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Strategies of power in multilingual global broadcasters: How the BBC, CNN and Aljazeera shape their Middle East news discourse
Jönköping University, School of Education and Communication, HLK, Media and communication science.
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

 

This study deals with the Middle East reporting of three gigantic media companies which together are largely responsible for refining and shaping our views of events in the world. The informational and communicative arm of these giants – Aljazeera, the BBC and CNN – is unprecedented in the history of human communication. The BBC, for example, broadcasts in 33 languages and has an army of nearly 10,000 journalists. In only one decade Aljazeera has turned into the kind of media whose power policy and decision makers can hardly ignore. The recent addition of an English language satellite channel has turned the network into a global media player. CNN, the world’s first 24-hour news satellite channel, has services in 12 languages and several English editions covering the four corners of the world.

But the study is not about Aljazeera, the BBC or CNN as new phenomena in world media and communication. Its purpose, approach, data and analysis focus mainly on their Middle East reporting and specifically how they represent the voices involved in the conflict in Iraq and the ongoing struggle between the Palestinians and Israelis. The investigation is mainly concerned with the language of hard news discourse and how the broadcasters intentionally or otherwise produce and reproduce certain linguistic items and patterns to interpret both the discursive and social worlds of the events they carry.

The study comprises five papers all published in international journals dealing with issues of critical discourse analysis. Together, the papers highlight the significant role power holders have in shaping the discourse of their institutions. They provide a new theoretical framework to arrive at the discursive patterns and social assumptions to uncover how the strings of power help refine and shape these patterns and assumptions relying on a variety of sources and empirical data besides textual material. The ultimate aim is to increase awareness and consciousness among both reporters and audiences of how discursive choices are made and the social relationships of power behind them are enacted.

The picture painted in the five papers is not a happy one for readers who have long taken the ‘neutrality’ and ‘objectivity’ of the BBC, CNN and Aljazeera for granted. A vital role of a critical analyst is to help readers first to become conscious of how the more powerful in the society work to control our lives through their discourse and that we cannot be emancipated unless we can recognize how and why they do that. It will be rather shocking for many readers to realize that the language we read and listen to is mostly what the broadcasters intentionally have selected to shape the world of both conflicts their own way and not the way the observers (journalists) want it to be or we as audiences expect it to be.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Jönköping: Jönköping University Press , 2008. , p. 25
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar från Högskolan för lärande och kommunikation, ISSN 1652-7933 ; 3
National Category
Media and Communications Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-7217ISBN: 978-91-628-7632-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hj-7217DiVA, id: diva2:128213
Public defence
2009-01-23, Högskolan för Lärande och Kommunikation, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2008-12-16 Created: 2008-12-15 Last updated: 2012-12-07Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The discursive and social power of news discourse: The case of Aljazeera in comparison and parallel with the BBC and CNN
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The discursive and social power of news discourse: The case of Aljazeera in comparison and parallel with the BBC and CNN
2008 (English)In: Studies in Language and Capitalism, ISSN 1757-5974, Vol. 1, no 3/4, p. 111-159Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study pursues a textual analysis of the online news output produced mainly by Aljazeera in comparison and parallel with the online news output of both the BBC and CNN. But it steers away from mainstream CDA literature by focusing on aspects other than texts. The analysis triangulates CDA with ethnographic research which includes observation, stories, field visits, interviews and important secondary data such as media reports and samples from style guidelines. The ethnographic angle is found to be crucial in unraveling both the social and discursive worlds of Aljazeera, the BBC and CNN as it has helped in the drawing of conclusions that extend and occasionally contradict commonly held views on how the three networks create and disseminate hard news and the ideas and concepts mainstream CDA literature employs to explain and understand these processes. The research first lays down the theoretical and methodological framework through a concise overview of the literature and the thinkers CDA scholars have relied on in shaping the discipline. Then the study discusses CDA’s limitations before detailing the scope of issues and questions it wants to answer. Thereafter, it deals with the issues of method and data before moving to a detailed critical analysis of Aljazeera, comparing and paralleling the findings with previous research and in the context of its major two international rivals, namely the BBC and CNN.

