Sen. Tom CottonTom CottonTom Cotton rails against cable news countdown clocks GOP lawmakers call on FCC chair to soften data services proposal Trump should work with Congress to block regulations on prepaid cards MORE (R-Ark.) on Friday ripped cable news networks for the increased use of countdown clocks, writing in a Washington Post opinion piece that they’re a reflection of "frenzied, over-caffeinated news culture."
"These days, it seems like news channels are always counting down to something," Cotton wrote.
"But I can’t quite agree with the networks about what’s considered a clock-worthy 'event.' New Year’s? Sure. A presidential address? Possibly. Rachel Maddow’s Trump tax return ‘exposé’? Hardly."
MSNBC’s Maddow was widely panned for what critics said was over-hyping her report on having President Trump's tax returns, which turned out to be a portion of the president’s 2005 tax returns showing he paid an effective 25 percent tax rate.
Cotton added: “Consider: Last year, CNN hyped one of its presidential debates with a clock that counted down to 8:30 p.m . But just as viewers tuned in, the network aired 30 more minutes of programmed punditry — and then started the debate for real at 9 p.m. Like so many other cable news clocks, it was a countdown to a letdown.”
CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist told The Washington Post at the time that defining an exact start of a debate is subjective.
“Did we start the debate at exactly 8:30? That depends on your definition of when we started the debate,” said Feist.
Cotton also rips cable news networks’ use of breaking news banners for stories that often "are neither breaking nor news."
"That makes it harder for us to think about what’s going on in the world in a deliberate fashion. It plays into the hands of politicians, who benefit from a distracted public. It defeats a main purpose of reporting the news — to inform and educate."
Cable news has been featuring countdown clocks more often in an effort to build anticipation for programming events, sometimes even days in advance.