Critical studies of media on Iraq


• According to a study of US war reporting (by FAIR), nearly two thirds (64%) of all sources featured in US media reports were pro-war, while 71% of US guests favoured the war. Anti-war voices were 10% of all sources, but just 3% of US sources. Thus viewers were more than six times as likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war; with US guests alone, the ratio increases to 25 to 1.

[Another study by the US media watchdog, FAIR, found that following the WTC attacks on 11/9/01, the New York Times and Washington Post op-ed pages acted as an "echo chamber for the government's official policy of military response, mostly ignoring dissenters". FAIR's survey counted 44 columns in the Times and Post (12/9/01 - 2/10/01) "that clearly stressed a military response, against only two columns stressing non-military solutions".]

• The UK public considered BBC TV coverage of the Iraq war less objective than that of its commercial rivals, according to The Independent Television Commission (ITC). Both BBC1 and BBC2 were judged to be less "fair" in their coverage than Channel 4, Five, Sky News and ITV. The ITC findings suggest that public respect for BBC "objectivity" is on the wane.

• Television reports produced by "embedded" correspondents in Iraq gave a "sanitised" picture of war, according to an academic study. (Guardian, 6/11/03),7493,1078649,00.html

• The BBC's claims of impartiality over Iraq look dubious according to David Miller of the Stirling media research institute. He quotes a study of media coverage of anti-war dissent in five countries showing the BBC featuring the lowest level of dissent of all. Its 2% total was even lower than the 7% found on the US channel ABC. The empirical evidence "suggests a pro-war orientation" in the BBC, he says.

Miller mentions coverage of the coalition victory as an example:

"As Baghdad fell on April 9, BBC reporters could hardly contain themselves in their haste to endorse the victors. This was a "vindication" of the strategy and it showed Blair had been "right" and his critics "wrong". Here the BBC enunciated a version of events very similar to that of the government. According to the BBC, "dozens" witnessed the statue pulled down by US marines in Baghdad on April 9, while "thousands" demonstrated against "foreign hegemony" in the same city on the 18th. Yet the footage of the former was described as "extraordinary", "momentous" and "historic", while the larger demonstration was greeted with scepticism. Are they "confined to a small vocal minority", the newscaster asked."

(Source: Guardian, 22/4/03)

• The British charity Save the Children was ordered to end criticism of the Iraq war by its powerful US wing, to avoid jeopardising financial support from Washington and corporate donors, according to the Guardian (28/11/03).

More to come...

We're compiling a longer list than the above. However, the list of studies (eg comparative surveys over a period of time) seems relatively short compared to subjective criticisms of individual reports. (We find the former more useful). If you know of further studies please contact us.