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Is NBC News Biased?

By · Sep 27, 2023 · 8 min read

Is NBC News Biased?

NBC News is the news division of the American broadcast network NBC and it was founded in New York City in 1940. The news division operates under the NBCUniversal News Group which also comprises MSNBC, CNBC, CNBC World, the Spanish language Noticias Telemundo, and the UK–based Sky News.

The division also oversees NBC Nightly News which is America’s number one newscast and Meet the Press which is the longest-running television series in American history. Given its longstanding history, NBC News also has 70 years of rare historical footage available online at the NBC Universal Archives.

In this article, we will analyze the newspaper’s coverage and editorial decisions to determine if there is a discernible political bias in their reporting. Through our analysis, we hope to provide a comprehensive answer to whether NBC News is biased and shed light on the factors that contribute to media bias in general.

How Does Biasly Rate News Sources?

Biasly’s algorithms produce bias ratings to help provide multiple perspectives on given articles. Biasly has analyzed 200,000+ news articles from more than 3,200 news sources through our A.I. technology and team of political analysts to find the most factual, unbiased news stories.

Biasly determines the degree of political bias in news sources by using Biasly’s Bias Meter Rating, in which Biasly’s team analyzes media sources’ reliability and bias and produces three scores, a Reliability Score that measures the accuracy of media sources; an A.I. Bias Score, evaluated by A.I.; and an Analyst Bias Score evaluated by political analysts. These scores are rated based on seven rating metrics including Tone, Tendency, Diction, Author Check, Selection/Omission, Expediency Bias, and Accuracy. These metrics help our analysts to determine the political attitude of the article.

Our A.I. machine-learning system employs natural language processing and entity-specific sentiment analysis to examine individual articles and determine their bias levels. By analyzing the key terms in an article such as policies, bias phrases, political terminologies, politicians, and their nicknames, the algorithms can rate the attitude of the text.  Bias scores range from -100% and 100%, with higher negative scores being more liberal and higher positive scores being more conservative, and 0% being neutral.

Is NBC News Politically Biased?

Biasly’s rating for NBC News is based on two scores, one from its computer algorithms which are based on A.I., and one from its Analysts. Biasly rated NBC News with a Computer bias score of Very Liberal and an Analyst bias score of Moderately Liberal, which means, overall, it provides political coverage from an American liberal political perspective. Analyst scores are based on an average of at least 15 articles with each being reviewed by one liberal, moderate, and conservative analyst. The more articles rated by Bialsy’s analyst team for a particular source indicates a more accurate analyst score. As Biasly rates more articles, the scores will become more accurate. Praise for liberal politicians and policies as well as dislike toward Republican policies and politicians contribute to this rating.  Biasly’s scores closely align with determinations by other third-party bias research agencies.

Readers may be able to easily identify these biases since NBC News exhibits strong biases towards liberal policies and politicians. In the remainder of this article, we’ll talk about ways to identify this bias so you can separate the opinions from the facts and become a more informed consumer of news.

Before we begin, we need to discuss bias. Bias is a natural function of humans, and we can express it both consciously and unconsciously. Bias is one of the most fundamental forms of pattern recognition in humans. This isn’t to lower the bar and say that “all things are biased,” but to explain the process in which we may come to trust certain news organizations that display patterns of coverage.

On the media’s part, there is an incentive to retain audiences, encourage them to purchase subscriptions, and rate products positively. Bias is a two-way street, people want to see news stories about things they care about, and the media needs viewers to continue their operations. This creates a positive feedback loop that influences what stories are covered and from what perspective. This also explains the actions of more liberal news organizations.

Analysis of Bias in NBC News Online Articles

Media Polarization, Pew Research Center

A study done by Pew Research Center on media polarization categorized NBC News’s audience as being politically slightly left of center. Pew also grouped NBC News with USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, meaning these publications share a similar audience. Although the audience’s political affiliation is slightly liberal, does NBC’s news resemble such now? And, what does this Very liberal position, rated by Biasly, mean exactly?  We will help discover this by looking at examples that provide insights into NBC’s ratings.

When determining bias, some of the most common metrics used include Tone, Author, and Diction, which are the primary metrics we’ll focus on below. Tone refers to the attitude of the writing and is related to but distinct from diction, which is the writer’s word choices. The Author metric refers to the author of the article and his or her demonstrated stance on issues through past articles and social media posts.

The first article we will look at is “Biden policies have benefited Latinos but there’s still a hefty to-do list, group says” which is rated by Biasly at “Somewhat Liberal”. Part of the reason for this rating is its positive portrayal of Socialized Healthcare, DACA, and Public Education Spending. The author also includes 6 positive sentiments for Joe Biden and 1 negative sentiment for Donald Trump.

Biasly’s Politician Portrayal rating for this article is 18% Positive and it shows a slight preference towards President Biden.

