- Ghaida Ayesh
Proposed Research Topic:
The Effect of Biased Media in the Arab World on the Palestinian Community.
Why Palestinians believe media even though there are different sources with different opinions on the same topic?
Introduction and Purposes:
In September of 2013, there were billboards around Bethlehem city attracted my attention saying “Did you know a 3rd tower fell on 9/11?” and this sentence followed by a website to be checked if someone interested of getting more details, it was www.rethink911.org, I checked the website. It was all about introducing facts about what happened in the 11th September, 2001. And there was a documentary video which presented by agroup of Architects & Engineers who try to unveil the truth behind the fell of the World Trade Center Twin Towers on that day, and the surprising thing that there was a third building fell on that day called the World Trade Center Building 7 that didn’t hit by plan and collapsed in free fall 7 hours after the twin towers collapsed, I didn’t remember that on that day I heard about the existence of a third building and no news mentioned a story about the third building. I wondered how could media hide such a thing, why did they do that especially the U.S media, who could control all the main media networks around the word for not reporting about the third tower, and why did the audience believe them? While reading several articles about the issue trying to explore some facts, I realised that media coverage followed accusations by government authorities that pointed toward Al Qaeda as the group that carried out the attack on the United States and Osama bin Laden as leader of that group. Those news reports on the attack and the aftermath shaped public opinion to support the war on terrorism.Other ways to influence public opinion include political advertising.Subsequently I realised that media plays the role of the invisible hand in this universe and controls the audiences’ minds in a strange way, so what makes media’s audiences believe what they hear or see? Therefore, I plan to conduct a research about the media impact in the Arab world, and my purpose of this research is to see how the news reporting nowadays by affect people’s opinion toward what’s going on in the Arab world. And how the biased media can control people’s political thinking? It will also aim to tackle issues such as is media report or create news? Moreover who are the parties that control media in the Arab world?
Background and Methods:
In order to get data for my research, first I will read articles and researched conducted to a related topics, and will conduct a survey that target under graduate university students in Bethlehem University, also a group of people who used to set in Cafés and watch, read and listen to news, so this will enable me to gather relevant information, ultimately giving me the necessary tools to be able to compare people’s perspectives about today’s media, besides what is their relevance source of media, how their believe in media changed in the last years? Also to see if they make sure about the news they read before sharing it with other people in social networks. Further, I will prepare for a focus group of university students with different political views about what’s going on in the Middle East, and during this focus group I will introduce different resources of media with different opinion specifically about the Syrian revolution because I have noticed that there are many conflicted opinions in the Palestinian community about it and cannot find group of people have the same political analysis about what’s going on there in Syria, and during the discussions that will arise I will observe how this group of people going to react and comment about the differences in media and opinions.
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I choose surveys because using this tool will make me able to collect different opinions about media, and the creating of focus group is efficient to see immediate reaction and different opinions about media and this will give me information about what is the source of news that people prefer and trust, and how people evaluate the reliability of the reported news?
I think about targeting university students and people who usually set in cafés to watch news when distributing the surveys and creating the focus group; because these types of groups gathers people with different values and believes in one spot. And this will make the data I gather more efficient.
Watching news, reading newspaper or magazine, or listening to a radio station are one of the main activities in every day’s life. And these media become part of culture. While reading about the media effect and impact on people’s opinion and beliefs I found that there are three main sociological perspectives on the role of media, the first called the Limited-effects theory (1940s-1950s) this theory supports the assumption that people has the control of their own choices and choose what to watch, what believe and what to not; so the studies of the media influence showed that well- informed people relied more on personal experience, prior knowledge and their own reasoning unlike those who are less- informed ones. However for me there is a missing point in this theory that makes me disagree with it, the point is that when someone wants to get some knowledge about something he looks for information through media, if not through media, he will ask other people for information and for sure these people didn’t get this knowledge from nothing, they got it for example, from books, magazines, TV or internet which all considered as media. And another important thing is that this theory was created when the existence, availability and dominance of media was far less widespread which make it out dated (Entman 1994). The second theory is Class-dominant theory this theory follow the postulation that media is owned by a minority elite who controls it, and this elite group is cooperating with each other as a result, they can control what people see or hear, in addition because the main source of income for media is advertising, when a big company that finance large advertising campaigns in media do something unethical this media protect the image of this company because it is not for her benefit to harm the image of the company because this will make the media lose a big source of income (Mills 1956). The third and final theory called Culturalist theory (1980s-1990s), this theory combined the other two theories and it believes that people interact with media in a way so they create their own meanings out of the images and messages received form media, moreover this theory has two standpoints, the first is how audiences interact with media, and the other standpoint focuses on the producers of media. For the first standpoint because people choose what to watch, how much to watch and may choose to not watch; studies done by sociologists and linguists found that audiences interpretation of what they choose to watch is based on their own knowledge and experience. Therefore, culturalist theorists claim that, while a few elite in large corporations may exert significant control over what information media produces and distributes, personal perspective plays a more powerful role in how the audience members interpret those messages. (The Role and Influence of Mass Media 2013).
