Media Lens

Posted: October 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

Media Lens is a media analysis website that is based in the United Kingdom. Its founders, David Cromwell and David Edwards, believe passionately that the media, whether conservative or liberal, are part of a larger mechanism that advances the corporate interests of both the United States of America and the United Kingdom. After all, the main newspaper corporations are dependent on their advertisers for as much as 75% of their overall revenue, while some news organisations such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have their senior executives appointed by the government.

Media Lens focuses very much on events that they feel the mass media is reporting inaccurately either as a result of omission or commission. A very startling example of this is covered in a book that the editors of the website co-authored: Guardians of Power (2005). In the book, the authors ask about the reasons for the war in Iraq, dissecting what George W. Bush and Tony Blair said to the media in order to garner support for the invasion. The authors showed how Tony Blair lied to the United Nations, claiming how the satellite photos that the British government procured were “indisputable” evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Media Lens asked hard questions about why such claims were allowed to be made (and, in fact, regurgitated by the media) without any editor checking to see if what was said was true.

Another example of how the media manipulated data is how the results of a 1998 United Nations Weapons Inspection team were totally glossed over in the days leading up to the war. The inspection that was carried out between 1991-1998 had in fact shown that Saddam Hussein had either dismantled most of the WMD in Iraq or did not have any to begin with. In fact, just after their extraction, the U.N. chief inspector, Scott Ritter, declared that Iraq had “no significant weapons of mass destruction”. Another issue of contention the Media Lens editors had was with the media’s portrayal of the circumstances of Weapon Inspection team’s extraction from Iraq. While the media reported that the team was “recalled” from Iraq when it occurred in 1998, the media had an about-turn and universally started calling their extraction an “expulsion” in the days leading to the invasion, seemingly forgetting that it was a voluntary withdrawal issued by America.

All these lead one to wonder how far a reach it is that corporate interests have when it comes to news organisations, even ones purported to be objective. To be fair, the editors of Media Lens believe that these slants that the media portrays are more due to the belief system of the organisations than overt agendas by particular journalists. If time permits, I recommend that you look through the Media Lens website or get a copy of Guardians of Power.

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Comments
  1. prills101 says:

    To use of the mass media to advance one’s own corporate or political interest is indeed what seems to be very prevalent nowadays. It is very important then to have a media guard-dog to actually keep news channels and mass media in general in check. As seen from your example of how the media distorted the situation in Iraq, it really takes an observant and discerning individual to know these things. I hope that the media guard dogs eventually have the power to influence more people to know about these things so that they’ll be able to judge things themselves.

    • sohchris says:

      They’ve actually been talking to people working in the mass media about these kind of things, and believe that people in the mass media are not part of this selective reporting. Rather, they have been conditioned through the rising of the ranks (ie what we learned in unit 6) that a certain type of worker has been bred; one that will follow the trail they’ve been given and nothing else.

  2. treenie7 says:

    I agree that the media’s portrayal is very important in people’s opinion towards the on goings within the country. Especially journalism in Singapore, most of the political stories in Singapore are too one sided. People are now turning towards new media for more different angles on a certain matter, in order to make a more accurate decision based on the whole picture.

    • sohchris says:

      I would agree, except for a point. Where most people see the Straits Times as being inherently biased, the same view is now being applied to the new media. The Online Citizen as well as the Temasek Review are now both too slanted for the taste of many Singaporeans. This loses them credibility that they once had.

  3. Jt says:

    it is arguable whether the truth benefits society. perhaps in less high profile cases the agenda in which mass media distort reports are actually to protect national interests or society. the effects of having a media watchdog is really hard to gauge and on a personal note, as long as the decision made to distort the media can be rationalized, i honestly do not care much as long as society is better off that way. we only live once, ignorance is bliss.(:

    • sohchris says:

      I agree; I mean, as long as news is reported, there will definitely be a slant to it. Even facts have slants to them (a headline of “57 dead in a fire” is as factually accurate as “57 homeless squatters found dead in a fire”. So yeah, the slants will be there regardless. However, I think most people would not be pleased when they find out the lengths of which this happened. The Iraq example illustrates this; the press had a 180 degree turn when reporting the news.

  4. Dal says:

    Interesting post and website.
    The initial aim of the media is to provide an objective view of events that occur locally or globally.

    In countries where the media is state-controlled and there is no freedom of the media, they will be unable to publish an objective view of certain events and hence will lead to inaccuracy and certain omission. Sometimes, the news organisations themselves have certain biases for certain political parties, resulting in coverage of certain political events to be skewed in order to reflect their biases.

    Let’s take a step back and look at ourselves as consumers. What attracts us to watching the news? Is it relevant to us? Are we interested in it? Why should we bother about it? If we take into account this perspective, the media may have to modify the news at times in order to get us interested in it. As such, this may result in hyped-up news in order to capture our attention, as such resulting in some inaccurate news. Furthermore, with the rise of technology, we have come to the era of 24-hours news on certain TV channels. Sometimes, there are just not enough news around the world for this kind of continual coverage. As such, by hyping up certain small events into large/massive ones, they will be able to prolong the lifespan of this event to be covered until the next big thing comes along, resulting in inaccurate news again.

    From the perspective of a newspaper journalist, besides writing news for an event within a certain time limit, they also have a word limit for the article, which may restrict them from including certain important information which would have been required to get an accurate picture of the event. Furthermore, the article they have written would have undergone vigorous editting by the sub-editors and the editors before being put down into the newspaper for printing. As such, the story would have been changed, resulting in an inaccurate portrayal of the event.

    Hope this helps in giving you another perspective about the media.

  5. Rawbeanladen says:

    I agree with what prills101 and treenie7 said about the media being one-sided in Singapore due to its allegiance to the ruling party. New Media offers a fresh perspective, though it cannot be depended upon fully as it too may be biased.

    • sohchris says:

      Yes, most people are starting to get the opinion that the new media is too biased for them to trust. However, we do need new media around to tell us about stuff that the Straits Times will not (due to issues of “national interest”) nor will the international press (Singapore’s too small a country to diverge resources into investigating).

  6. Em says:

    I guess everyone knows the destructive power of media annd so many people wants to manipulate it.. I suppose it is our job as reader to always question ourselves about the reliability of these articles.

    • sohchris says:

      Yes but unfortunately, with the existence of the internet age, people have grown lazier. Every time we want to know something, we ask Google. This has led to a mindset that is uninquisitive and lazy.

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