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With Particular Reference To Public Opinion And Wider Political Implications, Critically Assess The Impact Of Press And Broadcast Coverage Of The Palestinian Conflict.

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"With particular reference to public opinion and wider political implications, critically assess the impact of press and broadcast coverage of the Palestinian conflict."

The implications of media coverage on the Palestinian conflict are many. The superficiality and commercialisation of the media has resulted in a confused public opinion of the conflict, one of propaganda, naivety, and frequent misunderstanding.

With particular reference to television, the media has come under fire for its surface scratching, depthless propaganda-like reporting of an illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine that can rightfully only come under the name of terrorism.

To examine the implications of television reporting of the conflict we have to familiarise ourselves with media developments in television news. Television is the only medium that, in a 21st century world, is “вЂ¦Ð²Ð‚?used and respected by almost everyone. It is the only news medium presently capable of reaching across the while of British society’ (Hargreaves and Thomas, 2002: 5)” (Thussu and Freedman, 2003:118).

According to Thussu, Media coverage of conflicts has become a genre in its own right, a вЂ?24/7 News’ constant flow of “words, sounds, and imagesвЂ¦Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (Thussu, 2003: 117). The competitive nature of television news, and its commercial base, can lead to sensationalisation, and trivialisation, of complex issues, as Thussu argues “…news is largely about conflict, and conflict is always news.”(117)

Shaffer (2002) asks the question “whether the entertainment industry is an extension of the war system, or whether war is simply an extension of our need for entertainment?” with this world of 24/7 news, of fantastical words derived from theatrical, entertainment origins (theatre of war, stage and so on) he explains that our minds have become passive, and whether asked by politicians or actors, we suspend our judgement on what we are witnessing, and are content to have our emotions manipulated by those spin doctors as who are hired to do the job.

Public opinion is thus a victim of conflict, particularly to the Israel-Palestinian conflict many have little to no background knowledge of it, and what is known by them is what the press has put out, assuming background knowledge. For the public to know the significance of what is reported, a full level of understanding is needed, but not given.

The key reason, as mentioned the in the research of Philo, Gilmour, Gilmour, Rust, Gaskell and West (Glasgow University Media Group, or GUMG), is that television news is spoken obliquely, in a journalistic shorthand, with explanations rarely given.

The GUMG (2004) conducted a number of questionnaires and discussions with a number of focus groups. The research of the group, printed in Bad News from Israel (Philo and Berry, 2004), showed that when the words �Israeli-Palestine conflict’ where heard, their groups gave responses referring to images of war, conflict and violence using as selective use of language; �war, death, children dying,’; �bombings, people dying’; �gunmen, suicide bombers’ and �children throwing stones at Israeli soldiers’. All, as Shaffer says, very dramatic but beyond this there was little understanding of the conflict, its origins and reasons. Its wider political implications had little to no representation amongst the groups.

The GUMG found that 85 percent (84 percent in the focus groups) British participants mostly linked there answers to TV news as a �key source’. But with students noting that there is a �dumbing down’ of the news, consequently becoming superficial and having no depth. George Alagiah from the BBC confirmed that:

вЂ?In depth it takes a long time, but we’re constantly being told that the attention span of our average viewer is about 20 seconds and if we don’t grab people вЂ" and we’ve looked at the figures вЂ" the number of people who shift channels around in my programme now at six o’clock, there’s movement of about 3 million people in that first minute, coming in and out.’ (Philo and Berry, 2004, p. 211)

The research conducted by the group shows that the public has a huge lack of understanding of the conflict and its origins, and this is compounded by the light TV news reporting.

John Pilger, in his article Israel and the Media, agrees that “If you got your news only from the television, you would have no idea of the roots of the Middle East conflict, or that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation.” (Pilger, 2001)

Pilger explains that the lack of vital information on the conflict creates misunderstanding, confusion and naivety in public opinion. Those who refer to Israelis as �terrorist’s’ are accused of anti-Semitism, most are unaware that Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation. A profound insight into the lack of depth found in TV news reporting is demonstrated by the GUMG, from September 28 to October 15, 2000, 3,500 lines of text from BBC1 and ITN where devoted to the uprising and only 17 referred to the history of the conflict.

James Curran (2003) assesses that there are contradictions in media policy, television and radio come under much regulation and traditionally pursue government set objectives while press function along side market forces.

Former president Jimmy Carter outlines major issues in the US media reporting of the conflict, determining that the pro-Islamic lobbies of in the US, having little opposition, create a faÐ"§ade on the conflict, preventing any free or balanced discussions. He complains there is a large reluctance to criticise policies of the Israeli government due to the efforts of the American-Israeli political action committee among press and congress. Despite contrary private assessments of correspondents in the holy land US magazines and Newspapers exercise a large level of self restraint on unbiased reporting and that despite many TV interviews by the former president on the subject, there has been little to no work published in reference to what he has said or from the Palestinian point of view, and many complain of anti-Semitism on his part (The Guardian, 2006).

A major figure in US media is Rupert Murdoch, owner of FOX. His openly Zionist views are a major part in his support of Israel. New York Governor, George Pataki,

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