TV News Highlights Immigration, But It's a 'Crisis' Only on Fox
President Trump has made curbing illegal immigration one of his signature policy initiatives, but how is the border “crisis” playing out on television news?
The timeline below shows the percentage of annual coverage on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News from June 2009 to present that mentioned “immigration” or “immigrants” or “illegals” or “border,” as monitored by the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive and processed by the GDELT Project.
Overall coverage of immigration and the border increased during the 2014 immigration crisis that saw a similar surge in the number of unaccompanied minors attempting to reach the United States. Attention to the crisis has surged in the past year and a half, especially on Fox News, where it has accounted for 5.5% of the channel’s airtime thus far in 2019.
Has the border situation reached “crisis” levels? The timeline below shows the percentage of monthly airtime where the terms above appeared next to either “crisis” or “emergency.”
Interestingly, the 2014 migration wave was called a “crisis” or “emergency” by MSNBC almost as often as by Fox. In contrast, MSNBC has referred to the current migration wave as a crisis or emergency just half as often. Over the last six months Fox has used those terms 1.2 times as often as MSNBC and CNN combined.
Beginning in November 2018, media coverage of the issue shifted from being about people to being more about borders. This trend appears to have continued through the present, as seen in the timeline below that compares the combined weekly airtime of the three stations mentioning “immigration” or “immigrants” or “illegals” versus “border” or “borders” or “wall” or “walls.”
Putting this all together, news coverage of illegal immigration has increased sharply in the last two years, but the current wave is only a “crisis” in the eyes of Fox News, despite MSNBC describing far lower immigration numbers under President Obama as indeed a crisis.