The Western media refers to the news media of the Western world. Coined during the Cold War, it evolved as a counterpoint to the monopolistic, state-owned media of the Soviet Union. In former East Germany, over 91% of the population perceived Western media outlets to be more reliable than domestic media outlets.
The Western media is mainly characterized by the freedom of the press. It has gradually expanded into developing countries, with significant news coverage focused on various human rights issues in Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. In authoritarian regimes, exposure to Western media is generally considered to be a measure of political openness.
In recent years, many Western media outlets have seen their circulation figures stagnate. Despite the slowing of its growth, the mainstream Western media continues to be perceived as a fair, independent and objective medium of news reporting.
The roots of the Western media can be traced back to the late 15th century, when printing presses began to operate throughout Western Europe. The emergence of news media in the 17th century has to be seen in close connection with the spread of the printing press, from which the publishing press derives its name.
In Britain, newspapers developed during a period of political upheavel that challenged the absolute rule of the English Monarchy. In 1641, newspapers were allowed to publish domestic news for the first time. Despite strict controls placed by the political elite on the print media to restrict the expansion of the press, the print industry continued to grow. By the late 18th century, over 10 million newspapers were distributed annually in Britain alone.
One of the earliest instances of media manipulation in the Western media occurred during the Boer Wars. In the media of the United Kingdom, the Boer settlers were portrayed as farmers fighting to regain their lands. From 1904 to 1915, the British were responsible for censorship in Canadian media, where criticism of the army of navy was not allowed. During World War I, Canadian authorities banned a total of 253 publications, of which 93 were deemed to be Marxist-oriented. The practice of censorship in the United States began during World War I, where war correspondents accompanied military forces, and their reports were subject to advance censorship to preserve military secrets. During World War II, the Office of Censorship assumed broader responsibility for the clearance of war news to newspapers and radio stations in the United States.
In order to influence public opinion, the British Security Coordination was set up in 1940 to control news coverage in major American media outlets such as the Herald Tribune, the New York Post, The Baltimore Sun, and Radio New York Worldwide. As a massive propaganda campaign, fictional anti-German stories were disseminated from the Rockefeller Center in New York City. These fabricated stories were legitimately picked up by other radio stations and newspapers, before being relayed to the American public.
During the Cold War, Western media outlets were gradually accepted as a trustworthy and reliable source of news. In former East Germany, over 91% of the population perceived Western media outlets to be more reliable than domestic media outlets.
In recent years, many Western media outlets have seen their circulation figures stagnate.
- Africa – According to several studies, Western media coverage of the African continent has been noted to be exceptionally negative, and generally limited to regions of conflict.
- Middle East – Between 1984 and 1998, Western media coverage of the region increased, and became more positive after the initiation of the First Intifada and the implementation of the Oslo I Accord. Nevertheless, past representations of Arabs in Western media have relied heavily on racial myths and stereotypes. A common theme featured in Western media outlets is the growing volume of Chinese arms and nuclear technology exported to the Middle East.
- China – In contrast to Africa, the number of stories and reports featuring China has increased dramatically in the Western media. Since the late 1970s, much of the Western media coverage and academic research in China have been focused on political corruption and the lack of human rights.
- Russia – Similar to media coverage of China, there is a strong focus on human rights issues and press freedom in Russia. Several Western media oulets such as The Economist have highlighted the desires and motivations of Russian citizens to emigrate to the Western world.
Non-Western media outlets
Under growing financial pressure, many Western media oulets have began to layoff their reporting staff in regions such as Asia. At the same time, a growing demand for non-Western news perspectives has been observed, with Al Jazeera and Press TV cited as one of the most prominent examples of a non-Western media outlet.
In 2013, the Russian television network RT became the first TV news channel to log a billion views on the video sharing platform YouTube. According to the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board between 2.25 and 2.5 million Britons tuned their televisions to RT during the second half of 2012, making it the third-most watched rolling news channel in Britain, behind BBC News and Sky News.
- United Kingdom
- United States
- ABC News
- Associated Press
- Bloomberg L.P.
- The New York Times
- The Washington Post
- The Wall Street Journal
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