Media bias

Media bias

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Media bias refers to the bias of journalist
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

s and news producer
News producer
A news producer is one of the most integral members of any news-production team. The news producer takes all the elements of a newscast and compiles them into a cohesive show....

s within the mass media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

 in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism
Journalism ethics and standards
Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their professional "code of ethics" or the "canons of journalism"...

, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed.

Practical limitations to media neutrality include the inability of journalists to report all available stories and facts, and the requirement that selected facts be linked into a coherent narrative. Because it is impossible to report everything, selectivity is inevitable. Government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

 influence, including overt and covert censorship
Censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

, biases the media in some countries. Market forces that result in a biased presentation include the ownership
Ownership
Ownership is the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property, which may be an object, land/real estate or intellectual property. Ownership involves multiple rights, collectively referred to as title, which may be separated and held by different parties. The concept of ownership has...

 of the news source, concentration of media ownership
Concentration of media ownership
Concentration of media ownership refers to a process whereby progressively fewer individuals or organizations control increasing shares of the mass media...

, the selection of staff
Employment
Employment is a contract between two parties, one being the employer and the other being the employee. An employee may be defined as:- Employee :...

, the preference
Preference
-Definitions in different disciplines:The term “preferences” is used in a variety of related, but not identical, ways in the scientific literature. This makes it necessary to make explicit the sense in which the term is used in different social sciences....

s of an intended audience
Audience
An audience is a group of people who participate in a show or encounter a work of art, literature , theatre, music or academics in any medium...

, and pressure from advertisers.

There are a number of national and international watchdog
Watchdog journalism
Watchdog journalism aims to hold accountable public personalities and institutions, whose functions impact social and political life. The term "lapdog journalism", for journalism biased in favour of personalities and institutions, is sometimes used as a conceptual opposite to watchdog...

 groups that report on bias in the media.

Types of bias


The most commonly discussed forms of bias occur when the media support or attack a particular political party, candidate, or ideology, but other common forms of bias include
  • Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

     bias, when stories are selected or slanted to please advertisers.

  • Corporate bias
    Corporatism
    Corporatism, also known as corporativism, is a system of economic, political, or social organization that involves association of the people of society into corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common...

    , when stories are selected or slanted to please corporate owners of media.

  • Mainstream
    Mainstream
    Mainstream is, generally, the common current thought of the majority. However, the mainstream is far from cohesive; rather the concept is often considered a cultural construct....

     bias, a tendency to report what everyone else is reporting, and to avoid stories that will offend anyone.

  • Sensationalism
    Sensationalism
    Sensationalism is a type of editorial bias in mass media in which events and topics in news stories and pieces are over-hyped to increase viewership or readership numbers...

    , bias in favor of the exceptional over the ordinary, giving the impression that rare events, such as airplane crashes, are more common than common events, such as automobile crashes.


Other forms of bias including reporting that favors or attacks a particular race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, or ethnic group.

Scholarly treatment of media bias in the United States and United Kingdom


Media bias is studied at schools of journalism, university departments (including Media studies
Media studies
Media studies is an academic discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media; in particular, the 'mass media'. Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass...

, Cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

 and Peace studies) and by many independent watchdog groups from various parts of the political spectrum. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, many of these studies focus on issues of a conservative/liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 balance
Media balance
Balance or impartiality, is sometimes used in reference to political content in the mass media. This usage began in Britain in the early part of the 20th century when the Conservative Party was unpopular and receiving little coverage through the BBC...

 in the media. Other focuses include international differences in reporting, as well as bias in reporting of particular issues such as economic class or environmental interests.

A highly cited academic study showing a liberal media bias in American journalism is The Media Elite,* a 1986 book co-authored by political scientists Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Linda Lichter. They surveyed journalists at national media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and broadcast networks. The survey found that most of these journalists were Democratic voters whose attitudes were considered to be more liberal than those of the general public on a variety of topics, including hot-button social issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and gay rights. They then compared journalists' attitudes to their coverage of controversial issues such as the safety of nuclear power, school busing to promote racial integration, and the energy crisis of the 1970s
1970s energy crisis
The 1970s energy crisis was a period in which the major industrial countries of the world, particularly the United States, faced substantial shortages, both perceived and real, of petroleum...

.

The authors concluded that journalists' coverage of controversial issues reflected their own attitudes, and the predominance of political liberals in newsrooms therefore pushed news coverage in a liberal direction. They presented this tilt as a mostly unconscious process of like-minded individuals projecting their shared assumptions onto their interpretations of reality.

A widely-cited public opinion study documents a correlation between news source and certain misconceptions about the Iraq war. Conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes in October 2003, the poll asked Americans whether they believed statements about the Iraq war that were known to be false. Respondents were also asked which was their primary news source: Fox News, CBS
CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

, NBC
NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

, ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

, CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

, "Print sources," or NPR. By cross referencing the responses according to primary news source, the study showed that higher numbers of Fox News watchers held certain misconceptions about the Iraq war. The director of Program on International Policy (PIPA), Stephen Kull said, “While we cannot assert that these misconceptions created the support for going to war with Iraq, it does appear likely that support for the war would be substantially lower if fewer members of the public had these misperceptions.”

The Glasgow Media Group
Glasgow Media Group
The Glasgow Media Group, also known as Glasgow University Media Group, is a leading group of media researchers based in Glasgow, Scotland, who pioneered the analysis of television news in a series of studies starting in 1976 with Bad News...

 carried out the Bad News Studies, a series of detailed analyses of television broadcasts (and later newspaper coverage) in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. (Eldridge, 2000). Published between 1976 and 1985, the Bad News Studies used content analysis
Content analysis
Content analysis or textual analysis is a methodology in the social sciences for studying the content of communication. Earl Babbie defines it as "the study of recorded human communications, such as books, websites, paintings and laws."According to Dr...

, interviews and covert participant observation to conclude that news was biased against trade unions, blaming them for breaking wage negotiating guidelines and causing high inflation.

Martin Harrison's TV News: Whose Bias? (1985) criticized the methodology of the Glasgow Media Group, arguing that the GMG identified bias selectively, via their own preconceptions about what phrases qualify as biased descriptions. For example, the GMG sees the word "idle" to describe striking workers as pejorative, despite the word being used by strikers themselves.

