Media bias is the bias or perceived bias of journalists and news
producers within the mass media 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, 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. Government influence, including overt and covert
censorship, biases the media in some countries, for example North
Korea and Myanmar. Market forces that result in a biased
presentation include the ownership of the news source, concentration
of media ownership, the selection of staff, the preferences of an
intended audience, and pressure from advertisers.
There are a number of national and international watchdog groups that
report on bias in the media.
2 United States
3 Scholarly treatment in the
United States and United Kingdom
4 Experimenter's bias
5 Tools for measurement and evaluation
6 Efforts to correct bias
8 Role of language
9 National and ethnic viewpoint
Anglophone bias in the world media
11 Religious bias
12 Other influences
13 See also
15 Further reading
16 External links
The most commonly discussed forms of bias occur when the (allegedly
partisan) media support or attack a particular political party,
candidate, or ideology.
D'Alessio and Allen list three forms of media bias as the most widely
Coverage bias (also known as visibility bias), when actors or
issues are more or less visible in the news.
Gatekeeping bias (also known as selectivity or selection bias),
when stories are selected or deselected, sometimes on ideological
grounds (see spike). It is sometimes also referred to as agenda bias,
when the focus is on political actors and whether they are covered
based on their preferred policy issues.
Statement bias (also known as tonality bias or presentation
bias), when media coverage is slanted towards or against particular
actors or issues.
Other common forms of political and non-political media bias include:
Advertising bias, when stories are selected or slanted to please
Concision bias, a tendency to report views that can be summarized
succinctly, crowding out more unconventional views that take time to
Corporate bias, when stories are selected or slanted to please
corporate owners of media.
Mainstream bias, a tendency to report what everyone else is reporting,
and to avoid stories that will offend anyone.
Sensationalism, 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.
Structural bias, when an actor or issue receives more or less
favorable coverage as a result of newsworthiness and media routines,
not as the result of ideological decisions (e.g., incumbency
False balance, when an issue is presented as even sided, despite
disproportionate amounts of evidence.
Other forms of bias include reporting that favors or attacks a
particular race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnic
group, or even person.
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 emphasizes one particular point of view in a
manner that contravenes the standards of professional journalism.
Claims of media bias in the
United States include claims of liberal
bias, conservative bias, mainstream bias, and corporate bias and
activist/cause bias. To combat this, a variety of watchdog groups that
attempt to find the facts behind both biased reporting and unfounded
claims of bias have been founded. These include:
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which has been described as
both progressive and leaning left.
Media Research Center
Media Research Center (MRC), the stated mission of which is to
"prove—through sound scientific research—that liberal bias in the
media does exist and undermines traditional American values."
Media Bias/Fact Check (MBFC News) (MBFC) states "is an independent
online media outlet. MBFC
News is dedicated to educating the public on
media bias and deceptive news practices."
A patent lawyer has created a Media
Bias Chart using quantitative and
qualitative analysis to plot most of the mainstream news sources while
updating it on a regular basis. It is also being used by many college
institutions in their curriculum. She has created a blog
AllgeneralizationsAreFalse.com in order to explain her methodology and
answer all questions as to how her system ranks the multiple news
Research about media bias is now a subject of systematic scholarship
in a variety of disciplines.
Scholarly treatment in the
United States and United Kingdom
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Media bias is studied at schools of journalism, university departments
(including Media studies,
Cultural studies and Peace studies) and by
independent watchdog groups from various parts of the political
spectrum. In the United States, many of these studies focus on issues
of a conservative/liberal balance 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
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 and Chomsky (1988) proposed a propaganda model 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.
