When Foreign Political Actors Matter: Press Performance During Political Crises
35 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 4 Aug 2011
Date Written: 2011
Many studies of press-state relations have shown that the media have difficulty exercising independence from government officials. The indexing hypothesis and similar approaches place great emphasis on the limited range of voices heard in the press. Despite their limitations and conflicting evidence, such approaches have received considerable support. Our study demonstrates that the extent to which any government is able to dominate the media varies over time and according to circumstance. We focus on two perspectives essential for drawing conclusions about the range of dissenting voices included in news stories: (a) the extent to which foreign actors are included in analysis of international news stories, and (b) how the number of dissenting voices changes over time. We examine the debate in the Israeli media about the Hamas victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections with regard to the range of voices involved. We use content analysis enriched with semi-structured interviews with Israeli journalists.
We found that when foreign voices are included in the analysis, significant opposition emerges even in cases where there is a high level of consensus among the elite. Furthermore, while the proportion of domestic voices decreased over time, the proportion of foreign voices opposing the government’s position increased. In addition, the Israeli journalists themselves were active commentators generating a substantial volume of anti-government views.
Keywords: Political Communication, Indexing, Press-State Relations, Media Independence, Public Debates, News Sources
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