A new report by Media Tenor and the Institute for Economics and Peace shows that violence still outrules peace in the international TV media. Yet, certain aspects of the study are questionable – how to measure peace quantitatively?
By Jan Oberg and Ida Zidore
We all have a feeling of what peace is. Yet, defining it more precisely is not so easy. It belongs to the category that philosophers have called ‘essentially contested concepts’ – also used about freedom, justice and, say, democracy. Being somehow elusive, perhaps the best we can hope to achieve is intelligent discussions about how to approach peace, rather than defining it precisely.
There are those who jump the philosophy, conceptuality and definitions and go directly to quantifying peace. By means of some “indicators” readily available in data bases they put together a composite measure that enables them to rank-order countries. Developing such hit lists – for happiness, development, corruption, etc.- has become a kind of industry in recent years.
The Global Peace Index
The Global Peace Index, GPI, produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace is an example of that approach. Its mission is expressed as “Quantifying Peace and its Benefits” and it newly published a comprehensive report, Measuring Peace in the Media 2011, which is “an analysis of global TV networks coverage of peace and violence issues using a fact-based approach which compares various measures from the Global Peace Index against Media Tenor’s database of global media.”
The aim of the study is “to better understand the texture of new coverage and its accuracy. This was achieved by analysing Media Tenor’s extensive database consisting of 164,000 news items. These news items have been compiled from 31 news and current affairs programs that air on four continents. The data was further analysed and broken down by country coverage with news stories from 101 different countries. The aggregated country data was then compared to the Global Peace Index (GPI) so as to rate the accuracy of the coverage.”
This is a very valuable and much needed research endeavour. Many of us working in the field of peace – research, activism, journalism or otherwise – have long felt that the media are interested in violence to the point of obsession, while ignoring to a large extent news, events and trends that point in the direction of peace and, hence, offer citizens hope.
Typically, journalists do not turn up at a hot spot while a conflict is unfolding but they gather there once violence has been introduced. Thus, we have too much war reporting and too little conflict journalism. And as soon as there is a cease-fire agreement of some publicized peace accord, whether real or fake, they leave for another war theatre.
Key findings of the study
Phi Beta Iota: We continue to suffer the “Paradigms of Failure” across all eight communities (academia, civil society, commerce, government, law enforcement, media, military, and non-governmental/non-profit). The truth is very hard to find in a world where lies are the predominant form of communication, ideology displaces intelligence, and corruption displaces integrity. This is the challenge of our time: to create public intelligence in the public interest.
THE OPEN SOURCE EVERYTHING MANIFESTO: Transparency, Truth & Trust (North Atlantic/Evolver Editions, 5 June 2012)