Berlin, September 25th, 2009. Despite President Barack Obama becoming the favorite of German TV news, the overall coverage of the US has not really improved. Stereotypes shape the news selection on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. This is shown by the latest study of the research institute Media Tenor. The long-time analysis examined day after day, how the opinion-leading main evening TV news in Germany and the US portrayed the other country. “While at the beginning of the new Millennium US news mirrored the proverbial American optimism, a bleak outlook now reigns in both countries”, Roland Schatz, founder and editor-in-chief of Media Tenor said on a joint discussion round of CNN, Media Tenor, the Atlantic Bride and the ESMT European School for Management and Technologies in Berlin.
The data of the media scientist show how ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC selected especially those news that gave a negative impression of the state of the economy, beginning a long time before the breakdown of the World´s financial markets. “In June 2008 – thus six month before the US elections – the surplus of negative news in the coverage of the US economy already equaled -60%. But at that time the US economy continued to grow about 3.3% compared to second quarter of 2007. We knew such a pessimistic news selection up to then only from Germany. In that country the scandals of Deutsche Telekom, Siemens or Deutsche Bank got widely more air time than the small and medium sized companies that account for 80% of the jobs”, Schatz explained.
Such a way of reporting has of course its consequences. The Consumer Confidence Index in the US collapsed in the wake of the negative turn in the news. This happened in Germany as well – but started already in the second half of 2007, at a time when both economies were expanding. “The careless use of terms like ‘recession´ or ‘Great Depression´ in the TV news at a time, when this was not supported by the data from the World Bank, OECD or the central banks can only be explained by the craving for sensations. But no one seems to have realized, that this might become a self-fulfilling prophecy”, Schatz explained the unintended consequences of the way the media reported about the economy.
Media Tenor International has been analyzing the content of opinion-leading Media in Germany continuously since 1994 and in the US from 2000 on. For this study 35,494 stories in ARD Tagesschau and Tagesthemen, ZDF heute and heute journal, RTL Aktuell and 36,848 stories in the US programs of ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC have been analyzed for the period from 01.07.2008 to 31.08.2009.
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