Peace & the Media also includes a case study on Afghanistan, which shows that coverage of the country's violence is accurately portrayed in volume terms. Unfortunately, a disproportionate amount of coverage is focused only on defence and crime, and neglects to highlight the critical issues of corruption, the economy and human rights.
Encouragingly, there are 20% more stories on topics related to the structures of peace - well-functioning government, sound business environment, equitable distribution of resources, free flow of information, low levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others, high levels of education, good relations with neighbouring states - than stories that focused on conflict.
Of the outlets included in the study, the majority of programmes reported on violence less than 40% of the time.
CNN International, BBC World Service and Al Jazeera English were called out for specific comparison in terms of coverage on Afghanistan. While all three TV networks had a similar number of reports on the topics receiving the most total coverage - warfare, elections, crime and international politics- Al Jazeera's coverage brings a greater focus on the structures that create peace. Al Jazeera English had the broadest coverage with 22 out of a possible 33 topics covered. This was four more than BBC World Service "The News" and CNN International Desk, which covered 18 topics each. Furthermore, Al Jazeera also reported the highest number of positive stories.
"Informing the public on what will build long-term peace and stability, regardless of whether the tone of the coverage is positive or negative, is highly beneficial and in the best traditions of a free press," said Roland Schatz, CEO of Media Tenor. "What is challenging is to determine how to reframe the news coverage so that it is appealing to the audience but still includes the structures of peace. If a TV network succeeded in achieving this, it would create a unique differentiation from other networks that should result in an increased market share."
With the exception of Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, all the countries with the most coverage are the leading economies of the world. While this points to wider reporting for countries with geopolitical influence, diversity in coverage on peace and conflict issues is critical to ensuring that countries are not stereotyped. Covering various aspects of a war provides viewers - domestic and international - with greater insight on tackling the most critical issues.
"It's human nature for us to feel more empathy for people and societies we know more about," said Killelea. "If we don't know the issues, all of the issues, that are factors in a conflict, it is impossible to achieve a lasting resolution."
Positive-peace stories - those documenting active steps to rectify violent situations - make up just 1.6% of the total number of media stories covered in the study. This may be partly related to what is considered newsworthy with dramatic, high-impact, violent or controversial events being considered the most relevant. International broadcaster Al Jazeera and Germany's ARD Tagesschau ranked highest on this factor, with both dedicating 8% of their conflict coverage.
Of special interest is how the three regions cover each other. European TV is balanced between coverage of the Middle East (27%) and North America (29%), while US programmes are more concerned with the Middle East (40%) than Europe (24%). Middle Eastern coverage suggests a much stronger interest in European affairs (36%) than events occurring in North America (21%). The BBC World Service was the broadcaster with the most international scope of coverage.
Of the three regions, US programmes are the least likely to be of a positive nature, while Middle Eastern programmes are more likely to be positive, and also the least likely to be negative. Although there was a high level of negative reporting on Africa, it did also receive a higher level of positive coverage from the Middle East compared to Europe or the US. Both the US and European TV programmes devote more than 60% of their coverage of the Middle East to violence, while the level of coverage of violence for the US is well below what would be expected given its GPI score.
Both European and Middle Eastern TV programmes were more likely to report positively on North America than other regions, which mirror their low levels of coverage of violence issues in the US. By contrast, coverage of the Middle East, by both European and American TV programmes, had both a high level of violence reporting and a high level of negative coverage.
*Correlation of r=.56; figure would be higher if a few notable outliers are removed; outliers are cases where the media reporting does not match the level of peacefulness of the countries. For example, Finland ranked as the 9th most peaceful country in the 2010 GPI, but 64% of international coverage on the country was violence related due to the spate of school shootings.
**Table 1.TV programmes included in analysis
|Media Network||TV Programme||Country|
|ABC||ABC World News||USA|
|Al Arabiya||Al Arabiya News||Saudi Arabia|
|Al Jazeera||Al Jazeera News||Qatar|
|Al Manar||Al Manar SAT||Lebanon|
|BBC||BBC World Service The News||UK|
|CBS||CBS Evening News||USA|
|CCTV||CCTV1 News Hour||China|
|CNN||CNN International Desk||USA|
|Dubai TV||Dubai TV||UAE|
|FOX||FOX Special Report||USA|
|ITV||ITV News at Ten||UK|
|NBC||NBC Nightly News||USA|
|Nile TV||Nile News Panorama||Egypt|
|RAI 1||RAI TG1||Italy|
|TF1||TF1 Le Journal||France|
|TRT1||TRT1 Ana Haber Bülteni||Turkey|
|ZDF||ZDF Heute Journal||Germany|
|SABC||SABC News @ One||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC News @ 10||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC Afrikaans News||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC English News||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC Africa News Update||South Africa|
|eTV||eTV Prime Time||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC Zulu/Xhosa||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC SiSwati/Ndebele||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC Venda/Tsonga||South Africa|
|SABC||SABC Sotho||South Africa|
Table 2. Examples of 'Violence,' 'Peace' and 'Other' issues
|Violence issues||Peace issues||"Other" issues|
|Demonstrations/Protests||Parliamentary work||Stock markets|
|Politically motivated crime||Legislative procedure||State visits|
|Suicide bombing||Education policy||Court cases|
|Assassinations||Education and demographic development||Conferences/summits|
|Terrorism||Positive economic outlook||National elections|
|Kidnapping||Human rights||Currency market|
|Murder||Peace negotiations||Human interest|
|Nuclear weapon development||Co-operation of political parties||Animal stories|
|Conflicts in general||Co-operation of parliament||Awards/ prizes|
|Negative coverage media freedom||Treaties, agreements||Appointments|
|Social unrest||Arms control, non-proliferation||Domestic policy|
|War activities||Positive fiscal policy||Economic situation|
|Civil war||Positive monetary policy||Music|
|Negative coverage on human rights||Positive local conditions for investments||Campaigning|
|Failed elections||Economic development projects||International politics|
|Air strikes||Improvement of economic policy||Foreign policy|
|Oppression of the people by state||Positive labour legislation||Resignations|
|Insurgency||Positive economic restructuring||Film/cinema|
|War crimes||State incentives for innovations||Committees, events|
|Violent crime||Positive tertiary education||Economic policy|