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Media bias is a perceived notion that the press has and is pushing a specific viewpoint, instead of reporting news or airing programs in an objective way. Such bias often refers to media as a whole, such as a newspaper chain, or a given television or radio network, instead of individual reporters or writers of television shows.
It is almost impossible for any network or journalistic publication not to be accused of some bias. Subtle things like word choice, time limits on programming, and sponsors may all suggest that the organization isn't neutral. Each individual who reports or writes the news also has to work hard to guard against revealing his or her own opinions. These opinions can reveal bias simply through word choice or inflections and tone of voice when delivering news.
One form of media bias is the failure to include varied points of view on a story. Often, this may be viewed as failing to include the opposite viewpoint, but it would be virtually impossible to include all viewpoints on a particular issue, since people approach issues from more than two directions. For example, those belonging to fringe political parties like the Libertarians or Green Party, often feel their viewpoint is not adequately represented in journalism.
This failure to represent all sides of the story may not be intentional bias, however. News stories may simply not have the time to cover all points of view, and may stick to classic “sides,” such as left and right, in an attempt to curb media bias. The media can still technically be biased since it cannot represent all points of view.
Some media bias is quite blatant. In fact, some stations or programs are known for presenting the news in a way that clearly takes a defined position. This is true of programs like the 700 Club, which interpret the news from a conservative Christian viewpoint. Some countries also present bias in their programming when the government controls the media.
In China, for example, certain programs are allowed, while others may not be, and certain stories may be written while others must be ignored. This is an attempt to control how the population thinks about the world, which helps to sustain the government’s control of the people. Other countries also present news in ways slanted toward a particular set of ideals. Several Islamic countries, for example, control the media and slant it to glorify religious ideals. This is often the case in theocracies.
Another example of media bias that tends to occur in Islamic countries, and in the US as well, is the presentation of facts that shows a national versus international bias. In most cases, when key world issues are discussed in presentation of the news in the US, these issues are typically discussed in terms of how they are perceived by Americans rather than how they are perceived by the world.
Many people find it quite interesting to watch news reports from countries other than their own, which now widely available on different cable networks. These stories tend to differ greatly from those presented by traditional US media, although they too may have some bias. An Irish news station might examine US decisions in relationship to how this affects Ireland, for example. British news stations often take a more global view, but they may still show some bias.
One of the advantages to global communication as it now exists is that people do have access to a wide range of views. No matter where someone lives, he or she can probably read blogs from Sweden, listen to radio news from the Middle East, read Chinese newspapers, or watch television that critiques their society. This access has a way of counteracting media bias because it allows for people to examine news themselves, in greater context. Some people prefer media that is upfront about its bias, however, because it presents information to them that reinforces their own opinions.