Television News and Social Protest in a Comparative Perspective
Wiessner, Greta Ann. “Television News and Social Protest in a Comparative Perspective”, Boston College, 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/2991.
Television news provides information to audiences that help them create meaning from the world around them. This paper explores the relationship between television news and social protest, specifically how television news frames might shape audience perception of social protest as a form of democratic participation. This study utilizes a textual analysis of news stories from NBC, CBS, and Al-Jazeera English in order to compare coverage of social protest in the United States and internationally. Two separate protest issues were studied: Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring protests in Tahrir Square in Egypt. Using framing as a theoretical framework, I utilized the three codes of the protest paradigm – narrative structure, official sources, and invocation of public opinion – to analyze thirty news stories about Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. Two codes – the circus and disorganization – emerged during the research. With support from other relevant scholarship, this study concludes that United States network television news acts as a voice of hegemony in the coverage of social protest, framing protest in ways that benefit elites and uphold the status quo. Protest is often delegitimized by news frames that portray protest as a violent activity and protestors as counter-cultural, social outsiders. Al-Jazeera English, in contrast, provides a counter-hegemonic perspective that legitimizes protest as a form of democratic participation used by a diverse cross-section of citizens.