Who’s at the Primetime Table? An Analysis of Host, Contributor, and Guest Appearances on Six Weeks of Primetime Cable News

"Black women 55 and older represent just 1.6% of all primetime cable news appearances."

Cable news programming offers a window into public debate for a broad swath of Americans, including many older and politically active audiences. Its reach has been magnified by the events of 2020 and 2021, including a global pandemic that kept people in their homes, a highly publicized national racial reckoning, and a contentious presidential election followed by a violent aftermath at the U.S. Capitol. Cable news amplifies political debate and validates thought leaders and experts in the public square, propelling vital voices who shape policy and can affirm democratic values like equity and inclusion.

Black women—especially older Black women who can provide perspectives from potent lived experience as advocates, civic leaders, and experts in a vast array of sectors and subjects—should be among the prominent voices on the coveted primetime lineup of major cable news networks. They are overperformers in electoral politics, advanced degrees, and business ownership. Yet they are often erased from spaces where they should command a place.

Only 15% of speakers across 9 primetime programs on CNN, MSNBC and Fox were Black, and only 1.6 were older Black women, finds a new report from PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) in collaboration with the Unerased | Black Women Speak initiative, which explores the depth of this disparity—especially for transgender people and older Black women.

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During the six weeks of BMSG’s analysis, they documented 1,862 appearances by a host, contributor, or guest. The findings revealed a dearth of Black voices occupying influential seats on primetime cable news. Black women of all ages are sorely missing, but most dramatically, those 55 and older represent a scant 1.6% of all appearances. Of the 1,862 appearances logged during the review period, Black women 55 and older constituted just 21 appearances; though, due to a few multiple bookings, they appeared a total of 28 times.

PrimeTime 55+ site shown on multiple screens

PrimeTime 55+ Directory of Black Women Leaders & Change Agents

Following the release of BMSG's research, Unerased| Black Women Speak in collaboration with the Black Women’s Roundtable National Coalition on Black Civic Participation launched the PrimeTime 55+ Directory to celebrate and highlight Black women leaders over the age of 55. These thought leaders and change agents affirm that Black women—not old but still in their prime—are worthy of showcasing.

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