Machines Watching Television News: The Military Is Depicted Less Today Than A Decade Ago

Using Google's Cloud Video API to watch a decade of television news broadcasts on ABC, CBS and NBC using the Internet Archive's Television News Archive, we can begin to explore the visual narratives we see when we turn on the television.

How often do we see the military depicted in the evening news? The timeline below shows the percentage of airtime across the three evening news shows over the past decade that contained a depiction of the military (of any nationality) somewhere in the scene.

The timeline below shows the same data with a 7-day rolling average to smooth it out.

While subtle, there is a noticable decline in depictions of the military in television news over time, with a major trasition in 2016.


Creating these graphs took only a single SQL query in BigQuery.

select DAY, SUM(EntitySeconds) TotEntitySeconds, SUM(AllSeconds) TotAllSeconds, (SUM(EntitySeconds)/SUM(AllSeconds))*100 PercEntityAirtime from (
SELECT DATE(date, "America/Los_Angeles") DAY, sum(entity.numSeconds) EntitySeconds, 0 AllSeconds FROM `gdelt-bq.gdeltv2.vgeg_iatv`,UNNEST(entities) AS entity where ( like '%military%' or like '%soldier%') group by DAY
SELECT DATE(date, "America/Los_Angeles") DAY, 0 EntitySeconds, count(1) * 60 AllSeconds FROM `gdelt-bq.gdeltv2.vgeg_iatv` group by DAY
) group by DAY order by DAY asc