Many of the positions in the preceding study are supported by a 2002
study by Jim A. Kuypers: 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,
and the San Francisco Chronicle), 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, Kuypers found that the press injected opinion into its
news coverage of other issues such as welfare reform, environmental
protection, and gun control; in all cases favoring a liberal point of
Studies reporting perceptions of 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 and the
Project for Excellence in
Journalism found that people see media bias
in television news media such as CNN. Although both
CNN and Fox
were perceived in the study as not being centrist,
CNN was perceived
as being more liberal than Fox. Moreover, the study's findings
concerning CNN's perceived bias are echoed in other studies. There
is also a growing economics 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 Columbia University 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 who write stories that 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 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, a professor of Linguistics 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
Given that different groups in society have different beliefs,
priorities, 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 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 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 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 1940s and in the 1950s there was a
clear advantage to Republican candidates, this advantage continuously
eroded in subsequent decades, to the extent that in the 1990s the
authors find a slight Democratic lead in the average endorsement
John Lott and Kevin Hassett of the
American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute 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 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 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
Alan Gerber and Dean Karlan of
Yale University 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 "progressive" media watchdog group, Fairness and
Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), in consultation with the Survey and
Evaluation Research Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University,
sponsored a 1998 survey in which 141 Washington bureau chiefs and
Washington-based 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 non-partisan Brookings Institution and from
conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the
American Enterprise Institute
American Enterprise Institute are those most quoted in mainstream news
In direct contrast to the FAIR survey, in 2014, media communication
Jim A. Kuypers published a 40-year longitudinal, aggregate
study of the political beliefs and actions of American journalists. In
every single category (for instance, social, economic, unions, health
care, and foreign policy) he found that nationwide, print and
broadcast journalists and editors as a group were "considerably" to
the political left of the majority of Americans, and that these
political beliefs found their way into news stories. Kuypers
concluded, "Do the political proclivities of journalists influence
their interpretation of the news? I answer that with a resounding,
yes. As part of my evidence, I consider testimony from journalists
themselves. ... [A] solid majority of journalists do allow their
political ideology to influence their reporting."
Jonathan M. Ladd, who has conducted intensive studies of media trust
and media bias, concluded that the primary cause of belief in media
bias is media telling their audience that particular media are biased.
People who are told that a medium is biased tend to believe that it is
biased, and this belief is unrelated to whether that medium is
actually biased or not. The only other factor with as strong an
influence on belief that media is biased is extensive coverage of
celebrities. A majority of people see such media as biased, while at
the same time preferring media with extensive coverage of
A major problem in studies is experimenter's bias. 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 (ADA) scores as a
quantitative proxy for political leanings of the referential
organizations. Thus their definition of "liberal" includes the RAND
Corporation, a nonprofit research organization with strong ties to the
Defense Department. Their work claims to detect a bias towards
liberalism in the American media.
Tools for measurement and evaluation
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 in the social sciences and communication science
to analyze the existence of and quantify bias:
Surveys of the political/cultural attitudes of journalists,
particularly members of the media elite, and of journalism students.
Studies of journalists' previous professional connections.
Collections of quotations in which prominent journalists reveal their
beliefs about politics and/or the proper role of their profession.
Computer word-use and topic analysis searches to determine content and
Studies of policies recommended in news stories.
Comparisons of the agenda of the news and entertainment media with
agendas of political candidates or other activists.
Positive/negative coverage analysis.
Reviews of the personal demographics of media decision makers.
Comparisons of advertising sources/content which influence
Analyses of the extent of government propaganda and public relations
(PR) industry impact on media.
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.
Research into payments of journalists by corporations and trade
associations to speak before their groups and the impact that may have
Automated approaches analyze the text, pictures, and other information
of news articles to find indicators of media bias. A main indicator
that much research has focused on is the identification of differences
in news coverage, e.g., content-wise (two articles on the same topic
contain different information and/or leave out a subset of
information) and tone-wise (how are politicians and institutions being
Efforts to correct bias
A technique used to avoid bias is the "point/counterpoint" or "round
table", 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"). This may happen when a taboo
exists around one of the viewpoints, or when one of the
representatives habitually makes claims that are easily shown to be
One such allegation of misleading balance came from Mark Halperin,
political director of ABC News. He stated in an internal e-mail
message that reporters should not "artificially hold George W. Bush
John Kerry '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
published this message, many Bush supporters[who?] 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, the
London bureau chief for Fox News, stated in a May
20, 2005 interview with the
Wall Street Journal
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 and Bill O'Reilly. And
those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren't
subsidizing Bill's bombast; we payers of the
BBC license fee don't
enjoy that peace of mind.
