No liberals on the teevee

NO LIBERALS ON THE TEEVEE…. If you watched the debate over the economic stimulus plan unfold on the cable networks this week, you may have noticed a certain imbalance. Digby asked the other day, “Can someone explain to me why I’m seeing Republican after Republican on television advising Americans on the right way to run the economy?” It was not an uncommon question.

As it turns out, this was not just a figment of progressives’ imagination. ThinkProgress researched the issue and found that “the five cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC — have hosted more Republican lawmakers to discuss the plan than Democrats by a 2 to 1 ratio this week.” From 6 AM on Monday to 4 PM on Wednesday, the “networks have hosted Republican lawmakers 51 times and Democratic lawmakers only 24 times.” The chart helps drive the point home.

Let’s also not lose sight of the context. House Republicans dominated the networks’ airtime, despite the fact that they were making absurd demands, despite the fact that they had no intention of voting for the legislation, and despite the fact that their small caucus lacked the votes to defeat the bill anyway.

Josh Marshall noted on Monday the “continuing Republican tilt of much of the capital press corps. Not in ideological terms perhaps, but in terms of whose opinions carry weight, whose matter and whose do not.” The ThinkProgress piece highlights this dynamic quite clearly.

I’d just add that even when the interviews were over, and Republican officials weren’t on screen, the on-air media kept talking about the stimulus debate from a decidedly Republican perspective.

When Republicans were in the majority, and controlled the White House, Senate, and House, it was important to air the GOP perspective. Now that Democrats are in control, it’s still apparently paramount to let Americans know what Republicans are thinking.

Now, it’s possible Republicans have been more aggressive in reaching out to network producers and bookers. Maybe Democrats haven’t been as efficient in making themselves available for interviews. I’m not privy to the Dems’ media strategy, and for all I know, it needs some “tweaking.”

That said, I know there are plenty of camera-hungry Democrats in Congress, who’d just love to talk about a popular spending bill proposed by a popular president on national television. The kind of inequity ThinkProgress found is a symptom of a larger problem.