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According to the cable network's figures, Fox, part of News Corp., pulled in 5.2 million viewers, compared with NBC's 5.1 million, CBS's 4.4 million and ABC's 4.3 million.
"This is a historic win for us," a spokeswoman for Fox News Channel said. "The numbers speak for themselves." California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Laura Bush, the first lady, spoke at the convention Aug. 31, the second night of coverage.
A spokesman for General Electric Co.'s NBC confirmed its 5.1 million figure. Numbers for Viacom's CBS and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC were not immediately verifiable; calls to each broadcast network were not returned at before press time.
Against cable competitors, Fox News increased its lead, gaining a 2.7 rating, 5 share compared with the previous night, when the network earned a 2.5 rating and 4 share, according to Nielsen Media Research data for the hours of 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. CNN, part of Time Warner, rated 0.9 on both nights and won a 2 share Aug. 31. MSNBC, a joint venture between NBC and Miscrosoft Corp., grew its rating from 0.6 to 0.9 and a 1 share.
PBS' coverage anchored by Jim Lehrer had a 1.9 rating in the 47 overnight metered markets.
While the ratings hardly compare to those of the recently completed Summer Olympic Games, they're attracting a sizable audience. Tuesday night's broadcast on both network and cable drew a total of 22 million viewers. While a comparative second-night viewership figure for the Democratic National Convention was not immediately available from Nielsen, overall the July Democratic gathering in Boston drew a combined average viewership of 20 million.
Political news slant
While some have drawn a connection between Fox News Channel's slant to the right and its high ratings, Fox disputed the allegation. It points to a survey conducted by the Pew Center for People and the Press titled "Where Americans Go for News," released in July. Fox claims the report shows that more of CNN's viewers are partisan.
According to the study, CNN's regular viewers break down into 44% Democratic, 25% Republican, 25% independent and 6% other. Fox News Channel viewers' are 41% Republican, 29% Democrat, 22% Independent and 8% other.
The Pew study also found that cable news has become increasingly politicized. "In 1998, the Fox News Channel mirrored the public in terms of both partisanship and ideology. If anything, Fox viewers were slightly more Democratic than the general public. Since then the percentage of Fox News Channel viewers who identify as Republican has increased steadily from 24% in 1998 to 29% in 2000 and 34% in 2002 and 41% in 2004," the study says.