In a content analysis of war reporting on the four major British television newscasts — BBC, ITN, Channel 4 and Sky — Justin Lewis of Cardiff University’s journalism department found that the Beeb was twice as likely as ITN and Channel 4 News to use the British government as a source than the other three channels. Moreover, it found that
Over the three weeks of conflict, 11% of the sources quoted by the BBC were of coalition government or military origin, the highest proportion of all the main television broadcasters. The BBC was the least likely to quote official Iraqi sources, and less likely than Sky, ITV or Channel 4 News to use independent (and often skeptical) sources such as the Red Cross.
The study found the BBC placed least emphasis on Iraqi casualties, which were mentioned in 22% of its stories about the Iraqi people. Casualties received most prominence on Channel 4 News, figuring in 40% of its reports about Iraqis. The corporation was least likely to report on the unhappiness of Iraqis about the invasion.
Meanwhile, *Der Spiegel *reports (rather unsurprisingly) very similar things about the U.S. media. The report cantered on a study by Steve Rendall of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and another by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Journalism.
Rendall’s content analysis found that that 64 percent of sources on six television newscasts were pro-war. Anti-war voices were 10 percent of all sources, but just six percent of non-Iraqi sources and three percent of U.S. sources.“Thus viewers were more than six times as likely to see a pro-war source as one who was anti-war…”
Official voices, including current and former government employees, whether civilian or military, dominated network newscasts, accounting for 63 percent of overall sources. Current and former U.S. officials alone provided more than half (52 percent) of all sources; adding officials from Britain, chief ally in the invasion of Iraq, brought the total to 57 percent.
Looking at U.S. sources, which made up 76 percent of total sources, more than two out of three (68 percent) were either current or former officials.The percentage of U.S. sources who were officials varied from network to network, ranging from 75 percent at CBS to 60 percent at NBC.
None of this is really surprising. The story is always the same. Official sources dominate the news and make the official line the media line. Study after study has confirmed that this is the norm in journalism. War only makes this obvious.