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 is the mass media of the Western world. During the Cold War, it portrayed itself as a counterpoint to the monopolistic, state-owned media of the Soviet Union.[1] It has been claimed that in the 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 alleged human rights issues in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific Islands. In countries claimed to be authoritarian regimes, exposure to Western media is generally considered by its supporters to be a measure of political openness.[4]

In spite of its claimed openness, Western media has been demonstrated to contain biased material or coverage of certain countries or groups, usually aligning itself with staunch criticisms of those countries still independent of Western interests, and dismissing human rights abuses against nationalities by Western countries.[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 some 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]

United States[edit]

In the United States, movie production is known to be dominated by major studios since the early 20th Century; before that, there was a period in which Edison's Trust monopolized the industry. The music and television industries recently witnessed cases of media consolidation, with Sony Music Entertainment's parent company merging their music division with Bertelsmann AG's BMG to form Sony BMG and Tribune's The WB and CBS Corp.'s UPN merging to form The CW. In the case of Sony BMG, there existed a "Big Five" (now "Big Four") of major record companies, while The CW's creation was an attempt to consolidate ratings and stand up to the "Big Four" of American network (terrestrial) television (this despite the fact that the CW was, in fact, partially owned by one of the Big Four in CBS). In television, the vast majority of broadcast and basic cable networks, over a hundred in all, are controlled by eight corporations: News Corporation (the Fox family of channels), The Walt Disney Company (which includes the ABC, ESPN and Disney brands), National Amusements (which includes CBS Corporation and Viacom), Comcast (which includes the NBC brands), Time Warner, Discovery Communications, E. W. Scripps Company, Cablevision, or some combination thereof.[26]

There may also be some large-scale owners in an industry that are not the causes of monopoly or oligopoly. Clear Channel Communications, especially since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, acquired many radio stations across the United States, and came to own more than 1,200 stations. However, the radio broadcasting industry in the United States and elsewhere can be regarded as oligopolistic regardless of the existence of such a player. Because radio stations are local in reach, each licensed a specific part of spectrum by the FCC in a specific local area, any local market is served by a limited number of stations. In most countries, this system of licensing makes many markets local oligopolies. The similar market structure exists for television broadcasting, cable systems and newspaper industries, all of which are characterized by the existence of large-scale owners. Concentration of ownership is often found in these industries.

In the United States, data on ownership and market share of media companies is not held in the public domain.

Recent media mergers in the United States[edit]

Over time the amount of media merging has increased and the amount of media outlets have increased. That translates to fewer companies owning more media outlets, increasing the concentration of ownership. In 1983, 90% of US media was controlled by fifty companies; today, 90% is controlled by just six companies.[27]

The "Big Six"[edit]

The Big Six[28] Media Outlets Revenues (2014)[29]
Comcast NBCUniversal (a joint venture with General Electric from 2011 to 2013), NBC and Telemundo, Universal Pictures, Focus Features, 26 television stations in the United States and cable networks USA Network, Bravo, CNBC, The Weather Channel, MSNBC, Syfy, NBCSN, Golf Channel, Esquire Network, E!, Cloo, Chiller, Universal HD and the Comcast SportsNet regional system. Comcast also owns the Philadelphia Flyers through a separate subsidiary. $69 billion
The Walt Disney Company Holdings include: ABC Television Network, cable networks ESPN, the Disney Channel, A&E and Lifetime, approximately 30 radio stations, music, video game, and book publishing companies, production companies Touchstone, Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, the cellular service Disney Mobile, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, and theme parks in several countries. Also has a longstanding partnership with Hearst Corporation, which owns additional TV stations, newspapers, magazines, and stakes in several Disney television ventures. $48.8 billion
News Corporation* Holdings include: the Fox Broadcasting Company; cable networks Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, FX, FXX, FX Movie Channel, and the regional Fox Sports Networks; print publications including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post; the magazines Barron's and SmartMoney; book publisher HarperCollins; film production companies 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Blue Sky Studios. As of July 2013, News Corporation was split into two separate companies, with publishing assets and Australian media assets going to News Corp, and broadcasting and media assets going to 21st Century Fox.[30] $40.5 billion ($8.6 billion News Corp and $31.9 billion 21st Century Fox)
Time Warner Formerly the largest media conglomerate in the world, with holdings including: CNN, the CW (a joint venture with CBS), HBO, Cinemax, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, HLN, NBA TV, TBS, TNT, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. Pictures, Castle Rock, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and New Line Cinema. $22.8 billion
Viacom Holdings include: MTV, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, VH1, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, and Paramount Home Entertainment. $13.7 billion
CBS Corporation Holdings include: CBS Television Network and the CW (a joint venture with Time Warner), cable networks CBS Sports Network, Showtime, TVGN; 30 television stations; CBS Radio, Inc., which has 130 stations; CBS Television Studios; book publisher Simon & Schuster. $13.8 billion

Although Viacom and CBS Corporation have been separate companies since 2006, they are both partially owned subsidiaries of the private National Amusements company, headed by Sumner Redstone. As such, Paramount Home Entertainment handles DVD/Blu-ray distribution for most of the CBS Corporation library.

American public distrust in the media[edit]

A 2012 Gallup poll found that Americans' distrust in the mass media had hit a new high, with 60% saying they had little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust had increased since the previous few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in the years before 2004.[31]

Notable examples[edit]

United Kingdom
United States

See also[edit]


  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.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  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?", August 4, 2014.
  26. ^ Steiner, Tobias. "Under the Macroscope: Convergence in the US Television Market between 2000 and 2014". academia.edu. Retrieved 4 Aug 2015. 
  27. ^ Entertainment More: Infographic Media Corporation Mergers And Acquisitions These 6 Corporations Control 90% Of The Media In America - Business Insider, June 14 2012
  28. ^ Ownership Chart: The Big Six. (2009) Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.freepress.net/ownership/chart/main
  29. ^ "NASDAQ Revenue and EPS Summary". NASDAQ.com. NASDAQ.com. Retrieved 31 August 2015. 
  30. ^ "News Corp officially splits in two". BBC News. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  31. ^ "U.S. Distrust in Media Hits New High". Gallup. September 21, 2012.