR is “structurally flawed” and called the controversy “a major problem for our financial system.”

The story has gotten major coverage in financial press and on shows like Current TV’s Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer and MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, but, with a few exceptions, has still received little attention on major American television news outlets their during evening newscasts and primetime programming. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple has urged media outlets considering LIBOR coverage to “Get on it,” providing “Nine reasons to cover” the scandal.
Results

On July 16, Situation Room host Wolf Blitzer finished up his show’s barely two-minutes-long segment on the LIBOR scandal to tease an upcoming story set to air on Erin Burnett Outfront by saying, “I’m going to look forward to your report later tonight, Erin. Thanks very much. An important story that deserves significant attention.”

Though Blitzer apparently thinks the story deserves “significant attention,” his program devoted a paltry one minute and 17 seconds to LIBOR from June 27 to July 12. In the sixteen days that followed, the July 16 segment was The Situation Room’s sole contribution. If the LIBOR-fixing controversy “deserves significant attention,” why hasn’t the network’s premier hard news show provided more coverage?

Indeed, straight news programming seems to have dropped the ball in the period following our original study. No broadcast network covered LIBOR in their evening half-hour flagship programs between July 13 and July 28.

Cable news increased its coverage during that period. Up from just under five minutes, CNN’s LIBOR reporting increased to about 22 minutes, with Erin Burnett Outfront shouldering 15-and-a-half minutes of that amount. In its July 13 and July 16 episodes, Outfront featured segments eight and seven-and-a-half-minutes long, respectively. However, the July 13 segment, though frequently mentioning LIBOR, covered many other topics related to the financial crisis during an extended panel discussion.

Both Fox News and MSNBC increased their coverage to about five minutes each during the second 16 day block. On Fox, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox Report with Shepard Smith each devoted a segment to LIBOR. On MSNBC, only The Rachel Maddow Show, with a four minute 47 second segment guest-hosted by Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, covered the scandal in any meaningful way.

Methodology

Media Matters searched the Nexis databases for news transcripts for evening programs on broadcast (ABC, CBS, NBC) and major cable news (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) networks from July 13, 2012 through July 28, 2012 mentioning the LIBOR scandal. We included evening cable shows airing between 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and each broadcast networks’ nightly news program. For programs falling within these parameters that were not included in Nexis, we searched transcripts from our video archive.

We searched using the following keywords: “LIBOR,” “Barclays,” “British bank,” “UK bank,” “Bob Diamond,” “Robert Diamond,” “Marcus Agius,” and all variations of “rate” and “fix.” We reviewed the raw video of each result to time the length of each segment, teaser, and mention. When transcripts for a particular program were not available, we reviewed the raw video.

Included in the results are the following weekday programs: ABC’s World News; CBS’ Evening News; NBC’s Nightly News; CNN’s The Situation Room, Erin Burnett Outfront, Anderson Cooper 360, and Piers Morgan; Fox News’ The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox Report with Shepard Smith, The O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, and On the Record with Greta Van Susteren; and MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation, The Ed Show, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

We did not include the first hour of CNN’s The Situation Room, which begins at 4:00 p.m. However, a separate search of that hour using the same parameters above returned no results for the time period in question.
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mary5920 Today 11:30 AM

The major media outlets ignore global climate change coverage too, why should anyone be surprised they ignore this banking scandal, which affects every interest rate and has a major impact on all our lives???
Nihilist and 9 more liked this

EWeston Today 11:39 AM in reply to mary5920

I’d count the number of ways the liberal media fails to be liberal, but I’d need to take my socks off. Consideration for the people near me precludes this. I’ve also had too many complaints from the EPA when I freely did this.
montanabuddha and 3 more liked this

Nihilist Today 11:40 AM in reply to mary5920

when a bag of corn fritos cost over $5, then you will hear about it….. dont want the media to worry about taco bell commercials…………
crazymule1775 and 2 more liked this

Doug Webster Today 02:27 PM in reply to Nihilist

Hell, CNN’s morning “news” show a few weeks back devoted something like five full minutes to Taco Bell’s “new” menu. A flat out free commercial for TB….trouble was, CNN’s viewership is so dismal, virtually nobody in America saw it except for TB’s marketing department.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© Today 11:31 AM

They don’t want to upset their advertisers and owners.