Herman
Edward S. Herman
Edward S. Herman is an American economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media. He is Professor Emeritus of Finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He also teaches at Annenberg School for...

 and Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

 (1988) proposed a propaganda model
Propaganda model
The propaganda model is a conceptual model in political economy advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky that states how propaganda, including systemic biases, function in mass media...

 hypothesizing systematic biases of U.S. media from structural economic causes. They hypothesize media ownership by corporations, funding from advertising, the use of official sources, efforts to discredit independent media ("flak"), and "anti-communist" ideology as the filters that bias news in favor of U.S. corporate interests.

Their propaganda model
Propaganda model
The propaganda model is a conceptual model in political economy advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky that states how propaganda, including systemic biases, function in mass media...

 first and foremost discusses self censorship through the corporate system (see corporate censorship
Corporate censorship
Corporate censorship is censorship by corporations, the sanctioning of speech by spokespersons, employees, and business associates by threat of monetary loss, loss of employment, or loss of access to the marketplace.- TV Guide debate :...

); that reporters and especially editors share and/or acquire values with corporate elites in order to further their careers. Those that don’t are usually weeded out or marginalized. Such examples have been dramatized in fact based movie dramas as “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “The Insider
The Insider (film)
The Insider is a 1999 film based on the true story of a 60 Minutes television series segment, as seen through the eyes of a real tobacco executive, Jeffrey Wigand. The 60 Minutes story originally aired in November 1995 in an altered form because of objections by CBS’ then-owner, Laurence Tisch, who...

” or demonstrated in the documentary “The Corporation”. In the early 20th-century, George Orwell
George Orwell
Eric Arthur Blair , better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist...

 originally wrote a preface for his book “Animal Farm
Animal Farm
Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell published in England on 17 August 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II...

”, which focused on the British self-censorship of the time. "The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. ... [Things are] kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact." As if to prove the point, the preface itself was censored and is not published with most copies of the book.

The propaganda model posits that advertising dollars are essential for funding most media sources and clearly have an effect on the content of the media. For example, according to Fair, ‘When Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

 proposed launching a progressive TV network, a Fox News executive told Advertising Age
Advertising Age
Advertising Age is a magazine, delivering news, analysis and data on marketing and media. The magazine was started as a broadsheet newspaper in Chicago in 1930...

(10/13/03): "The problem with being associated as liberal is that they wouldn't be going in a direction that advertisers are really interested in.... If you go out and say that you are a liberal network, you are cutting your potential audience, and certainly your potential advertising pool, right off the bat.” Furthermore “an internal memo from ABC Radio Networks to its affiliates reveals scores of powerful sponsors have a standing order that their commercials never be placed on syndicated Air America
Air America Radio
Air America was an American radio network specializing in progressive talk programming...

 programming that airs on ABC affiliates…. The list, totaling 90 advertisers, includes some of largest and most well-known corporations advertising in the U.S.: Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , branded as Walmart since 2008 and Wal-Mart before then, is an American public multinational corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores and warehouse stores. The company is the world's 18th largest public corporation, according to the Forbes Global 2000...

, GE
Gê are the people who spoke Ge languages of the northern South American Caribbean coast and Brazil. In Brazil the Gê were found in Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Piaui, Mato Grosso, Goias, Tocantins, Maranhão, and as far south as Paraguay....

, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Bank of America, Fed-Ex, Visa, Allstate
Allstate
The Allstate Corporation is the second-largest personal lines insurer in the United States and the largest that is publicly held. The company also has personal lines insurance operations in Canada. Allstate was founded in 1931 as part of Sears, Roebuck and Co., and was spun off in 1993...

, McDonald's, Sony and Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson is an American multinational pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer packaged goods manufacturer founded in 1886. Its common stock is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the company is listed among the Fortune 500....

. The U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Navy are also listed as advertisers who don't want their commercials to air on Air America.”

Many of the positions in the preceding study are supported by a 2002 study by Jim A. Kuypers
Jim A. Kuypers
Jim A. Kuypers is an American academic specializing in communication studies. A professor at Virginia Tech, he has written on the news media, rhetorical criticism and presidential rhetoric, and is particularly known for his work in political communication which explores the qualitative aspects of...

: Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues. In this study of 116 mainstream US papers (including The New York Times, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times is a daily newspaper published in Los Angeles, California, since 1881. It was the second-largest metropolitan newspaper in circulation in the United States in 2008 and the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the country....

, and the San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
thumb|right|upright|The Chronicle Building following the [[1906 San Francisco earthquake|1906 earthquake]] and fireThe San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California,...

), Kuypers found that the mainstream print press in America operate within a narrow range of liberal beliefs. Those who expressed points of view further to the left were generally ignored, whereas those who expressed moderate or conservative points of view were often actively denigrated or labeled as holding a minority point of view. In short, if a political leader, regardless of party, spoke within the press-supported range of acceptable discourse, he or she would receive positive press coverage. If a politician, again regardless of party, were to speak outside of this range, he or she would receive negative press or be ignored. Kuypers also found that the liberal points of view expressed in editorial and opinion pages were found in hard news coverage of the same issues. Although focusing primarily on the issues of race and homosexuality
Homosexuality
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

, Kuypers found that the press injected opinion into its news coverage of other issues such as welfare reform
Welfare reform
Welfare reform refers to the process of reforming the framework of social security and welfare provisions, but what is considered reform is a matter of opinion. The term was used in the United States to support the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act...

, environmental protection
Environmental protection
Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the environment, on individual, organizational or governmental level, for the benefit of the natural environment and humans. Due to the pressures of population and our technology the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently...

, and gun control
Gun control
Gun control is any law, policy, practice, or proposal designed to restrict or limit the possession, production, importation, shipment, sale, and/or use of guns or other firearms by private citizens...

; in all cases favoring a liberal point of view.