The article is about President Biden and the work he and his administration have done to help the Hispanic community in the United States. The author Suzanne Gamboa uses UnidosUS as her main source on the Biden administration’s work in the Latino and Hispanic community. UnidosUS is the largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States and it uses a combination of research, advocacy, programs, and a national network of Affiliate organizations to:

“challenge the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos in the United States across a range of key issues…”.

The author uses this organization as a source to both criticize and applaud President Biden on his policies that affect Hispanics in the United States. Below are some of the criticisms the author notes in the article.

  • “After the last four years, the first 100 days have given the Latino community restored hope, a fresh start and a path to a better future,”…”But we are just at the beginning and concerns remain.”
  • “But UnidosUS placed high on Biden’s “to-do” list the need to collect and disseminate complete and accurate COVID-19 race and ethnicity data at the national and state levels.”
  • “The simple fact is, because of the disproportionate role Latinos have played as essential workers, we must get Covid-19 under control or our community will be left behind,”
  • “The list also calls for more action on housing, worker benefits such as paid sick leave, and strong advocacy for immigration legalization legislation.”

These are some examples of the author’s negative sentiments towards President Biden. Although the article is critical the author does include some of Biden’s positive accomplishments for the Latino community but frames it as a good starting point and that more work could be done. The author does have a favorable tone at times towards the  Biden administration and progressive policies for the Latino community.

Source: NBC News,  “Biden policies have benefited Latinos but there’s still a hefty to-do list, group says”

Let’s take a look at the article’s headline and accompanying image. The headline “Biden policies have benefited Latinos but there’s still a hefty to-do list, the group says” slightly favors the Biden administration on economics for Latinos. As for the image at the top of the article, it is a simple image of President Biden in front of a microphone. The image does not show any political bias.

All of this suggests that the article was found to be left-leaning overall, which aligns with our analysis that NBC News favors publishing liberal-leaning articles although at times it can be neutral.

Analysis of NBC News Opinion Articles

Before we answer this question, we need to distinguish between opinion and reporting. While reporting is intended to be neutral, giving the reader the facts and quotes from primary sources lets them form their own opinion. Opinion-based journalism provides journalists with a platform to convey their opinions and convictions. Normally it’s advisable to steer clear of excessive bias when crafting impartial news pieces but opinion articles are inherently subjective. Therefore they are often less reliable but are still a great resource because they can offer valuable insight into complex issues that can be viewed from different perspectives.

Consider the opinion article  “The Supreme Court’s originalism is white supremacy” The title alone shows bias because it contains language suggestive of a negative opinion of the United States Supreme Court. The opening line of the article is extremely negative in tone.

“The conservative supermajority has weaponized this harmful judicial philosophy as a way to embrace a racist, patriarchal narrowing of political rights.”

The author then describes the current Supreme Court as being “…motivated by a reliance on the white supremacist patriarchy of the Constitution’s framers.” The author, Baynard Woods, also offers a negative opinion of the U.S. founding fathers.

“originalist judges express a belief that we should interpret the U.S. Constitution according to the legal opinions of 18th-century white men — the same white men who denied the right to vote or own property to anyone but themselves.”

These articles, in addition to those above, are only a small representation of all of NBC News’s content. NBC THINK Opinion pieces tend to be liberal-leaning but some are neutral. They prefer to publish liberal-leaning opinions while avoiding conservative-leaning opinions. We know that opinion pieces are riddled with bias, but the news organization itself could remove bias by posting opinion pieces from opposite sides of the political aisle.

Who Owns NBC News?

Comcast Corporation is the owner of NBCUniversal, which owns and operates NBC which operates the news division. As of the writing of this post, Rebecca Blumenstein is the President of NBC News. She oversees NBC News editorial teams, their newsgathering, field operations, and bookings, as well as the shows “Meet the Press,” “Dateline NBC,” and NBC News Studios. Before she joined NBC News, Blumenstein was a Deputy Managing Editor at The New York Times and before that, she was Deputy Editor in Chief of The Wall Street Journal.

Rebecca Blumenstein
NBC News President Rebecca Blumenstein, Wiki Commons

How to Evaluate and Uncover Bias

It can often be difficult to tell if the news you watch is biased. If you have settled on a news channel, it’s usually because you trust the information you are gaining. Unfortunately, many trust the information they are hearing because it confirms what they already believe. This is referred to as “confirmation bias.” It is important to challenge your beliefs and get third-party verification that what you are hearing is the full story. This is why we recommend using Biasly to compare different news stories side-by-side using our bias ratings to figure out what both sides think of a political issue.

Even though Biasly gave NBC News a Moderately Liberal bias score, remember that bias varies by article, and NBC News does not exclusively publish liberal thought pieces. NBC News does sometimes post neutral articles, but they do not seem to publish any right-leaning articles or opinion pieces. It is important to note that various kinds of articles naturally show different levels of bias. Think about it like this: regular news pieces are usually less biased than opinion articles. And even though all articles have some bias, some are just better at sticking to the facts than others, which is why it’s so essential to use Biasly’s News Check to help you determine how biased what you read is.


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