You’ll see them spending time demanding “entitlement reform”, though.
~
limeyobserver2 and 7 more liked this

papabear3 Today 11:37 AM

. . .ipso facto, Erin, we cant trust the banks, thank you, I think I thought something like that back in 2008
markq_99 and 2 more liked this

BoughtMeASenator Today 01:25 PM in reply to papabear3

Just watched “Inside Job.” Wow! The banksters completely own us, and they own the entire Republican party and some Democrats, too. The middle class is finished and won’t be coming back anytime soon. The banksters own it, and they’re not letting anyone get a piece of their pie.

Nihilist Today 11:39 AM

dont you people realize we have more issues than the complete collapse of the world banking cabal? or that a billion people in india are without power? or other world shaking news? more important to the librul lame stream media, is who is the pop culture distraction of the day……….

another raygun legacy letting the multinationals own and operate what were independent news orgs, with real journalists…………………………………….rMONEY, release your taxes……….
EWeston and 2 more liked this

Michael Today 11:40 AM

Once I discovered how to use Google Reader and RSS feeds, I never watch news on the teleboob. What’s the point? I know the information for days before it hits pre-approved corporate sponsored faux news. The only thing TV is good for is Comedy Central and the Science channel. Everything else is just static.
Fed up Fed and 2 more liked this

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© Today 11:59 AM

I can recommend Naked Capitalism as a site that has carefully covered the crimes our banksters have committed, and the lack of effort by our government to bring them to justice.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com…
~
montanabuddha and 2 more liked this

Phil Perspective Today 02:13 PM in reply to ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

What’s funny is that Yves sounds more like the Socialist that the GOP claims the President is. And she works on Wall Street!!!

CrashGordon1 Today 12:02 PM

BOOOORRRIIIIING! Why would I care about a banking scandal that affects international interest rates (and likely everyone who uses a bank)? Bring on shark attacks and Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes. If only sharks could attack Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, that’d be some good TV right there…
EWeston and 5 more liked this

DesertRose1960 Today 12:09 PM in reply to CrashGordon1

Katie Holmes got smart and got out. She put her daughter in a Catholic school. I think she got out of the shark tank. In a match between sharks and scientologists, it’s a toss up who would chomp more flesh. But it you’re serious about shark attacks, can we throw in the whole Kardashian clan? (Well, yes, I’m being shallow. I would much rather hear about LIBOR than any of the stuff in my post.)
Phil Perspective liked this

CrashGordon1 Today 01:17 PM in reply to DesertRose1960

Making Chum of the Kardashians? I’m sure Fox would air it.
Phil Perspective liked this

bilbodies Today 02:02 PM in reply to CrashGordon1

But you couldn’t lead that out for more than a show or two.

Of course, the repeat business on it would be awesome.

tmcbpatriot Today 02:07 PM in reply to CrashGordon1

If only a shark could attack LIBOR then may be we would hear about it.

tmcbpatriot Today 12:06 PM

Why do we continue to fool ourselves that mainstream news is anything more than infortainment? Does LIBOR bleed, does it have sex, does it have boobs, anything to do with the kardashians, did it call Obama a cracker, did it call Romney a dog hater? No. It is just boring occupy type liberal stuff. Go after LIBOR and you are going after complicated, complex issues that bore viewers. They will change the channel. Nobody wants complexity. Nobody wants to think about the economy. They just want it to be fixed.