Studies reporting perceptions of liberal bias in the media are not limited to studies of print media. A joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that people see liberal media bias in television news media such as CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

. Although both CNN and Fox were perceived in the study as being left of center, CNN was perceived as being more liberal than Fox. Moreover, the study's findings concerning CNN's perceived liberal bias are echoed in other studies. There is also a growing economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 literature on mass media bias, both on the theoretical and the empirical side. On the theoretical side the focus is on understanding to what extent the political positioning of mass media outlets is mainly driven by demand or supply factors. This literature is surveyed by Andrea Prat of the London School of Economics and David Stromberg of Stockholm university.

According to Dan Sutter of the University of Oklahoma, a systematic liberal bias in the U.S. media could depend on the fact that owners and/or journalists typically lean to the left.

Along the same lines, David Baron of Stanford GSB presents a game-theoretic model of mass media behaviour in which, given that the pool of journalists systematically leans towards the left or the right, mass media outlets maximise their profits by providing content that is biased in the same direction. They can do so, because it is cheaper to hire journalists that write stories which are consistent with their political position. A concurrent theory would be that supply and demand would cause media to attain a neutral balance because consumers would of course gravitate towards the media they agreed with. This argument fails in considering the imbalance in self-reported political allegiances by journalists themselves, that distort any market analogy as regards offer: (...) Indeed, in 1982, 85 percent of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism students identified themselves as liberal, versus 11 percent conservative" (Lichter
Lichter
)# MHG lihten "to castrate animals"|region = Germany, Austria; Poland, Galicia |language = German, Yiddish|related names =Or , Ner, Light, , Licht, Lecht, Lichte, , Lichtner, Lichtig, Lichting, Lichtinger, Lichtiger, Lichtmann , Lichtensohn , , Lichtenträger , Lichtmacher ,...

, Rothman, and Lichter 1986: 48), quoted in Sutter, 2001.

This same argument would have news outlets in equal numbers increasing profits of a more balanced media far more than the slight increase in costs to hire unbiased journalists, notwithstanding the extreme rarity of self-reported conservative journalists (Sutton, 2001).

As mentioned above, Tim Groseclose of UCLA and Jeff Milyo of the University of Missouri at Columbia use think tank quotes, in order to estimate the relative position of mass media outlets in the political spectrum. The idea is to trace out which think tanks are quoted by various mass media outlets within news stories, and to match these think tanks with the political position of members of the U.S. Congress who quote them in a non-negative way. Using this procedure, Groseclose and Milyo obtain the stark result that all sampled news providers -except Fox News' Special Report and the Washington Times- are located to the left of the average Congress member, i.e. there are signs of a liberal bias in the US news media. However, the news media also show a remarkable degree of centrism, just because all outlets but one are located –from an ideological point of view- between the average Democrat and average Republican in Congress.

The methods Groseclose and Milyo used to calculate this bias have been criticized by Mark Liberman
Mark Liberman
Mark Liberman is an American linguist. He has a dual appointment at the University of Pennsylvania, as Trustee Professor of Phonetics in the Department of Linguistics, and as a professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. He is the founder and director of the Linguistic Data...

, a professor of Computer Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Liberman concludes by saying he thinks "that many if not most of the complaints directed against G&M are motivated in part by ideological disagreement – just as much of the praise for their work is motivated by ideological agreement. It would be nice if there were a less politically fraught body of data on which such modeling exercises could be explored."

Sendhil Mullainathan and Andrei Shleifer of Harvard University construct a behavioural model, which is built around the assumption that readers and viewers hold beliefs that they would like to see confirmed by news providers. When news customers share common beliefs, profit-maximizing media outlets find it optimal to select and/or frame stories in order to pander to those beliefs. On the other hand, when beliefs are heterogeneous, news providers differentiate their offer and segment the market, by providing news stories that are slanted towards the two extreme positions in the spectrum of beliefs.

Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro of Chicago GSB present another demand-driven theory of mass media bias. If readers and viewers have a priori views on the current state of affairs and are uncertain about the quality of the information about it being provided by media outlets, then the latter have an incentive to slant stories towards their customers' prior beliefs, in order to build and keep a reputation for high-quality journalism. The reason for this is that rational agents would tend to believe that pieces of information that go against their prior beliefs in fact originate from low-quality news providers.

Given that different groups in society have different beliefs, priors and interests, to which group would the media tailor its bias? David Stromberg constructs a demand-driven model where media bias arises because different audiences have different effects on media profits. Advertisers pay more for affluent audiences and media may tailor content to attract this audience, perhaps producing a right-wing bias. On the other hand, urban audiences are more profitable to newspapers because of lower delivery costs. Newspapers may for this reason tailor their content to attract the profitable predominantly liberal urban audiences. Finally, because of the increasing returns to scale in news production, small groups such as minorities are less profitable. This biases media content against the interest of minorities.

Jimmy Chan of Shanghai University
Shanghai University
Shanghai University is a public, comprehensive university located in Shanghai, China. The university has the longest serving President; Chien Wei-zang since 1982 until he died in 2010. He was a well known scientist in China...

 and Wing Suen of the University of Hong Kong develop a model where media bias arises because the media cannot tell “the whole truth” but are restricted to simple messages, such as political endorsements. In this setting, media bias arises because biased media are more informative; people with a certain political bias prefer media with a similar bias because they can more trust their advice on what actions to take.

The economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 empirical literature on mass media bias mainly focuses on the United States.

Steve Ansolabehere, Rebecca Lessem and Jim Snyder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 analyze the political orientation of endorsements by U.S. newspapers. They find an upward trend in the average propensity to endorse a candidate, and in particular an incumbent one. There are also some changes in the average ideological slant of endorsements: while in the 40s and in the 50s there was a clear advantage to Republican candidates, this advantage continuously eroded in subsequent decades, to the extent that in the 90s the authors find a slight Democratic lead in the average endorsement choice.

John Lott
John Lott
John Richard Lott Jr. is an American academic and political commentator. He has previously held research positions at academic institutions including the University of Chicago, Yale University, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Maryland, College Park,...

 and Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is a conservative think tank founded in 1943. Its stated mission is "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism—limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and...

 study the coverage of economic news by looking at a panel of 389 U.S. newspapers from 1991 to 2004, and from 1985 to 2004 for a subsample comprising the top 10 newspapers and the Associated Press. For each release of official data about a set of economic indicators, the authors analyze how newspapers decide to report on them, as reflected by the tone of the related headlines. The idea is to check whether newspapers display some kind of partisan bias, by giving more positive or negative coverage to the same economic figure, as a function of the political affiliation of the incumbent President. Controlling for the economic data being released, the authors find that there are between 9.6 and 14.7 percent fewer positive stories when the incumbent President is a Republican.

