This week reading “Media, War and Conflict” by Shawn Powers and Mohammed el-Nawawy, analyze the media viewing habits of specific countries for three major media. In detail, it is an analysis of media viewing habit, cultural, political and cognitive dispositions of viewers of Al Jazeera English in comparison of CNN International and BBC World. The article presents two key findings: first, viewers worldwide turn to broadcasters to affirm rather than inform the so the existing stereotypes are likely to strengthen. Second, the longer the viewers watch on Al Jazeera English, the less dogmatic they become in thinking and more open to other alternatives and opinions.
The article introduces that after the dramatic development of satellite televisions, experts think the news media will create a global media sphere which encourages public conversation and cultural exchange between diverse communities. But, in reality, it results in segmentation of target audiences where viewers turn to broadcasters that would fit with their existing norms and opinions.
It said only when we exclude the principles for ‘war journalism’, broadcasters can help improve cross cultural understanding and reconciliation.
The author Hafez, K challenged the view that satellite TVs homogenized the cultures saying that there is not enough evident. He said only significant chunk of humanity has technology to access foreign broadcasters and majority of people’s media habit and how they organize their lives are not changing as much as assumed. He argued that media ‘follow’ rather than ‘lead’ the public opinion. The news media typically work toward the ‘affirmation and legitimation of national politics’ instead of ‘challenging people’s perspectives or providing competing world views’.
He thinks the scholars are overestimating the role of media as the Fourth Estate. It is true that media should provide balance and fair views of cross border issues but it is still within the boundary of running a business. Needless to say, challenging the prevalent beliefs or taking sides with others, would results in losses of readerships or viewers and then losses of revenues and advertisements as well as the influences. No mainstream media, except the one running on funding from foreign sources, dare to defy the opinions of majority and follow the existing trend. Being a outcast is death sentence for media.
On the other hands, professional journalists believe that media doesn’t need to ‘educate’ the people. The famous quotation says that media does not tell the people ‘how to think’ but tells them ‘what to think about’. According to this belief, the media should merely serve as the reflection of public opinion and not required advocacy or urges for change.
This view seemed to be right until extremism and ultra nationalism kicks in. One would argue against it pointing out pre-World War II Germany and some fundamentalist societies of today. It is arguable that when the majority favors upon the path to extremity and confrontation, it puts the media in difficult positions and ethical dilemma of whether to merge with the majority’s views or not.
Here comes my ultimate question: if the majority in a society committed to the norms and cultural beliefs that are not fits with universally acclaimed rights and standards, should the media serving that audiences resist the prevalence views and provide opposing views risking of its own survival?
It is notable that the increasingly globalized media seemed to be shaping a globalized civil society but actually, the global public has been becoming balkanized as they choose specific media and communication networks that are in line with their existing ideological views. The survey conducted by Pew Global Attitudes Project revealed how the mainstream media failed to improve the cultural understanding, given the negative perception of the Muslims and Westerners persists on each other. Critically, when it comes to covering international conflicts, the balkanized media are far from mediating and even potential of deteriorating them.
The author Shinar.D argues that since the media’s professional standards thrive on drama, sensationalism and emotions, it is more compatible with war than peace.
Similar account of author Daya Thussu and Wolfsfeld G affirms that the nature of media favor the conflicts, riots and war than peace time filled with tedious closed door negotiations. Therefore, news media has more incentives overstatement, sensationalization and trivialization of violence and conflicts to maintain viewership and audience attentions. Rather than informing to a variety of people, today’s media are often target particular segments of people reflecting ‘dominant national frames’ in contextualization of international events.
For these reason, I found that Conflict reporting has become focus of many journalism trainings.
I think the increase supports for discussion and training in Conflict reporting for emerging journalists could alleviate the intense but there is still underlying needs to please the majority of audience.
Question 2: What could be long term solution for the media to avoid them from framing international issues in their national and cultural context?
At that point, I believe the author Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” thesis is relevant with the current landscape. As the world and societies become more and more globalized, increased interactions between communities makes their civilizational identities stronger than ever and critical of others that challenges their social norms and cultural mores. Thus, the media serving the communities are more likely to response to culture bonded perceptions and national benefits. It is evident that despite their appearances as international entities, CNN’s reporting on Iraq war is more positive and focused toward United States national security while Al Jazeera’s reporting on the same issue was more critical of US invasion on Iraq and explored the dark sides.
Generally, Samuel Huntington’s prediction ‘the fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future’ is plausible and it is almost absolute truth in observing the current conflicts around the world. The ethnic conflicts in Kosovo, escalated defiance toward Russian government in Chechnya, separatist efforts in China’s Xinjiang provinces, communal riots between Buddhist and Muslims in Burma, advances of Muslim rebels in southern Thailand, tension between India and Pakistan and undeclared war on Israel by Arab nations, all of these major issues are reflecting the Samuel Huntington’s thesis because these are all clash of different civilizations occurred at borderlines of two different civilizations.
However, a closer look on world international conflicts and diplomacy will give you a different thesis: persisting war between two Koreas and Taiwan’s resistance on China’s claims are potential triggers of a full scale war. But these are nothing to do with the Culture and more of clash of ideologies. In additions, the overlapping territorial claims by China and South East Asian countries on South China Sea are another possible flash point for future conflicts and surprisingly Vietnam, the closest cultural cousin of Chinese civilization, is the main defender of its national benefits against China’s territorial advances. In close observation to Asian diplomacy, it would found the intertwine alliance between China, Pakistan and North Korea at one side and Japan, India and South Korea at other side. The simple idea of “Enemy of enemy is my friend” seemed to be working well while nations and societies likely to rally on cultural similarities in some cases.
Here comes my next question: What is the role of the culture in media? Is Culture ultimate factor in shaping the media portrayal and should all media portray those with similar cultures positively and those with different culture negatively, if their individual interests are not included?
These are my thoughts and questions on this week’s reading.