Next?
mcbane1 and 4 more liked this

Turkeysocks Today 12:12 PM

Ah, the myth of the mainstream media. Well the media is owned by a lot of people who, I’m betting, have some kind of connections to Barclays. Whether it was personal or business connection, I cannot say. But what I can say is that scandals like Barclays tend to spread and affect a lot of people, especially those who profited from this rigged system. Which I’m betting, is a lot of the top brass from the parent companies.
Imbecile and 1 more liked this

Imbecile Today 12:14 PM

Isn’t ABC World News busy breaking front page stories about romances on movie sets and what Olympic fans are wearing to the games?

Why, yes, they are:
http://abcnews.go.com

If I want to read about banks, I’ll get in my DeLorean and go back to 2008. Banking scandals are sooo 4 years ago.
mcbane1 and 1 more liked this

Libby Bratzler Maxey Today 12:16 PM

Romney’s Richie Rich London soiree featured the Barclay’s and USB upper-crust and there was precious little coverage of THAT. There was damn little coverage about the Iranian bankers who were given the death penalty for screwing over the Iranian people, too.

But see, don’t worry because we have a ‘special relationship’ with Britain and ‘we’ hate Iran.
montanabuddha and 1 more liked this

Daddaye Today 12:43 PM

To be fair, even the New York Times story fails to provide any specifics.

So far everything reported is “un-named financial institutions and individuals”. Even the Naked Capitalism site speculates that the effect on US Mortgages is probably low.

As it’s unfolding, I’m glad that it’s being followed by the papers, NPR, CNN and the Internet.

But, until there’s a name, a face, a fine, some sort of resolution, or an indication that it’s on-going – it’s not really a prime time TV story.
1 person liked this.

David2020 Today 12:52 PM

Way, way, way too complicated.

It’s much easier to cover the campaign horserace and the latest candidate gaffe.

And LIBOR really doesn’t give you any good footage.
JoseAldo liked this

David2020 Today 01:17 PM

The amount of money involved here is stupendous. You would think that amount, if nothing else, would attract the attention of somebody at those networks.

There is about $300 trillion notional amount in LIBOR-based derivatives in the market. If LIBOR was understated by 1 lousy basis point (.01%, i.e., 1/100 of 1%), that’s $30 billion dollars extra annually in the floating-rate payors’ pockets, taken (stolen, actually) from the the fixed rate payors.
EWeston liked this

Bert Johnson Today 01:57 PM

A fictitious newsroom executive: “LIBOR? I thought they said LABOR! And I’ve heard enough about those parasitic working slobs!”
Phil Perspective liked this

Phil Perspective Today 02:15 PM in reply to Bert Johnson

What’s even funnier is that your fictitious rant is probably 50% right. They probably do think someone said Labor. And of course that never gets covered, unless it’s to crap on unions.
Sabreen60 liked this

Doug Webster Today 02:26 PM

Well, Discovery is about to launch “Shark Week” and it IS vital that our national television media be ready to compete in the vital marketplace of ideas…..

Denise Caskey Today 02:30 PM

So, they spend more time on a worthless POS like Casey Anthony than they do on something that actually matters. Is that the direction our media is taking? I guess as a journalism student, I’ve got my work cut out for me if I want to work to change this trend.

Timmy Keller 6 minutes ago

MM slams NBC??? I gotta mark this down. Is there trouble at camp gimme?

manc3 2 seconds ago

Your right! These outlets also missed the “u didn’t build that” remark; totally missed fast and furious; totally misssed the churchill bust lie; totally missed “the private sector is doing fine” remark? Whats up with these guys ? The nerve of them missing a chance to lambast bankers. DRAT

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Ben Dimiero is a research fellow at Media Matters, where he has worked since 2007. He graduated from Middlebury College in 2006 with a degree in English.
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Savillo is a Research Analyst at Media Matters. He graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2005 with a Bachelor’s of Arts in American Studies, minors in Sociology and Women’s Studies, and a certificate in Communications and Media Studies.
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