BMI Study: The Media's Prescription for Bias

March 15th, 2007 6:38 PM

Before I started as NewsBusters managing editor, I finished up a study of the media's bias when it comes to reporting on prescription drugs. The study was released on March 14.

After the page break are some findings from the executive summary. Here's a link to the PDF version of the study.

Even when one new drug was hailed as a “major advance in combating breast cancer” and a “major medical breakthrough,” its manufacturer was given only a passing mention on one network. BMI looked at 132 stories on prescription or over-the-counter drugs from the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts between January 1 and Sept. 30, 2006.

Among the findings:

  • Industry Ignored: While covering everything from medical “controversies” to breakthroughs, nearly 80 percent of the stories excluded the viewpoint of the pharmaceutical industry, failing to include either a company statement or a company spokesman.
  • Media Overemphasize Cost to Consumer: The broadcast networks mentioned costs to consumers or drug company revenues 11 times more often than they mentioned drug development costs.
  • Networks Leave Companies Unnoticed: Only 22 percent of the stories even named the company that developed the drug or drugs featured in the story.
  • What Development Costs?: A mere 2 percent of stories dealt with the cost of developing drugs, and even those costs were downplayed by industry skeptics.
  • Special Treatment for Left-Wing Causes: Nineteen stories focused on drugs that were popular liberal causes such as the morning-after pill or HPV vaccine Gardasil. The networks didn’t apply the same scrutiny to those drugs and their makers as they did to others.