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Several reports and studies showed that the media can influence the audiences’ political view, and voting decision, for instance a study conducted in one of NBER working paper series, the study took the introduction of Fox News into a cable market as a case to analyze its news reporting impact on the federal election, they collected data for 28 states in the United States of America. After that they compared the change in the Republican vote share between 1996 and 2000 for the towns that had adopted Fox News by 2000 with those that had not. And the result showed that Fox News had a significant impact on the 2000 elections. The entry of Fox News increased the Republican vote share in presidential elections by 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points, depending on the specification. Since Fox News in 2000 was available in about 35 percent of households, the impact of Fox News on the two-party vote share in 2000 is estimated to be 0.15 to 0.2 percentage points, 200,000 votes nation-wide. (DellaVigna and Kaplan 2006). Another study find that Fox News watchers were 50 percent more likely that viewers of other networks to believe (erroneously) that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. (Steven, Ramsay and Lewis 2003). These statistics raised in my mind why did people believe median in such a case? Is it because it represents their inner affiliation? Or because the way it is presented is coming straight to the point that interest them? Or is it all about the credibility that a channel may be having? These are another minor questions of what I am looking for, and may lead me to study the case through some focus groups with different affiliation.
In addition other studies found that over 70 percent of Americans believe that there is a great deal or a fair amount of media bias in news coverage (Pew 2004). Evidence of bias ranges from the topic choice of the New York Times (Puglisi 2006) to the choice of think-tanks that the media refer to (Groseclose and Milyo 2005). Media bias was even more prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th century (Gentzkow 2006).
There is another theory addressed by Dr. Max McCombs and Dr. Donald Shaw, which is Agenda- Setting Theory it describes the powerful influence of media by telling what issues are important, they came out with this theory by studying the influence of media on the 1968 presidential election, the study titled 1968 Chapel HillStudy, the conclusion of this study is that the mass media exerted a significant influence on what voters considered to be the major issues of the campaign. (McCombs and Shaw 1972).
Biased Media: The media is biased whenever it provides fake images or out of context facts to support a certain viewpoint. The media is also biased whenever it “framing” issues of eventer on a certain way to fake the facts. Many scholars argue that framing can actually decide how we view a situation. (Kuypers 2002). A biased media affects the public’s understanding of current events and issues without giving the public all the facts. Opinions based on biased information are not usually the same as opinions based on neutral information. So for the public to make informed decisions on issues and politics, they must be given neutral information. (Kelly and Pax 2004)
As shown, media has powerful impact on people’s beliefs, and is controlled by group of people, furthermore there is agreement about the existence of biased media, and most of studies are conducted in western areas. That is why the current research study will be aimed to find out why people in the Arab world, from Palestine, in Bethlehem believe what media reports.
Unfortunately I will not be able to collect audience’s interaction with the reported news about what’s going on in the Arab world specially about what so called the Arab’s Spring because I have no access to audiences from other countries. In addition I can’t get statistics about what are the news media people in the Arab world watch, read or listen. As a result I am limited to Bethlehem University undergraduate students only. Because of that, I will be restricted to only normal audiences in the Palestinian community. In addition, there is no available technology for media that give statistics about what people watch on TV. And what are the main news TV channels they watch such as Nielsen technology.
- DellaVigna, Stefano, and Ethan Kaplan. 2006. The FOX News Effect: Media Bias and Voting. NBER Working Paper, Cambridge, MA: NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH.
- Entman, Robert M. 1994. “Reopening the Black Box: Toward a Limited Effects Theory.” Political Communication 11 (3): 313 – 314.
- Gentzkow, Matthew. 2006. “Television and Voter Turnout.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 931-972.
- Groseclose, Tim, and Jeffrey Milyo. 2005. “A Measure of Media Bias.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 1191-1237.
- Kelly, and Pax. 2004. Think on Journalism. July 1. Accessed January 27, 2014. http://www.jour.unr.edu/think/bias.html.
- Kuypers, Jim A. 2002. Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Conoversial Issues. London: Praeger.
- McCombs, Maxwell E., and Donald L. Shaw. 1972. “The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass Media.” The Public Opinion Quarterly (American Association for Public Opinion Research) 36 (2): 176-187. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2747787.
- Mills, C. Wright. 1956. The Power Elite. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- 2004. NEWS AUDIENCES INCREASINGLY POLITICIZED. Study, Washington, D.C.: PEW RESEARCH CENTER FOR THE PEOPLE AND THE PRESS.
- Puglisi, Riccardo. 2006. “BEING THE NEW YORK TIMES: THE POLITICAL BEHAVIOUR OF A NEWSPAPER.” http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/. April. Accessed January 26, 2014. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/19292/1/Being_the_new_york_times.pdf.
- Steven, Kull, Clay Ramsay, and Evan Lewis. 2003. “Misperceptions, The Media, And The Iraq.” Political Science Quarterly 118: 569-598.
- 2013. “The Role and Influence of Mass Media.” CliffNotes. May 7. Accessed January 27, 2014. http://www.cliffsnotes.com/sciences/sociology/contemporary-mass-media/the-role-and-influence-of-mass-media.
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