Riccardo Puglisi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

 looks at the editorial choices of the New York Times from 1946 to 1997. He finds that the Times displays Democratic partisanship, with some watchdog aspects. This is the case, because during presidential campaigns the Times systematically gives more coverage to Democratic topics of civil rights, health care, labor and social welfare, but only when the incumbent
Incumbent
The incumbent, in politics, is the existing holder of a political office. This term is usually used in reference to elections, in which races can often be defined as being between an incumbent and non-incumbent. For example, in the 2004 United States presidential election, George W...

 president is a Republican. These topics are classified as Democratic ones, because Gallup polls show that on average U.S. citizens think that Democratic candidates would be better at handling problems related to them. According to Puglisi, in the post-1960 period the Times displays a more symmetric type of watchdog behaviour, just because during presidential campaigns it also gives more coverage to the typically Republican issue of Defense when the incumbent President is a Democrat, and less so when the incumbent is a Republican.

Alan Gerber and Dean Karlan of Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 use an experimental approach to examine not whether the media are biased, but whether the media influence political decisions and attitudes. They conduct a randomized control trial just prior to the November 2005 gubernatorial election in Virginia and randomly assign individuals in Northern Virginia to (a) a treatment group that receives a free subscription to the Washington Post, (b) a treatment group that receives a free subscription to the Washington Times, or (c) a control group. They find that those who are assigned to the Washington Post treatment group are eight percentage points more likely to vote for the Democrat in the elections. The report also found that "exposure to either newspaper was weakly linked to a movement away from the Bush administration and Republicans."

Another unaffiliated group, Media Study Group, established seven categories of poor journalistic practice: for example, the journalist stating personal opinion in a report, asserting incorrect facts, applying unequal space or treatment to two sides of a controversial issue; then analyzed The Age Newspaper (Melbourne Australia) for the frequency of infraction of this code of practice. The resultant instances were then analyzed statistically with respect to the frequency they supported one or other side of the two-sided controversial issue under consideration. The goal of this group was to establish a quantitative methodology for the study of bias.

A self-described liberal media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting is a progressive media criticism organization based in New York City, founded in 1986.FAIR describes itself on its website as "the national media watch group" and defines its mission as working to "invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity...

 (FAIR), in consultation with the Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University, sponsored an academic study in which journalists were asked a range of questions about how they did their work and about how they viewed the quality of media coverage in the broad area of politics and economic policy. “They were asked for their opinions and views about a range of recent policy issues and debates. Finally, they were asked for demographic and identifying information, including their political orientation”. They then compared to the same or similar questions posed with “the public” based on Gallup, and Pew Trust polls. Their study concluded that a majority of journalists, although relatively liberal on social policies, were significantly to the right of the public on economic, labor, health care and foreign policy issues.

This study continues: “we learn much more about the political orientation of news content by looking at sourcing patterns rather than journalists' personal views. As this survey shows, it is government officials and business representatives to whom journalists "nearly always" turn when covering economic policy. Labor representatives and consumer advocates were at the bottom of the list. This is consistent with earlier research on sources. For example, analysts from the centrist Brookings Institution and conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute are those most quoted in mainstream news accounts; liberal think tanks are often invisible. When it comes to sources, ‘liberal bias’ is nowhere to be found.”

The IQ Controversy, the Media and Public Policy, a book published by Stanley Rothman and Mark Snyderman, claimed to document bias in media coverage of scientific findings regarding intelligence quotient
Intelligence quotient
An intelligence quotient, or IQ, is a score derived from one of several different standardized tests designed to assess intelligence. When modern IQ tests are constructed, the mean score within an age group is set to 100 and the standard deviation to 15...

.

Experimenter's bias


A major problem in studies is experimenter's bias
Experimenter's bias
In experimental science, experimenter's bias is subjective bias towards a result expected by the human experimenter. David Sackett, in a useful review of biases in clinical studies, states that biases can occur in any one of seven stages of research:...

. Research into studies of media bias in the United States shows that liberal experimenters tend to get results that say the media has a conservative bias, while conservatives experimenters tend to get results that say the media has a liberal bias, and those who do not identify themselves as either liberal or conservative get results indicating little bias, or mixed bias.

The study "A Measure of Media Bias" by political scientist Timothy J. Groseclose of UCLA and economist Jeffrey D. Milyo of the University of Missouri-Columbia, purports to rank news organizations in terms of identifying with liberal or conservative values relative to each other. They used the Americans for Democratic Action
Americans for Democratic Action
Americans for Democratic Action is an American political organization advocating progressive policies. ADA works for social and economic justice through lobbying, grassroots organizing, research and supporting progressive candidates.-History:...

 (ADA) scores as a quantitative proxy for political leanings of the referential organizations. Thus their definition of "liberal" includes the RAND Corporation
RAND
RAND Corporation is a nonprofit global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the United States armed forces by Douglas Aircraft Company. It is currently financed by the U.S. government and private endowment, corporations including the healthcare industry, universities...

, a nonprofit research organization with strong ties to the Defense Department. Their work claims to detect a bias towards liberalism in the American media. Both authors are staunch conservatives: on his website, Groseclose cites Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Bob Dole, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Phil Gramm, Dick Armey, and Dick Cheney as his political heroes, and states that he usually sides with conservatives on controversial issues. Milyo was made a national fellow of the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank, in 2010.

