US and Arabic media review

Literature Review

Nobody would deny the fact that media should hold the state accountable for its practices. No government should be immune from the media’s critical perception. Such policy will promote open and tolerant society guided by freedom of expression and the press. The United States often compliment themselves on their free and responsible media, which does not depend on the government, unlike, for instance, the Arabic media. However, the last decades have seen dramatic changes in the media coverage in both the Western and Arab world. While the functionality of some Arab states’ media was positively affected by global integration, the Western media coverage tends to refrain from scrutinizing the government and private organizations. In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of literature on politic trends in the media industry. Nevertheless, up to now far too little attention has been paid to similarities and differences in American and Arab coverage of international events. Hence, the present literature review gives a general overview of the tendencies in the Arabic and American media policies.

Much of the current literature on the media coverage pays careful attention to the concept of accountability. In the comprehensive study of this type, El Mustapha Lahlali argues that in Arab states the notions of accountability and openness are in their infancy and require a long time to mature. The main part of this research has been focused on the global impact on the Arabic broadcasting media. In this context, the author claims that some transnational media adopted a new approach based on transparency and openness to the external world. By orienting on global audience, the Arabic outlets have brought some elements of independency and democracy to broadcasting. Therefore, in this study the Arabic transnational media, such as Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, have been critically analyzed in terms of accountability. This research would have been more relevant, however, if the historical development of Arab television had been explored in much detail. Such an account would help to illustrate the changes in trends in the media policies from a political perspective.

Some studies, however, have taken a different approach, focusing heavily on shifts from the traditional approach in the media discourse. Detailed examination of the Arabic media evolution by Khalil and Kraidy showed that during the last decades broadcasting system powerfully promoted cult of personality and state interests. The chief focus of the study is to identify the major structural models in organization of the Arabic media by discussing historical milestones and contemporary development in an ever changing geopolitical context. The arguments suggested in the book provide the framework for further research on various political agendas that affected the Arabic television industry. More importantly, this work appears to be relevant to the area of interest, as the author analyzes the impact of the government and opposition on the media coverage.

Some of the literature on the trend in the US media suggests that it fails to completely control government’s actions by covering any inappropriate conduct by those in power. In the study of Riccardo Puglisi and James Snyder an attempt has been made to investigate the modern trends in the media coverage by examining 200 American newspapers during the past decade. The researchers assert that at present American press enjoys exerting influence on public opinion by deciding what issues will be covered and what will be completely ignored. This choice dramatically affects public opinion about which news is important and to what extent. In their work Media Coverage of Political Scandals, Puglisi and Snyder dwells on scandals involving senators and members of Congress, thereby revealing the political behavior of the mass media. The important finding of the analysis is that Democratic-leaning outlets prefer covering the discreditable acts of Republican candidates, whereas Republican-leaning media tends to do the opposite.

Not only does the literature agree that the US media covers news in a way fitting state’s interests, some literature suggests that such policy may in fact seriously threaten democracy and freedom of speech. Regarding that, the closest contribution to the present research is a comprehensive study by Gentzkow and Shapiro on how American newspapers influence political attitudes and decisions. The authors measure relative frequency of articles about scandals before the elections. The results demonstrate that the media tends to give more coverage to the scandals involving officials of the opposite political affiliation. This suggests that the media reports various issues in a way consistent with their readers’ pre-existing beliefs. Finally, a few studies attempt to consider the reasons of such implicit political behavior of the industry. Cassino, Lodge, and Taber deal with the question of why the American media exposes their readers or viewers to the bias in ways that are rarely evident to them. The study concludes with the important and relevant finding that in the Western world the press and broadcasting is censored to promote the US’s global agenda.

Much of the literature agrees that after the tragic events of 11 September 2001 the American media coverage of foreign affairs became similar to that of the Arab world. In other words, the outlets started seeking close cooperation with the government to keep citizens under the tight control. Coleman and Ross refer to the noticeable changes in the broadcasting style and critically evaluate the policy adopted to cover international events. The explicit focus of their empirical analysis is on the question whether the mode of presenting the news is comparable to that used in the Arab media. The scholars emphasize the fact that the American and international media, including the Arab outlets, began following the US government’s official line in fear of appearing unpatriotic or undemocratic. The following finding is increasingly important for the domain of the interest, as it provides further clarity regarding the similarities between the Western and Arab broadcasting of international events. Hence, Coleman and Ross explain that both the American and Arab media strive to appeal to global audience. However, the authors fail to acknowledge the effects of such tendency on global discourse practices.

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Nevertheless, the US media coverage of foreign affairs differs from the Arab media in a number of important ways. Noha Mellor investigated the problems and prospects of Arab journalism in terms of the coverage of international events. The results of the study corroborate the ideas of El Mustapha Lahlali, who suggested that the notion of accountability is not applicable to the majority of the media outlets. The author claims that despite the recent progress associated with globalization, the Arabic media exists as an effective vehicle to support government’s initiatives. In contrast, the large percentage of the US media works has reached the powerful position and hence delivers accurate information regarding foreign affairs. The article Accountability in Journalism by Sawant also promotes the view that Arab broadcasting remains a strategic tool to attack the external enemies, such as Israel or Iran. The scholar also notes that while the American media tends to exercise their right to disseminate any type of information concerning foreign affairs, Arab states present information in context so that the news are mediated selectively. The literature reviewed seems to strongly suggest that the Western and partly the Eastern media industries attempt to create open society in the field of politics, but this work remains in progress.

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