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A detailed investigation led by academics at the universities of Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, into how the media covered the 2003 war in Iraq The research shows that the war was narrated largely through the voice of the Coalition with much less attention given to others. Dr Robinson says this suggests that factors such as reliance upon elite sources, patriotism and news values rooted in episodic coverage continue to be important in shaping war-time coverage. "Most reports did not discuss WMD at all but of those that did, 54% TV and 61% newspaper made substantial reference to the Weapons of Mass Destruction rationale for war in unproblematic terms, reinforcing the Coalition argument. "Coverage overwhelmingly reflected the official line on the moral case for war: over 80% of TV and press stories mirrored the government position and less than 12% challenged it," he said. Controversially, Dr Robinson added issues such as civilian casualties and anti-war protest accounted for considerably less than 10% of news stories across both TV and newspapers." "The Coalition was responsible for over 50% of direct quotations across TV channels and 45% across newspapers, but quotes from the Iraqi regime never amounted to more than 6% of the total. "And while Iraqi civilians received a substantial degree of media attention as subjects, they were less well represented via direct quotation with figures ranging from 5% for Channel 4 to Sky's 11%, averaging 8% across newspapers." TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT? The role of embedded reporting during the 2003 Iraq war: Institution: Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Researchers: Professor Justin Lewis, Professor Terry Threadgold, Dr. Rod Brookes, Nick Mosdell, Kirsten Brander, Sadie Clifford, Ehab Bessaiso and Zahera Harb. Funder: BBC Conclusions in the report: This resonates with responses made in the surveys and the focus groups, where respondents commented on the sanitised, almost “fictional” quality of embedded reports, bringing a “made for TV” version of war into their living rooms. The ideological consequences of this are profound. It may be that embedded reporters are, despite often diligent objectivity and undoubted courage, forced by current constraints to produce a kind of coverage which may, for some, make war appear more acceptable. Thirdly, for all the news value of providing coverage close to the front lines, there is no great demand from viewers for this kind of coverage. This is not to say that it is not highly appreciated by some, or that people are rejecting the idea of embedded reporting in principle. But for many viewers, what was missing was a broader analysis of the kind that we saw before and after the war – especially in relation to the Iraqi people themselves, who, apart from the celebratory scenes broadcast at the end of the conflict, remained a somewhat enigmatic presence throughout.
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