The Storming Of The Capitol On Television News: Was It A "Protest", "Riot" Or "Treason"?
How did television news cover the storming of the US Capitol this week? The graph below uses data from the Internet Archive's Television News Archive to count how many seconds of airtime Jan. 6-7 the onscreen text of BBC News London, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News contained the words sedition, insurrection, coup, mob, protest, riot, treason, violent or Black Lives Matter.
On BBC the breach was lagely a "violent" "protest" with "riot" and "mob" appearing periodically as well. On CNN it was a "riot" and a "mob" but also an "insurrection" and a "coup". MSNBC saw it as a "mob," "violent," "riot" and "protest" while also describing it as an attempting "coup". Fox News largely described it as a "protest," a "riot" and "violent". Fox also invoked earlier Black Lives Matter protests in its coverage, as did CNN and MSNBC to a lesser extent.
The chart below counts how often each of these words (sedition, insurrection, coup, mob, protest, riot, treason, violent or Black Lives Matter) was spoken over the same time period across just CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. Here the three channels have relatively similar distributions, though noticeably Fox News was also more likely in the hours before the breach to discuss a "peaceful" transition and was an outlier in rarely describing the events as an attempted "coup," "insurrection," "sedition" or "treason". All three mentioned the Black Lives Matter protests a number of times.
Looking to international channels, there was unanimous agreement the events were "violent," a "protest" and a "riot" but DW used the latter two less often. Russia Today noticeably invoked the Black Lives Matter protests more than the others.