New mutant Covid-19 strains have garnered increasing attention from public health officials over concerns they may be more infectious and potentially reduce vaccine efficacy. How much television news coverage have they received?
The timeline below shows the total seconds of airtime in which the spoken word transcript of the broadcast mentions Covid-19 variants since the start of last year. Attention appears to have first really picked up in December 2020. BBC has mentioned variants the most, at 17,008 seconds of airtime, followed by CNN at 9,679, MSNBC with 6,081 and Fox News with just 2,728 seconds.
Rather than spoken word mentions, the timeline below tracks the total seconds of airtime in which variants were mentioned in the onscreen text, exhibiting a fairly similar trendline. Once again, BBC News leads with 170,167 seconds of airtime, followed by CNN with 132,643 seconds, MSNBC with 67,240 seconds and Fox News with 41,086 seconds.
The timeline below tracks the total seconds of airtime in which the UK variant was mentioned in the onscreen text, showing a pickup around December 21st. As with variants as a whole, BBC leads with 46,926 seconds, CNN has 31,927 seconds, MSNBC 10,019 seconds and Fox News just 2,466 seconds.
As the timeline below shows, the South African variant attracts a brief blip of attention on December 23, but doesn't really take off until January 24. Once again, BBC is in the lead with 37,559 seconds, CNN 13,394 seconds, MSNBC 6,680 seconds and Fox just 2,520 seconds.
BBC is clearly spending the most airtime discussing the variants, while CNN the most in the US, while Fox News is mentioning them far less than its peers.