“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies” (Chomsky, 2008). In what way does information transmitted by the media influence the way people think? How we relate our values, attitude and beliefs about the world and others (Stuart, 2005). Fox News and the BBC are all well known examples of broadcast journalism (Hackett, 1999) and have been the focus of this research. The media plays a fundamental role in shaping societies opinions about significant issues (Asmal, 2008), the aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7 bombings media’s impact still resonates throughout the world today, especially its impact on those who follow the Islamic faith. This paper highlights responses to media representations of Muslims and Islam in general. The main areas of interest for this piece of work will be the psychological explanations the current perceptions of Islam and its link to the media and whether factors such as religious background, gender and critical thinking skills have an effect on those for attitudes formed through the media.
News Media Broadcasts Impact and Bias
Broadcast journalism is a term that refers to news media in which information and current events are presented through electronic media, primarily through television news programs (disserbookblue). Media broadcasts such as these are responsible for the way news is gathered and transmitted, which is also relevant in political processes (Stuart, 2005).They tend to be a persuasive source of information, in the sense that it primarily has the potential to control to some extent the minds of the viewers, which in this case is the ultimate aim in exercise of power, usually indirect. Whilst the control of intentions, opinions, beliefs or knowledge acquired are that news can and ought to be a balanced objective reflection of social reality; the political attitudes of journalist or editorial decision makers are a major determinant of the news bias (Hackett, 1999).
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Chompsky,1987, felt that whilst it is the intended purpose to empower the public to voice their opinion and control the government this is not how it is always used. Instead he presumes that the American media industry consists of “myth makes” that shape and restrict information which move the public to apathy and detachment and as a consequence allow the elite to run the country as they please. Chomsky felt that values such as democracy and freedom must be mobilized to protect are but they are instead threatened by the unregulated control of those who own the media. (Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2009).
Nevertheless media ownership is a very significant factor to keep in mind when considering media bias (Besley & Prat 2004, Djankovet al. 2003). In the context of news, media bias is very well documented, a popular example that has been referred to very often is; American news broadcast channel Fox News. Findings from previous research such as ……. have found drastically different assertions from the “war on terror” and Islamic representation to recent political process in regard to America’s presidential campaign (Vigna and Kaplan, 2005). “I challenge anybody to show me an example of bias in Fox News Channel.”–Rupert Murdoch (Salon, 3/1/01)The 24-hour Fox News channel is privately owned by Rupert Murdoch and was introduced in October 1996 to compete with CNN. By June 2000, 17.3 percent of the US population reported watching Fox News regularly (Scarborough Research data). Fox News coverage, however, is unique among the television media. Fox News is significantly to the right of all the other mainstream television networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC) (Groseclose and Milyo, 2005).
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However media bias generated by ownership can simply be explained through news consumption, which demands media to provide news caters to different audiences. (Mullainathan and Shleifer 2005, Gabszewicz, Laussel and Sonnac 2001). Empirical evidence to support this notion was adopted by a survey conducted by Pollingpoint based on 73,969 online interviews with U.S. adults aged 18 and older carried out from the 1st of October to the 21st of October 2004. These findings roughly describe the relationship between the viewers and news broadcasting channels, especially in relation to political identity (democrat or republican) and their valuations of TV networks. Nine in ten Republicans stated that FOX News offers the best news coverage among television networks, whereas Democrats seemed to have divided their loyalty among PBS and CNN with nearly 70 % naming one of the two as the best news source. The chart highlighted different preferences for different news, there clearly seems to be a demand for certain news by different segments of consumers. Therefore media firms provide professed bias to cater to this demand (Mullainathan & Shleifer, 2005).
Media bias tends to emerge in the form of optimal slanting strategies of news providers because their target audience want certain (albeit different) degree and direction of slant. Thus, the extent of media bias is mainly the result of consumer heterogeneity (dissimilarity). This is intuitive. After all, if there is a need and demand for biased news, privately owned media will have an incentive to satisfy that need. Apart from Mullainathan & Shleifer (2005), Gentzkow & Shapriro (2004) also argue that media bias may emerge from competing media catering to biased viewers beliefs but in their paper the mechanism is slightly different: viewers consider the news that are consistent with their prior expectations of high quality (Xiang 2005).
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