Islam in the media

Although more of a fan of qualitative research, the quantitative ‘bean-counting’ done at Media Tenor can be very illuminating. Their most recent press release tells us that:

Even seven years after the attacks on the World Trade Centre media coverage has not changed at all: Religion is primarily associated with terrorism. Almost half of all statements about Islam have been negative in the American ABC, CBS and NBC network news. In the UK, BBC and ITV news showed a slightly less negative tone towards Islam, but violent attacks dominated the news. Thus high awareness is triggered by the news value of conflict. In Germany Muslims receive 20 times the coverage of Buddhists or the Jewish communities, as the latest analysis of the Zurich-based research institute MEDIA TENOR shows. But the religious life of Muslim plays no major role in the news reports – which is very much in line with the TV coverage of other religious groups.

Conflict, violence. Twenty times more coverage than other religious communities. Not, perhaps, surprising. But seeing the numbers is still quite disheartening.This research was based on extensive content analysis of

— 11,294 statements in 3 US main evening TV news from Jan 2007 to March 2008

— 12,861 statements in 3 British main evening TV news.

Augmented by long-term content analysis of German news. The report available from Media Tenor (pdf) includes these slides:

New Research

This is necessary research, but surely now it’s time for a study analysing the significant changes in media coverage of Islam. In Germany, for instance, in the 1960s, ‘Turks’ were the ‘good immigrants’ (hard working, traditional values, strong moral, ethical, etc.). It was the Italians who were the bad guys (Communists). How were Muslims represented across Europe? What was changing? When did it change? In line with which other political and social changes? Etc. Unfortunately, a study on this topic recently proposed by a historian friend of mine was not awarded funding.


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