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".
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 affair and after Peter Arnett's interview with the Iraqi
press. This approach is presumed to have been employed in the case of
Dan Rather over a story that he ran on
60 Minutes in the month prior
to the 2004 election that attempted to impugn the military record of
George W. Bush
George W. Bush by relying on allegedly fake documents that were
provided by Bill Burkett, 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 and Radio Canada, its French language
counterpart, are governed by the Broadcasting Act. This act
states, among 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
Besides these manual approaches, several (semi-)automated approaches
have been developed by social scientists and computer scientists.
These approaches identify differences in news coverage, which
potentially resulted from media bias, by analyzing the text and meta
data, such as author and publishing date. For instance, NewsCube is a
news aggregator that extracts key phrases that describe a topic
differently. Other approaches make use of text- and meta-data, e.g.,
matrix-based news aggregation spans a matrix over two dimensions, such
as publisher countries (in which articles have been published) and
mentioned countries (on which country an article reports). As a
result, each cell contains only articles that have been published in
one country and that report on another country. Particularly in
international news topics, matrix-based news aggregation helps to
reveal differences in media coverage between the involved
Political bias has been a feature of the mass media since its birth
with the invention of the printing press. 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'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.
In the 19th 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 journalists cannot
avoid accusations of bias.
Like newspapers, the broadcast media (radio and television) have been
used as a mechanism for propaganda from their earliest days, a
tendency made more pronounced by the initial ownership of broadcast
spectrum 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 ownership 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, in 1798, Congress passed the Alien and Sedition
Acts, 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
During the American Civil War, President
Abraham Lincoln accused
newspapers in the border states of bias in favor of the Southern
cause, and ordered many newspapers closed.
Anti-Semitic politicians who favored the
United States entering World
War II on the Nazi 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 accused of Jewish
bias, and films such as Charlie Chaplin’s
The Great Dictator
The Great Dictator were
offered as alleged proof.
In the 1980s, the South African government accused newspapers of
liberal bias and instituted government censorship. In 1989, the
New Nation was closed by the government for three months for
publishing anti-apartheid propaganda. Other newspapers were not
closed, but were extensively censored.
In the US during the labor union movement and the civil rights
movement, newspapers supporting liberal social reform were accused by
conservative newspapers of communist bias.
Film and television
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, were not aired on Southern stations.
During the war between the
United States and North Vietnam, Vice
Spiro Agnew 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 has accused the entertainment media of anti-science bias. He
claims that television programs such as
The X-Files 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 shows that greenhouse gasses cause global
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,
language, culture, genes and similarly, point of view, 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 by news channel Al Jazeera.
Many media theorists concerned with language and media bias point
towards the media of the United States, a large country where English
is spoken by the 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 introduce a more subtle form of bias. The selection
of metaphors and analogies, or the inclusion of personal information
in one situation but not another can introduce bias, such as a gender
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. For example, it makes a difference whether the media
calls a group "terrorists" or "freedom fighters" or "insurgents". A
2005 memo to the staff of the CBC 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 reports of the 7
London bombings identified the perpetrators as terrorists,
in contradiction to the BBC's internal policy. But by the next day,
journalist Tom Gross noted that the online articles had been
edited, replacing "terrorists" by "bombers". In another case, March
28, 2007, the
BBC paid almost $400,000 in legal fees in a
to keep an internal memo dealing with alleged anti-Israeli bias from
becoming public. The
BBC has both been accused of having a
pro-Palestinian bias, with many examples cited, including a
documentary falsely accusing
Israel of developing a nuclear weapon
during the second Palestinian intifada in 2000,
as well as of having a pro-
Israel bias, which it has partially
admitted to in a case in 2013.
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 are 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, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East) as being
pro-Western with regard to a variety of political, cultural and
Al Jazeera is frequently criticized both in the West
and in the Arab world.
