The Institute for Economics and Peace and Media Tenor have released “Measuring Peace in the Media”, the first study that takes a fact-based approach into understanding the accuracy of international television networks’ coverage of peace, violence and conflict.
The results show broad inconsistencies across geographies and networks, with US broadcasters much more focused on violence and conflict than their European and Middle Eastern counterparts. Al Jazeera was found to be the network providing the most balanced coverage on Afghanistan. BBC World led the way when it came to breadth of coverage. It regularly reported on 67 countries across six continents which is nearly twice as many countries as the average level of coverage.
The study analysed 37 TV news and current affairs programmes from 23 networks in 15 countries and then cross-referenced this with the Global Peace Index which measures the levels of peace and violence in 149 countries. BBC 2 Newsnight and ZDF Heute Journal were found to be the programmes whose editorial policies aligned their coverage most closely with the rankings of the GPI.
The World’s Eye on Afghanistan
The report includes a detailed case study on coverage of Afghanistan, which shows that a disproportionate amount of coverage is focused on defence and crime, while neglecting news of progress in critical areas needed to build lasting peace.
CNN International, BBC World and Al Jazeera English all had similar number of reports on the topics that received the most total coverage – warfare, elections, crime and international politics. However, Al Jazeera had the greatest breadth of coverage, including more coverage on topics which related progress in creating peace. Al Jazeera News was the most positive and had three times as many positive stories as BBC World, and more than eight times as many positive stories as CNN International Desk.
“Regardless of whether the tone of the coverage is positive or negative, it is essential for the media to spend editorial time focussing attention on the building blocks of peace ”, said Steve Killelea, founder of the IEP. “There is always some progress being made no matter how dire the situation. And, when too much media attention is placed on violence and security this reinforces the view that these are the only ways to establishing peace. This runs contrary to what experts tell us about how to create peaceful societies”.
Positive-peace stories make up just 1.6% of the total number of stories examined in the study. These are stories that report on active steps taken to rectify violent situations. Such a small percentage may be partly related to what is considered newsworthy and dramatic, such as high-impact, violent or controversial events. However, the stereotyping of nations which are low on the GPI makes it harder for audiences to gain empathy and therefore to support governments and make headway towards creating peace.
“Informing the public on what will build long term peace and stability is vital to the war on terrorism,” said Roland Schatz, CEO of Media Tenor. “Given the media’s role in shaping and informing public opinion, a robust and diverse coverage of the most important topics is essential.”
You can find the full report here along with interviews on the subject with Amre Moussa, the Secretary General of the League of Arab States, and the World Bank’s Nick van Praag.
Zoe Cooprider, of the Global Peace Index, sent us this note.