National Category
Media and Communications Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-7212 (URN)
Available from: 2008-12-15 Created: 2008-12-15 Last updated: 2012-12-07Bibliographically approved
2. The Arabic Aljazeera vs Britain's BBC and America's CNN: who does journalism right?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Arabic Aljazeera vs Britain's BBC and America's CNN: who does journalism right?
2006 (English)In: American Communication Journal, ISSN 1532-5865, E-ISSN 1532-5865, Vol. 8, no 1Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The launch of the Arabic language Aljazeera satellite channel nearly ten years ago transformed the television landscape in the Middle East. And over the past three years, the channel has gained global reputation and become a name which governments and decision-makers across the world can hardly ignore. Research on Aljazeera has so far attributed the network’s meteoric rise to fame to what is occasionally described as unlimited access to the coffers of its founders and sponsors, the ruling family in Qatar. This paper attributes the network’s success to reasons other than access to financial resources. Cash is not a problem for almost all satellite channels vying to seize the attention of more than 300 million viewers in a region where television, particularly satellite channels, have become a major source of news and information. The paper finds that Aljazeera has built a dedicated following in both Arab and Islamic worlds through the perseverance of its mostly western-educated editors to show respect for the religion, culture, tradition and aspiration of its listeners – the thing which its competitors like the BBC and CNN sorely lack in their Arabic language services.

National Category
Media and Communications Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-7213 (URN)
Available from: 2008-12-15 Created: 2008-12-15 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
3. Unpacking the discursive and social links in BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera's Middle East reporting
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unpacking the discursive and social links in BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera's Middle East reporting
2007 (English)In: Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research, ISSN 1751-9411, E-ISSN 1751-942X, Vol. 1, no 1, p. 11-29Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

To understand the language of journalism in relation to the moments of why and how news is differently structured and patterned, English online stories tackling the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, issued by the BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera, were critically analysed following Fowler and Fairclough's seminal texts. The results of the findings were discussed in interviews with the editors of the three international networks in order to see what links these linguistic features have with the interviewees' social assumptions, ideologies and economic conditions. The article finds first that the discourse within the news pyramid is composed of four major layers: quoting, paraphrasing, background and comment. Second, it demonstrates that there are marked differences in the discourse structures and layers that the three networks employ in the production of the news stories they issue in English. Third, Al-Jazeera English exhibits marked differences in the discursive features and their social implications at the four layers of discourse to report the conflict when compared with both the BBC and CNN. Fourth, the article shows that the differences in linguistic patterns largely reflect and respond to each network's social and political assumptions and practices as well as economic conditions.

 

Keywords
BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, Palestine, Israel, critical discourse analysis, online news
National Category
Media and Communications Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-7214 (URN)10.1386/jammr.1.1.11_1 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-12-15 Created: 2008-12-15 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
4. The BBC's Discursive Strategy and Practices Vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The BBC's Discursive Strategy and Practices Vis-à-vis the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
2008 (English)In: Journalism Studies, ISSN 1461-670X, E-ISSN 1469-9699, Vol. 9, no 2, p. 278-294Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper examines the BBC's strategy and discursive practices with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It triangulates critical linguistic analysis of the BBC's English and Arabic online reports, with the results of extensive interviews with BBC editors, articles by mainstream media as well as the BBC's guidelines and the editors' blogs. The aim behind the triangulation is to see whether the corporation's beliefs, norms and assumptions vis-à-vis the issue have a hand in the shaping of its discursive features. In order to understand why and how news is differently structured and patterned, Fowler urges critical linguists to contextualize their studies by examining discourse-related moments other than the text itself. The contextualization of the linguistic representations of the conflict demonstrates that BBC language reflects to a large extent the views, assumptions and norms prevalent in the corporation as well as the unequal division of power and control between the two protagonists despite the corporation's insistence on impartiality, balance and neutrality in its coverage of the conflict.

Keywords
BBC, contextualization, critical linguistics, linguistic representation, Palestine and Israel, power and control
National Category
Media and Communications Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-7215 (URN)10.1080/14616700701848337 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-12-15 Created: 2008-12-15 Last updated: 2017-12-14Bibliographically approved
5. Fundamentalism in Arab and Muslim Media: A Hermeneutic Interpretation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fundamentalism in Arab and Muslim Media: A Hermeneutic Interpretation
2009 (English)In: Fundamentalisms and the Media / [ed] Stewart M. Hoover and Nadia Kaneva, London: Continuum , 2009Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Continuum, 2009
National Category
Media and Communications
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hj:diva-11945 (URN)978-1-84706-133-1 (ISBN)
Available from: 2010-04-08 Created: 2010-04-08 Last updated: 2012-12-07Bibliographically approved

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