Tools for measuring and evaluating media bias


Richard Alan Nelson's (2004) study cited above on Tracking Propaganda to the Source: Tools for Analyzing Media Bias reports there are at least 12 methods used to analyze the existence of and quantify bias:
  1. Surveys of the political/cultural attitudes of journalists, particularly members of the media elite, and of journalism students.
  2. Studies of journalists' previous professional connections.
  3. Collections of quotations in which prominent journalists reveal their beliefs about politics and/or the proper role of their profession.
  4. Computer word-use and topic analysis searches to determine content and labeling.
  5. Studies of policies recommended in news stories.
  6. Comparisons of the agenda of the news and entertainment media with agendas of political candidates or other activists.
  7. Positive/negative coverage analysis.
  8. Reviews of the personal demographics of media decision makers.
  9. Comparisons of advertising sources/content which influence information/entertainment content.
  10. Analyses of the extent of government propaganda and public relations (PR) industry impact on media.
  11. Studies of the use of experts and spokespersons etc. by media vs. those not selected to determine the interest groups and ideologies represented vs. those excluded.
  12. Research into payments of journalists by corporations and trade associations to speak before their groups and the impact that may have on coverage.

Efforts to correct bias


A technique used to avoid bias is the "point/counterpoint" or "round table
Round table
A round table is a table which has no "head" and no "sides", and therefore no one person sitting at it is given a privileged position and all are treated as equals. The idea stems from the Arthurian legend about the Knights of the Round Table in Camelot....

", an adversarial format in which representatives of opposing views comment on an issue. This approach theoretically allows diverse views to appear in the media. However, the person organizing the report still has the responsibility to choose people who really represent the breadth of opinion, to ask them non-prejudicial questions, and to edit or arbitrate their comments fairly. When done carelessly, a point/counterpoint can be as unfair as a simple biased report, by suggesting that the "losing" side lost on its merits.

Using this format can also lead to accusations that the reporter has created a misleading appearance that viewpoints have equal validity (sometimes called "false balance
False balance
False balance is a centuries old English phrase, found in the King James Bible to indicate a dishonest measurement....

"). This may happen when a taboo
Taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

 exists around one of the viewpoints, or when one of the representatives habitually makes claims that are easily shown to be inaccurate.

One such allegation of misleading balance came from Mark Halperin
Mark Halperin
Mark E. Halperin is the senior political analyst for Time magazine, Time.com, and MSNBC and serves as a board member on the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. He is the co-author of Game Change.-Personal:Mark Halperin is the son of Morton Halperin and Ina Young. He has...

, political director of ABC News
ABC News
ABC News is the news gathering and broadcasting division of American broadcast television network ABC, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

. He stated in an internal e-mail message that reporters should not "artificially hold George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 and John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

 'equally' accountable" to the public interest, and that complaints from Bush supporters were an attempt to "get away with ... renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry." When the conservative web site the Drudge Report
Drudge Report
The Drudge Report is a news aggregation website. Run by Matt Drudge with the help of Joseph Curl and Charles Hurt, the site consists mainly of links to stories from the United States and international mainstream media about politics, entertainment, and current events as well as links to many...

 published this message, many Bush supporters viewed it as "smoking gun" evidence that Halperin was using ABC to propagandize against Bush to Kerry's benefit, by interfering with reporters' attempts to avoid bias. An academic content analysis of election news later found that coverage at ABC, CBS, and NBC was more favorable toward Kerry than Bush, while coverage at Fox News Channel was more favorable toward Bush.

Scott Norvell
Scott Norvell
Scott Norvell is a blogger and columnist for the Fox News Website, having run a column there since 2001. Norvell's blog and column at Fox News, entitled "Tongue Tied", details incidences of what he considers extreme "political correctness"...

, the London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 bureau chief for Fox News, stated in a May 20, 2005 interview with the Wall Street Journal that:
"Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove
Karl Rove
Karl Christian Rove was Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to former President George W. Bush until Rove's resignation on August 31, 2007. He has headed the Office of Political Affairs, the Office of Public Liaison, and the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives...

 and Bill O'Reilly
Bill O'Reilly (commentator)
William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr. is an American television host, author, syndicated columnist and political commentator. He is the host of the political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, which is the most watched cable news television program on American television...

. And those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren't subsidizing Bill's bombast; we payers of the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 license fee don't enjoy that peace of mind.

Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories. That's our appeal. People watch us because they know what they are getting. The Beeb's (British Broadcasting Corporation) (BBC) institutionalized leftism would be easier to tolerate if the corporation was a little more honest about it".


With the release of the 2008 book What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception by George W. Bush's press secretary Scott McClellan, there are some who contend that this is evidence of Mark Halperin
Mark Halperin
Mark E. Halperin is the senior political analyst for Time magazine, Time.com, and MSNBC and serves as a board member on the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. He is the co-author of Game Change.-Personal:Mark Halperin is the son of Morton Halperin and Ina Young. He has...

 being correct instead of biased. In his book, McClellan admits to lying to the media, and describes the contempt he felt for reporters who so easily believed his lies, and were cowed by the fear that if they exposed the lies, they would be accused of "liberal bias".

Another technique used to avoid bias is disclosure of affiliations that may be considered a possible conflict of interest. This is especially apparent when a news organization is reporting a story with some relevancy to the news organization itself or to its ownership individuals or conglomerate. Often this disclosure is mandated by the laws or regulations pertaining to stocks and securities. Commentators on news stories involving stocks are often required to disclose any ownership interest in those corporations or in its competitors.

In rare cases, a news organization may dismiss or reassign staff members who appear biased. This approach was used in the Killian documents
Killian documents
The Killian documents controversy involved six documents critical of President George W. Bush's service in the Air National Guard in 1972–73...

 affair and after Peter Arnett
Peter Arnett
Peter Gregg Arnett, ONZM is a New Zealand-American journalist.Arnett worked for National Geographic magazine, and later for various television networks, most notably CNN. He is well known for his coverage of war, including the Vietnam War and the Gulf War...

's interview with the Iraqi press. This approach is presumed to have been employed in the case of Dan Rather
Dan Rather
Daniel Irvin "Dan" Rather, Jr. is an American journalist and the former news anchor for the CBS Evening News. He is now managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine Dan Rather Reports on the cable channel HDNet. Rather was anchor of the CBS Evening News for 24 years, from March 9,...

 over a story that he ran on 60 Minutes
60 Minutes
60 Minutes is an American television news magazine, which has run on CBS since 1968. The program was created by producer Don Hewitt who set it apart by using a unique style of reporter-centered investigation....

in the month prior to the 2004 election that attempted to impugn the military record of George W. Bush by relying on allegedly fake documents that were provided by Bill Burkett
Bill Burkett
Bill Burkett was the CBS source in the Killian documents affair of 2004. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Texas Army National Guard....

, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Texas Army National Guard.

Finally, some countries have laws enforcing balance in state-owned media. Since 1991, the CBC
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as CBC and officially as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian crown corporation that serves as the national public radio and television broadcaster...

 and Radio Canada, its Francophone counterpart, are governed by the Broadcasting Act. This act states, amongst other things:
the programming provided by the Canadian broadcasting system should
(i) be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, enlightenment and entertainment for men, women and children of all ages, interests and tastes,
(...)
(iv) provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern

History of bias in the mass media


Political bias has been a feature of the mass media since its birth with the invention of the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

. The expense of early printing equipment restricted media production to a limited number of people. Historians have found that publishers often served the interests of powerful social groups.

John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

's pamphlet Areopagitica, a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, published in 1644, was one of the first publications advocating freedom of the press
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

.

In the nineteenth century, journalists began to recognize the concept of unbiased reporting as an integral part of journalistic ethics. This coincided with the rise of journalism as a powerful social force. Even today, though, the most conscientiously objective journalist
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

s cannot avoid accusations of bias.

Like newspapers, the broadcast media (radio and television) have been used as a mechanism for propaganda
Propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 from their earliest days, a tendency made more pronounced by the initial ownership of broadcast spectrum
Broadcast license
A broadcast license or broadcast license is a specific type of spectrum license that grants the licensee the privilege to use a portion of the radio frequency spectrum in a given geographical area for broadcasting purposes. The licenses are generally straddled with additional restrictions that...

 by national governments. Although a process of media deregulation has placed the majority of the western broadcast media in private hands, there still exists a strong government presence, or even monopoly, in the broadcast media of many countries across the globe. At the same time, the concentration of media in private hands, and frequently amongst a comparatively small number of individuals, has also led to accusations of media bias.

There are many examples of accusations of bias being used as a political tool, sometimes resulting in government censorship.
  • In the United States
    United States
    The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

    , in 1798, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts
    Alien and Sedition Acts
    The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed in 1798 by the Federalists in the 5th United States Congress in the aftermath of the French Revolution's reign of terror and during an undeclared naval war with France, later known as the Quasi-War. They were signed into law by President John Adams...

    , which prohibited newspapers from publishing “false, scandalous, or malicious writing” against the government, including any public opposition to any law or presidential act. This act was in effect until 1801.

  • During the American Civil War
    American Civil War
    The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

    , President Abraham Lincoln
    Abraham Lincoln
    Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

     accused newspapers in the border states of bias in favor of the Southern cause, and ordered many newspapers closed.

  • Chancellor Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

     of Germany
    Germany
    Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

    , in the years leading up to World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

    , accused newspapers of Marxist bias, an accusation echoed by pro-German media in England
    England
    England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

     and the United States.

  • Politicians who favored the United States entering World War II on the German side asserted that the international media were controlled by Jews, and that reports of German mistreatment of Jews were biased and without foundation. Hollywood was said to be a hotbed of Jewish bias, and films such as Charlie Chaplin
    Charlie Chaplin
    Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, KBE was an English comic actor, film director and composer best known for his work during the silent film era. He became the most famous film star in the world before the end of World War I...

    ’s The Great Dictator
    The Great Dictator
    The Great Dictator is a comedy film by Charlie Chaplin released in October 1940. Like most Chaplin films, he wrote, produced, and directed, in addition to starring as the lead. Having been the only Hollywood film maker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was...

     were offered as proof.

  • In the 1980s, the South Africa
    South Africa
    The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

    n government accused newspapers of liberal bias and instituted government censorship. In 1989, the newspaper New Nation
    New Nation
    This article is about the British newspaper, which is not to be confused with the Apartheid-era New Nation published in Johannesburg, South Africa or the satirical publication in Singapore....

    was closed by the government for three months for publishing anti-apartheid propaganda. Other newspapers were not closed, but were extensively censored. Some published the censored sections blacked out, to demonstrate the extent of government censorship.

  • In the USA during the labor union movement and the civil rights movement, newspapers supporting liberal social reform were accused by conservative newspapers of communist bias. Film
    Film
    A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

     and television
    Television
    Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

     media were accused of bias in favor of mixing of the races, and many television programs with racially mixed casts, such as I Spy and Star Trek
    Star Trek
    Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

    , were not aired on Southern stations.

  • During the war between the United States and North Vietnam
    North Vietnam
    The Democratic Republic of Vietnam , was a communist state that ruled the northern half of Vietnam from 1954 until 1976 following the Geneva Conference and laid claim to all of Vietnam from 1945 to 1954 during the First Indochina War, during which they controlled pockets of territory throughout...

    , Vice President Spiro Agnew
    Spiro Agnew
    Spiro Theodore Agnew was the 39th Vice President of the United States , serving under President Richard Nixon, and the 55th Governor of Maryland...

     accused newspapers of anti-American bias, and in a famous speech delivered in San Diego in 1970, called anti-war protesters "the nattering nabobs of negativism."


Not all accusations of bias are political. Science writer Martin Gardner
Martin Gardner
Martin Gardner was an American mathematics and science writer specializing in recreational mathematics, but with interests encompassing micromagic, stage magic, literature , philosophy, scientific skepticism, and religion...

 has accused the entertainment media of anti-science bias. He claims that television programs such as The X-Files
The X-Files
The X-Files is an American science fiction television series and a part of The X-Files franchise, created by screenwriter Chris Carter. The program originally aired from to . The show was a hit for the Fox network, and its characters and slogans became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s...

promote superstition. In contrast, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is funded by businesses, accuses the media of being biased in favor of science and against business interests, and of credulously reporting science that purports to show that greenhouse gasses cause global warming.

Role of language


Mass media, despite its ability to project worldwide, is limited in its cross-ethnic compatibility by one simple attribute – language. Ethnicity, being largely developed by a divergence in geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

, language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, genes
Gênes
Gênes is the name of a département of the First French Empire in present Italy, named after the city of Genoa. It was formed in 1805, when Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the Republic of Genoa. Its capital was Genoa, and it was divided in the arrondissements of Genoa, Bobbio, Novi Ligure, Tortona and...

 and similarly, point of view
Perspective (cognitive)
Perspective in theory of cognition is the choice of a context or a reference from which to sense, categorize, measure or codify experience, cohesively forming a coherent belief, typically for comparing with another...

