The four major television news networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN) differed significantly in their coverage of the presidential primary campaign, according to a study conducted by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The study - done by the Kennedy School's Joan Shorenstein Barone Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy from Feb. 1 through June 4 - revealed the following:

* President Bush was covered in a more balanced way by CNN and four sample local news stations than the three traditional news networks.

* Gov. Bill Clinton received more favorable coverage from ABC than the other three networks and local stations.

* Democratic frontrunners received the most extensive and favorable coverage.

* CNN had the longest sound bites.

According to Timothy Cook, professor of political science at Williams College and co-author of the study, the findings do not necessarily mean the networks favor a particular presidential candidate.

"What we found was that ABC was the most respectful of all the networks to all the candidates, with only one exception, and that was President Bush, who was viewed more neutrally and thus more favorably on CNN," Mr. Cook says. The study also examined local news stations in four different-sized metropolitan areas including Boston, Los Angeles, Winston-Salem, N.C. and Fargo, N.D./ Moorhead, Minn.

Local TV news audiences are larger than many realize. Local news ratings, for example, are at least as high as the network news broadcasts on the same channel, according to the study. The study also found that local TV news of the campaign tended to be more neutral.

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