If you relied exclusively on broadcast or liberal cable networks for your news, you’d likely be surprised to learn that Florida’s recently-passed education law was not officially titled, “the Don’t Say Gay law.” An MRC analysis found that TV networks almost exclusively referred to the law by this politically-charged epithet, with most outlets only using the law’s official name — “Parental Rights in Education” — one or two times in the past months.
MRC analysts examined all broadcast (ABC, CBS, NBC) and liberal cable (CNN, MSNBC) coverage of Florida’s latest education law between February 1 and April 28. During that time, we found 230 instances in which anchors, analysts, and contributors referred to the law as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but only 18 cases where they used its official name — the “Parental Rights in Education” bill.
MSNBC led the pack with 88 uses of the Democratic Party’s preferred label, and a paltry two uses of the bill’s official name. CNN repeated the “Don’t Say Gay” phrasing 75 times, and used the “Parental Rights” language only eight times.
NBC was the most slanted of the broadcast networks, with 33 instances of the “Don’t Say Gay” label, and just one case in which the official name was used. For CBS, the breakdown was 18-to-one, and for ABC, it was a relatively more balanced 16-to-six.
Broadcast networks almost always noted that “Don’t Say Gay” was the phrasing adopted by the bill’s critics. CNN also generally stuck to this rule, with only a handful of exceptions. The same can not be said of MSNBC, where hosts and contributors alike habitually used the Democrats’ label as though it were the bill’s official name:
Labelling can be a very effective means of controlling political discourse, and it’s one the media use frequently. By relying almost exclusively on the Democrats’ framing, the media are conditioning their audiences to react negatively to this legislation.