Just how superficial is ABC? On Monday and Tuesday, the network allowed a mere 20 seconds to "outrage" over a plan by the European Union that would have seized ten percent of the money Cyprus residents had in their bank accounts. ABC's World News skipped the story entirely, as did Monday's Nightline.
Good Morning America on Tuesday offered 20 seconds. In contrast, the program devoted over five minutes to important topics, such as the newest season of Dancing With the Stars.
NBC and CBS both showcased more coverage. On Monday, Nightly News's Brian Williams featured the story in a full report. Describing the potential default of Cyprus as a "banking crisis," he explained, "European leaders decided to take a chunk of that bailout money directly out of the bank accounts of everyone in the country." Displaying interest not seen on ABC, Williams added, "It was a shocking move heard around the globe today and the fear on the Mediterranean island rippled through world financial markets today."
The plan caused massive unrest. One man told Nightly News: "I plan to go to the bank and withdraw all the money I have in there. I can't trust them anymore. It's theft." Another fretted, "You can't just take out of people's savings. Can you?"
Reporter Sue Herrera made the obvious connection that apparently eluded ABC. She linked, "...There's always the fear that what happens overseas can spread to the United States."
NBC followed-up with a news brief on the Today show.
CBS skipped the story on Monday's Evening News, but at least offered a full report on Tuesday's This Morning. Charlie Rose informed viewers: "Politicians in Cyprus are under fire for their plan to tax bank deposits. It is part of a deal to save Cyprus from bankruptcy, but it's causing protest and panic and world markets are down this morning."
The plan would have allowed European bureaucrats to unilaterally take money from Cyprus bank accounts. The New York Times explained:
The original terms of the bailout called for a one-time tax of 6.75 percent on deposits of less than €100,000, and a 9.9 percent tax on holdings of more than €100,000. The moves are designed to raise €5.8 billion of the total €10 billion bailout cost — a condition imposed by Cyprus’s E.U. partners.
In the wake of growing outrage, that plan was defeated by Cyprus lawmakers, 36 to 19.
In 2012, Good Morning America surpassed Today in the ratings. Apparently, ABC's strategy is to focus on celebrities and fluff, even at the expense of important financial and property-rights developments.
A transcript of the March 18 Nightly News segment is below:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Now to this bank crisis in Cyprus, the latest European nation in need of a bailout, but this time European leaders decided to take a chunk of that bailout money directly out of the bank accounts of everyone in the country. It was a shocking move heard around the globe today and the fear on the Mediterranean island rippled through world financial markets today. Our report on it tonight from CNBC's Sue Herrera.
SUE HERRERA: People rushed to cash machines in Cyprus this weekend as word spread of the government's unprecedented plan to take money from personal bank accounts. To beat the government to their savings, many waited on long lines before finding themselves empty handed when ATM’s ran out of cash.
UNKNOWN PERSON: I plan to go to the bank and withdraw all the money I have in there. I can't trust them anymore. It's theft.
HERRERA: To help pay for the $13 billion European bailout, the government plans to take up to 10% from all savings accounts.
UNKNOWN #2: You can't just take out of people's savings. Can you?
UNKNOWN #3: Let's keep our cash. Put it under the bed or something.
HERRERA: European officials say it's sign on and pay up or go belly up.
UNKNOWN #4: We don't want a band-aid. We want something that lasts, something that is durable and that will be sustainable.
HERRERA: Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the president of Cyprus held a crisis meeting as exploring ways to soften the blow for shell-shocked citizens.
SIMON O’CONNOR: We fully support the efforts of President Anastasiades and the Cyprian people in their efforts to bring financial stability to Cyprus.
HERRERA: Still, residents say they’re furious about paying for an economic crisis they didn't create.
UNKNOWN #5: Find the people responsible for this mess, prosecute them, put them in prison.
HERRERA: European leaders say what's happening in the small island country could impact financial stability around the world.
ISHAQ SIDDIQI: The real question now is, is this an isolated case or is this going to be something that's going to be seen across the whole Eurozone?
HERRERA: And Brian, that is indeed the question, because there's always the fear that what happens overseas can spread to the United States. We call it contagion. But we checked around, and everybody right now is not expecting anything of that sort, but it's early days and we're going to be keeping a very close eye on this story.
-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.