, has the potential to be countered by a common source of information. Therefore, language, in the absence of translation, comprises a barrier to a worldwide community of debate and opinion, although it is also true that media within any given society may be split along class, political or regional lines.
Furthermore, if the language is translated, the translator has room to shift a bias by choosing weighed words for translation.

Language may also be seen as a political factor in mass media, particularly in instances where a society is characterized by a large number of languages spoken by its populace. The choice of language of mass media may represent a bias towards the group most likely to speak that language, and can limit the public participation by those who do not speak the language. On the other hand, there have also been attempts to use a common-language mass media to reach out to a large, geographically dispersed population, such as in the use of Arabic language
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

 by news channel Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

.

Many media theorists concerned with language and media bias point towards the media of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, a large country where English is spoken by the vast majority of the population. Some theorists argue that the common language is not homogenizing; and that there still remain strong differences expressed within the mass media. This viewpoint asserts that moderate views are bolstered by drawing influences from the extremes of the political spectrum. In the United States, the national news therefore contributes to a sense of cohesion within the society, proceeding from a similarly informed population. According to this model, most views within society are freely expressed, and the mass media are accountable to the people and tends to reflect the spectrum of opinion.

Language may also be a more subtle form of bias. Use of a word with positive or negative connotations rather than a more neutral synonym can form a biased picture in the audience's mind. It makes a difference whether the media calls a group "terrorist" or "freedom fighters" or "insurgents
Insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

". For example, a 2005 memo to the staff of the CBC
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known as CBC and officially as CBC/Radio-Canada, is a Canadian crown corporation that serves as the national public radio and television broadcaster...

 states:
Rather than calling assailants "terrorists," we can refer to them as bombers, hijackers, gunmen (if we're sure no women were in the group), militants, extremists, attackers or some other appropriate noun.


In a widely criticized episode, initial online BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 reports of the 7 July 2005 London bombings
7 July 2005 London bombings
The 7 July 2005 London bombings were a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks in the United Kingdom, targeting civilians using London's public transport system during the morning rush hour....

 identified the perpetrators as terrorists, in contradiction to the BBC's internal policy. But by the next day, Tom Gross
Tom Gross
Tom Gross is a British-born journalist and international affairs commentator, specializing in the Middle East. He was formerly Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and for the New York Daily News...

 and many others noted that the online articles had been edited, replacing "terrorists" by "bombers". In another case, March 28, 2007, the broadcaster paid almost $400,000 in legal fees in a London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 court to keep an internal memo dealing with alleged anti-Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i bias from becoming public. BBC was accused of pro-Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 bias over a documentary about Israel developing a nuclear weapon during the second Palestinian intifada
Al-Aqsa Intifada
The Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the Oslo War, was the second Palestinian uprising, a period of intensified Palestinian-Israeli violence, which began in late September 2000...

 in 2000.

National and ethnic viewpoint


Many news organizations reflect or are perceived to reflect in some way the viewpoint of the geographic, ethnic, and national population that they primarily serve. Media within countries is sometimes seen as being sycophantic or unquestioning about the country's government.

Western media are often criticized in the rest of the world (including eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, and the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

) as being pro-Western with regard to a variety of political, cultural and economic issues. Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

 has been frequently criticized in the West about its coverage of Arab world
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

 issues, even though it has been criticized as being anti-Western
Anti-Western sentiment
Anti-Western sentiment refers to broad opposition or hostility to the people, policies, or governments in the western world. In many cases the United States, Israël and the United Kingdom are the subject of discussion or hostility...

 itself.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conflict is wide-ranging, and the term is also used in reference to the earlier phases of the same conflict, between Jewish and Zionist yishuv and the Arab population living in Palestine under Ottoman or...

 and wider Arab-Israeli issues are a particularly controversial area, and nearly all coverage of any kind generates accusation of bias from one or both sides. This topic is covered in a separate article.

Anglophone bias in the world media


It has been observed that the world's principal suppliers of news, the news agencies
News agency
A news agency is an organization of journalists established to supply news reports to news organizations: newspapers, magazines, and radio and television broadcasters. Such an agency may also be referred to as a wire service, newswire or news service.-History:The oldest news agency is Agence...

, and the main buyers of news are Anglophone
Anglosphere
Anglosphere is a neologism which refers to those nations with English as the most common language. The term can be used more specifically to refer to those nations which share certain characteristics within their cultures based on a linguistic heritage, through being former British colonies...

 corporations and this
gives an Anglophone bias to the selection and depiction of events. Anglophone definitions of what constitutes news are paramount; the news provided originates in Anglophone capitals and responds first to their own rich domestic markets.

Despite the plethora of news services, most news printed and broadcast throughout the world each day comes from only a few major agencies, the three largest of which are the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

, Reuters
Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 and Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse is a French news agency, the oldest one in the world, and one of the three largest with Associated Press and Reuters. It is also the largest French news agency. Currently, its CEO is Emmanuel Hoog and its news director Philippe Massonnet...

. Although these agencies are 'global' in the sense of their activities, they each retain significant associations with particular nations, namely France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 (AFP), the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 (AP) and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 (Reuters). Chambers and Tinckell suggest that the so-called global media are agents of Anglophone values which privilege norms of 'competitive individualism, laissez-faire
Laissez-faire
In economics, laissez-faire describes an environment in which transactions between private parties are free from state intervention, including restrictive regulations, taxes, tariffs and enforced monopolies....

capitalism, parliamentary democracy and consumerism.' They see the presentation of the English language as international as a further feature of Anglophone dominance.

Religious bias


Media bias towards religion is most obvious in countries where the media are controlled by the state, which is in turn dominated by a particular religion. In these instances, bias against other faiths can be explicit and virulent.

