Stripping away media bias in the interest of greater understanding
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Stripping away media bias in the interest of greater understanding

The Centre for Media Monitoring report “Media Bias Gaza 2023-24” (published 6 March 2024) exposed significant biases in news coverage in the United Kingdom. The report, published by the Muslim Council of Britain, offers a critical examination of media coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza in the period 7 October – 7 November 2023.

It highlights one-sidedness and distortions in mainstream media outlets, scrutinising a range of media and focusing attention on the extent to which core facts were presented or ignored.

The report is the result of months of qualitative and quantitative analysis by researchers at the Centre for Media Monitoring covering 176,627 television clips from over 13 broadcasters and 25,515 news articles from over 28 UK online media websites.

Data was analysed in relation to the framing of events, language use, and the representation of Palestinian voices. Media monitoring of this kind is crucial to being able to critique and reform journalistic codes of practice – as exemplified, for example, by WACC’s Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP).

The key findings of “Media Bias Gaza 2023-24” were:

  • Emotive language was used to describe Israelis as victims of attacks 11 times more than Palestinians.
  • Most TV channels overwhelmingly promoted “Israel’s right” to defend itself, overshadowing Palestinian rights by a ratio of 5 to 1.
  • In broadcast TV, Israeli perspectives were referenced almost three times more than Palestinian ones. In online news it was almost twice as much.
  • 76% of online articles framed the conflict as an “Israel-Hamas war”, while only 24% mention “Palestine/Palestinian”, indicating a lack of context.
  • Pro-Palestinian voices faced misrepresentation and vilification by media outlets, perpetuating harmful stereotypes.
  • Right-wing news channels and right-wing British publications were at the forefront of misrepresenting pro-Palestinian protestors as antisemitic, violent, or pro Hamas.

As media monitoring of migration has shown, in polarising times extremes of opinion begin to converge and the middle ground to shrink. Sensationalist media, inaccurate reporting, and disinformation campaigns colour biased and inaccurate public debate, in which racism and ignorance exacerbate tension and violence.

Media can, however, play a different and more positive role. When media adhere to ethical principles and give adequate space and accurate representation to all groups of society, they can bring back balance into the discussion and expand the middle ground. Such an approach has been named constructive journalism, setting important political and social issues in the bigger picture and in their relevant contexts.

Constructive journalism aims to put trust back into the notion that reliable facts, shared knowledge, and non-partisan discussion are the pillars on which communities thrive – underlining the democratic function of journalism as a feedback mechanism that helps society to self-correct.

Media coverage of the Gaza conflict has been prejudiced by government policies and sociocultural misunderstandings that themselves are a reflection of historical guilt, racism, and the politics of oil and nuclear proliferation. Media monitoring is a way of spotlighting deep-seated biases whose correction might pave the way for more constructive news.

Image: Shutterstock

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