Western media

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Press freedom in the Western world (green) and outside the Western world (red, yellow or green), according to the 2014 Press Freedom Index

The Western media refers to the news media of the Western world. Coined during the Cold War, it is a counterpoint to the monopolistic, state-owned media of the Soviet Union.[1] In former East Germany, over 91% of the population perceived Western media outlets to be more reliable than domestic media outlets.[2]

The western media has gradually expanded into developing countries,[3] 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.[4]

In spite of its openness, western media can and have been demonstrated to contain biased material or coverage for certain countries or groups.[5]


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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[10][11]

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.[2]

In recent years, many Western media outlets have seen their circulation figures stagnate.[12]


Global coverage[edit]

In 2011, "The Protester" was named "Person of the Year" by Time magazine, one of the most influential magazines in the Western world
  • Africa – According to one study in 1997, Western media coverage of the African continent has been noted to be exceptionally negative, and generally limited to regions of conflict.[13]
  • 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.[14] It has been claimed that past representations of Arabs in Western media have relied heavily on racial myths and stereotypes.[15][16]
  • 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.[17]

Press freedom[edit]

One of the characteristics of the Western media is that they tend to be independent. Top scoring countries in the Press Freedom Index include:[18]

Non-Western media outlets[edit]

Under growing financial pressure, many Western media oulets have begun 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.[19]

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.[20][21]


Following the 2014 Kunming attack event, many major western media outlets covering the event with the quotation marks around the word “terrorism,” some in the article’s headline, some in the body, and some in both.[22][23] China accused Western commentators, with their focus on Uighur rights, of hypocrisy and double standards on terrorism.[24]

Russian media often claims that western media is biased.[25]

Notable examples[edit]

United Kingdom
United States


  1. ^ "'Without free flow of information, there can be no serious democracy'". The Hindu. July 10, 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Growing up in times of social change. Berlin [u.a.]: de Gruyter. 1999. p. 206. ISBN 3110165007. 
  3. ^ Chadha, K.; Kavoori, A. (1 July 2000). "Media imperialism revisited: some findings from the Asian case". Media, Culture & Society 22 (4): 415–432. doi:10.1177/016344300022004003. 
  4. ^ Vatikiotis, Michael R. J. (1996). Political change in Southeast Asia trimming the banyan tree. London: Routledge. p. 90. ISBN 0203975162. 
  5. ^ {http://bigthink.com/dragons-and-pandas/is-western-media-really-biased-against-china-and-russia}, http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/studies-continually-show-strong-pro-israel-bias-western-media-881718416, http://www.east-west-dichotomy.com/yang-rui-the-bias-of-western-media/
  6. ^ Weber, Johannes (2006), "Strassburg, 1605: The Origins of the Newspaper in Europe", German History 24 (3): 387–412 (387), doi:10.1191/0266355406gh380oa :

    At the same time, then as the printing press in the physical technological sense was invented, 'the press' in the extended sense of the word also entered the historical stage. The phenomenon of publishing was now born.

  7. ^ a b Hardy, Jonathan (2008). Western media systems. London: Routledge. pp. 27–28. ISBN 0203869044. 
  8. ^ a b Bourrie, Mark. The Fog of War: Censorship of Canada's Media in World War Two (1st US ed.). Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre. ISBN 1553659503. 
  9. ^ Lewis Woods (December 11, 1943). "Censorship Office Eases Curbs On War News of Press and Radio; Censorship Office Lifts News Curbs". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  10. ^ a b William Boyd (19 August 2006), "The Secret Persuaders", The Guardian, retrieved 30 November 2013 
  11. ^ Macintyre, Ben (October 8, 2006). "The Spy Who Raised Me". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2013. 
  12. ^ Simone Pieranni. "Western Media In Crisis, But What About China?". European Journalism Observatory. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  13. ^ Rolf Annas (1 Dec 2010). "News flow out of Africa: are Western media striving for excellence in communication standards?". Ecquid Novi: African Journalism Studies 18 (2): 196–208. doi:10.1080/02560054.1997.9653203 (inactive 2015-02-01). Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Noakes, J. A.; Wilkins, K. G. (1 September 2002). "Shifting frames of the Palestinian movement in US news". Media, Culture & Society 24 (5): 649–671. doi:10.1177/016344370202400506. 
  15. ^ Yahya R. Kamalipour, ed. (1998). Cultural diversity and the US media. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press. ISBN 0791439291. 
  16. ^ Guang Pan (December 1997). "China's Success in the Middle East". Middle East Quarterly 4 (4): 35–40. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Wan, Ming (2001). Human rights in Chinese foreign relations : defining and defending national interests. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0812235975. 
  18. ^ http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html
  19. ^ Ioannis Gatsiounis. "Western media fade, new media rise in Asia". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 12 December 2013. 
  20. ^ Oliver Bullough "Inside Russia Today: counterweight to the mainstream media, or Putin's mouthpiece?", New Statesman, May 10, 2013.
  21. ^ Laughlin, Andrew, Jan 14, 2013 "RT Russian news channel goes HD on Sky", Digital Spy , retrieved December 13, 2013.
  22. ^ People's Daily Online, Mar 4, 2014 "Western media coverage of Kunming's terror attack shows sheer mendacity and heartlessness", March 4, 2014.
  23. ^ Dawn, Yiqin Fu, Mar 5, 2014 "Chinese are angry at western media’s portrayal of the Kunming attack", March 5, 2014.
  24. ^ BBC News, Kunming, John Sudworth, Mar 3, 2014 "Shock and anger after Kunming brutality", March 3, 2014.
  25. ^ theguardian.com, Aug 4, 2014 "Is western media coverage of the Ukraine crisis anti-Russian?", Auguest 4, 2014.