Israeli–Palestinian conflict 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, and the main buyers of news are
and this gives an
Anglophone bias to the selection and depiction of
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,
Agence France-Presse. Although these agencies are 'global' in the
sense of their activities, they each retain significant associations
with particular nations, namely the
United States (AP), the United
Kingdom (Reuters) and
France (AFP). Chambers and Tinckell suggest
that the so-called global media are agents of
Anglophone values which
privilege norms of 'competitive individualism, laissez-faire
capitalism, parliamentary democracy and consumerism.' They see the
presentation of the English language as international as a further
The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a
worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article, discuss
the issue on the talk page, or create a new article, as appropriate.
(December 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
The media are often accused of bias favoring a particular religion or
of bias against a particular religion. In some countries, only
reporting approved by a state religion is permitted. In other
countries, derogatory statements about any belief system are
considered hate crimes and are illegal.
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. 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, and other such
practices. Furthermore, unfounded allegations, when proved untrue,
receive little or no media attention.
In 2012, Huffington Post, columnist Jacques Berlinerblau argued that
secularism has often been misinterpreted in the media as another word
for atheism, stating that: "
Secularism must be the most misunderstood
and mangled ism in the American political lexicon. Commentators on the
right and the left routinely equate it with Stalinism, Nazism and
Socialism, among other dreaded isms. In the United States, of late,
another false equation has emerged. That would be the groundless
association of secularism with atheism. The religious right has
profitably promulgated this misconception at least since the
According to Stuart A. Wright, there are six factors that contribute
to media bias against minority religions: first, the knowledge and
familiarity of journalists with the subject matter; second, the degree
of cultural accommodation of the targeted religious group; third,
limited economic resources available to journalists; fourth, time
constraints; fifth, sources of information used by journalists; and
finally, the frond-end/back-end disproportionality of reporting.
According to Yale Law professor Stephen Carter, "it has long been the
American habit to be more suspicious of—and more repressive
toward—religions that stand outside the mainline Protestant-Roman
Catholic-Jewish troika that dominates America's spiritual life." As
for front-end/back-end disproportionality, Wright says: "news stories
on unpopular or marginal religions frequently are predicated on
unsubstantiated allegations or government actions based on faulty or
weak evidence occurring at the front-end of an event. As the charges
weighed in against material evidence, these cases often disintegrate.
Yet rarely is there equal space and attention in the mass media given
to the resolution or outcome of the incident. If the accused are
innocent, often the public is not made aware."
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 wedding, a plane crash,
a "missing white woman", 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.
also known to exist in sports broadcasting; in the United States,
broadcasters tend to favor teams on the East Coast, 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, 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
Accusations that a source is biased, if accepted, may cause media
consumers to distrust certain kinds of statements, and place added
confidence on others.
How People View The Media: Two-thirds (67%) said agreed with the
statement: "In dealing with political and social issues, news
organizations tend to favor one side." That was up 14 points from 53
percent who gave that answer in 1985. Those who believed the media
"deal fairly with all sides" fell from 34 percent to 27 percent. "In
one of the most telling complaints, a majority (54%) of Americans
believe the news media gets in the way of society solving its
problems," Pew reported. Republicans "are more likely to say news
organizations favor one side than are Democrats or independents (77
percent vs. 58 percent and 69 percent, respectively)." The percentage
who felt "news organizations get the facts straight" fell from 55
percent to 37 percent.
Framing (social sciences)
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech by country
Hierarchy of death
Hostile media effect
Manufacturing Consent § Five filters of editorial bias
Mass media impact on spatial perception
Media in Alberta § Political bias
Media representation of Hugo Chávez
Racial bias in criminal news
Racism in horror films
View from nowhere
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What Liberal Media?: The Truth About
Bias and the
News by Eric
Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the
News by Bernard
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Ontario, Canada: Co-published by
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Bias is Beyond Doubt by
Richard Vatz (The Baltimore Sun,
March 18, 2013)
Partisan Journalism: A History of Media
Bias in the
United States by
Jim A. Kuypers (2014). ISBN 978-1442225930
Chart – Real and Fake
News (2016)/Vanessa Otero (basis) (Mark
Chart – Real and Fake
News (2014) (2016)/Pew Research Center
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