For every ten minutes that TV cable news shows featured President Donald Trump’s face on the screen this past summer, the four congressional leaders’ visages were presented for one minute, according an analysis of Face-o-Matic downloadable, free data fueled by the Internet Archive’s TV News Archive and made available to the public today.
Face-o-Matic is an experimental service, developed in collaboration with the start-up Matroid, that tracks the faces of selected high level elected officials on major TV cable news channels: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. First launched as a Slack app in July, the TV News Archive, after receiving feedback from journalists, is now making the underlying data available to the media, researchers, and the public. It will be updated daily here.
Unlike caption-based searches, Face-o-Matic uses facial recognition algorithms to recognize individuals on TV news screens. Face-o-Matic finds images of people when TV news shows use clips of the lawmakers speaking; frequently, however, the lawmakers’ faces also register if their photos or clips are being used to illustrate a story, or they appear as part of a montage as the news anchor talks. Alongside closed caption research, these data provide an additional metric to analyze how TV news cable networks present public officials to their millions of viewers.
Our concentration on public officials and our bipartisan tracking is purposeful; in experimenting with this technology, we strive to respect individual privacy and extract only information for which there is a compelling public interest, such as the role the public sees our elected officials playing through the filter of TV news. The TV News Archive is committed to doing this right by adhering to these Artificial Intelligence principles for ethical research developed by leading artificial intelligence researchers, ethicists, and others at a January 2017 conference organized by the Future of Life Institute. As we go forward with our experiments, we will continue to explore these questions in conversations with experts and the public.
Download Face-o-Matic data here.
We want to hear from you:
What other faces would you like us to track? For example, should we start by adding the faces of foreign leaders, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and South Korea’s Kim Jong-un? Should we add former President Barack Obama and contender Hillary Clinton? Members of the White House staff? Other members of Congress?
Trump dominates, Pelosi gets little face-time
Overall, between July 13 through September 5, analysis of Face-o-Matic data show:
- All together, we found 7,930 minutes, or some 132 hours, of face-time for President Donald Trump and the four congressional leaders. Of that amount, Trump dominated with 90 percent of the face-time. Collectively, the four congressional leaders garnered 15 hours of face-time.
- House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif., got the least amount of time on the screen: just 1.4 hours over the whole period.
- Of the congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s face was found most often: 7.6 hours, compared to 3.8 hours for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R., Wis.; 1.7 hours for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D., N.Y., and 1.4 hours for Pelosi.
- The congressional leaders got bumps in coverage when they were at the center of legislative fights, such as in this clip of McConnell aired by CNN, in which the senator is shown speaking on July 25 about the upcoming health care reform vote. Schumer got coverage on the same date from the network in this clip of him talking about the Russia investigation. Ryan got a huge boost on CNN when the cable network aired his town hall on August 21.
Fox shows most face-time for Pelosi; MSNBC, most Trump and McConnell
The liberal cable network MSNBC gave Trump more face-time than any other network. Ditto for McConnell. A number of these stories highlight tensions between the senate majority leader and the president. For example, here, on August 25, the network uses a photo of McConnell, and then a clip of both McConnell and Ryan, to illustrate a report on Trump “trying to distance himself” from GOP leaders. In this excerpt, from an August 21 broadcast, a clip of McConnell speaking is shown in the background to illustrate his comments that “most news is not fake,” which is interpreted as “seem[ing] to take a shot at the president.”
While Pelosi does not get much face-time on any of the cable news networks examined, Fox News shows her face more than any other. In this commentary report on August 20, Jesse Waters criticizes Pelosi for favoring the removal of confederate statues placed in the Capitol building. “Miss Pelosi has been in Congress for 30 years. Now she speaks up?” On August 8, “Special Report With Bret Baier” uses a clip of Pelosi talking in favor of women having a right to choose the size and timing of her family as an “acid test for party base.”
While the BBC gives some Trump face-time, it gives scant attention to the congressional leaders. Proportionately, however, the BBC gives Trump less face-time than any of the U.S. networks.
For details about the data available, please visit the Face-O-Matic page. The TV News Archive is an online, searchable, public archive of 1.4 million TV news programs aired from 2009 to the present. This service allows researchers and the public to use television as a citable and sharable reference. Face-O-Matic is part of ongoing experiments in generating metadata for reporters and researchers, enabling analysis of the messages that bombard us daily in public discourse.