ABC, CBS and NBC alarmed viewers of their July 13 evening newscasts with stories about “record” oil prices due to tensions in the Middle East. While the newscasts informed viewers about global political problems impacting oil prices, they misled viewers on the actual cost of oil. Adjusted for inflation, oil would have to go up another $10 to reach its record high.
“Crude oil prices rocketed nearly two bucks a barrel today to a record-high $76.70, driven by rising tensions in the Middle East,” CBS’s Anthony Mason reported.
“In February, an attack on a Saudi oil facility sent oil soaring” and “in April, Iran’s mere threat to use oil as a weapon pushed crude up a dollar-and-a-half in a day,” the CBS reporter added.
NBC’s Anne Thompson also closely linked high oil prices with terrorism, saying the “record” oil price was reached in part on fears that “those two captured Israeli soldiers could be taken to Iran.” If that happened, it would “involve a major oil producer in this new violence” and has “some analysts talking about the very real possibility of $80-a-barrel oil.”
ABC’s Betsy Stark also spoke of “record” oil prices and warned of “record gas prices” being “a real possibility.” Stark ominously concluded that “last year at this time, $80 seemed like a doomsday scenario” for oil prices, while “today it is perfectly plausible.”
At least the networks were acknowledging forces that impact the price of gas – something they have blamed oil companies for in the past. But what Mason, Stark and Thompson all left out was that $80 a barrel would still be almost $7 below the inflation-adjusted record of $86.99 in 1981, as reported by Barbara Hagenbaugh in the July 14 USA Today.
The Business & Media Institute has recorded the media’s persistent error on “record” prices for oil and gasoline and how CBS has previously downplayed the role terrorism plays in the price of oil.