But even in countries with freedom of religion and a free press, the dominant religion exerts some amount of influence on the media. In nations where Christianity is the majority faith, for instance, reporters tend to focus on the activities of the Christian community, to the exclusion of other faiths. But the opposite may also occur, with media self-consciously avoiding reporting on any religious matters at all in order to avoid the appearance of favoring one faith over another, or presenting religious faith and phenomenon in a negative light. In any case, the representation of viewpoints too far outside the mainstream, such as non-belief, are almost universally ignored.

This type of bias is often seen with reporting on new religious movements. It is often the case that the only view the public gets of a new religious movement
New religious movement
A new religious movement is a religious community or ethical, spiritual, or philosophical group of modern origin, which has a peripheral place within the dominant religious culture. NRMs may be novel in origin or they may be part of a wider religion, such as Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, in...

, controversial group or purported cult
Cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

 is a negative and sensationalized report by the media. For example, most new or minority religious movements only receive media coverage when something sensational occurs, e.g. the mass suicide of a cult or illegal activities of a leader in the religious movement.

According to the Encyclopedia of Social Work (19th edition), the news media play an influential role in the general public's perception of cults. As reported in several studies, the media have depicted cults as problematic, controversial, and threatening from the beginning, tending to favor sensationalistic stories over balanced public debates (Beckford, 1985; Richardson, Best, & Bromley, 1991; Victor, 1993). It furthers the analysis that media reports on cults rely heavily on police officials and cult "experts" who portray cult activity as dangerous and destructive, and when divergent views are presented, they are often overshadowed by horrific stories of ritualistic torture, sexual abuse, mind control
Mind control
Mind control refers to a process in which a group or individual "systematically uses unethically manipulative methods to persuade others to conform to the wishes of the manipulator, often to the detriment of the person being manipulated"...

, etc. Furthermore, unfounded allegations, when proved untrue, receive little or no media attention.

Other influences


The apparent bias of media is not always specifically political in nature. The news media tend to appeal to a specific audience, which means that stories that affect a large number of people on a global scale often receive less coverage in some markets than local stories, such as a public school shooting, a celebrity
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

 wedding, a plane crash, a "missing white woman
Missing white woman syndrome
Missing white woman syndrome or missing pretty girl syndrome is a term used by some media and social critics to describe the seemingly disproportionate degree of coverage in television, radio, newspaper and magazine reporting of a misfortune, most often a missing person case, involving a young,...

," or similarly glamorous or shocking stories. For example, the deaths of millions of people in an ethnic conflict in Africa might be afforded scant mention in American media, while the shooting of five people in a high school is analyzed in depth. Bias is also known to exist in sports broadcasting; in the United States, broadcasters tend to favor teams on the East Coast (see: East Coast bias
East Coast Bias
East Coast bias is an expression referring to the alleged tendency for sportswriters in the United States and Canada to give greater weight and credibility to teams on the East Coast.-Causes:New York City and Toronto serve as major media hubs...

), teams in major markets, older and more established teams and leagues, teams based in their respective country (in international sport) and teams that include high-profile celebrity athletes. The reason for these types of bias is a function of what the public wants to watch and/or what producers and publishers believe the public wants to watch.

Bias has also been claimed in instances referred to as conflict of interest
Conflict of interest
A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other....

, whereby the owners of media outlets have vested interests in other commercial enterprises or political parties. In such cases in the United States, the media outlet is required to disclose the conflict of interest.

However, the decisions of the editorial department of a newspaper and the corporate parent frequently are not connected, as the editorial staff retains freedom to decide what is covered as well as what is not. Biases, real or implied, frequently arise when it comes to deciding what stories will be covered and who will be called for those stories.

Accusations that a source is biased, if accepted, may cause media consumers to distrust certain kinds of statements, and place added confidence on others.

See also

  • Afghanistanism
    Afghanistanism
    Afghanistanism is the practice of concentrating on problems in distant parts of the world while ignoring controversial local issues. In other contexts, the term has referred to "hopelessly arcane and irrelevant scholarship,"...

  • Concentration of media ownership
    Concentration of media ownership
    Concentration of media ownership refers to a process whereby progressively fewer individuals or organizations control increasing shares of the mass media...

  • Freedom of speech by country
    Freedom of speech by country
    Freedom of speech is the concept of the inherent human right to voice one's opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment. "Speech" is not limited to public speaking and is generally taken to include other forms of expression. The right is preserved in the United Nations Universal...

  • Hostile media effect
    Hostile media effect
    The hostile media effect, sometimes called the hostile media phenomenon, refers to the finding that people with strong biases toward an issue perceive media coverage as biased against their opinions, regardless of the reality...

  • Mass media impact on spatial perception
    Mass media impact on spatial perception
    Mass media influences spatial perception through journalistic cartography and spatial bias in news coverage."Journalism is one of the few industries that provide the public the most of its information about places and geography," , mass media is one of the significant factors in shaping perception...

  • Media bias in South Asia
    Media bias in South Asia
    Claims of Media bias in South Asia attract constant attention. The question of bias in South Asian media is also of great interest to people living outside of South Asia. Some accusations of media bias are motivated by a disinterested desire for truth, some are politically motivated...

  • Media bias in the United States
    Media bias in the United States
    Media bias in the United States occurs when the media in the United States systematically presents a particular point of view. Claims of media bias in the United States include claims of liberal bias, conservative bias, mainstream bias, and corporate bias...

  • Media coverage of the Arab–Israeli conflict
  • Media representation of Hugo Chávez
    Media representation of Hugo Chávez
    The media representation of Hugo Chávez involves the portrayal of the current President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, in both the Venezuelan and international media.-Overview:...


Further reading

  • What Liberal Media?
    What Liberal Media?
    What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News is a book by columnist Eric Alterman that challenges the widespread conservative belief in a liberal media bias...

    : The Truth About Bias and the News
    by Eric Alterman
    Eric Alterman
    Eric Alterman is an American English teacher, historian, journalist, author, media critic, blogger, and educator. His political weblog named Altercation was hosted by MSNBC.com from 2002 until 2006, moved to Media Matters for America until December 2008, and is now hosted by The...

     (2003)
  • Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg
    Bernard Goldberg
    Bernard Richard Goldberg , also known as Bernie Goldberg, is an eleven-time Emmy Award-winning American writer, journalist, and political commentator...

    (2001)

External links