View With Charts And Images
Credibility of AL JAZEERA English (AJE) News in BANGLADESH
The credibility of a medium is the most important feature it has. Every media has a mission and a vision. Attainment of mission and vision depends on its credibility. It is said that credibility is the Unique Selling Point (USP) of any media. Credibility may also influence the journalistic and commercial success of a medium (Schweiger, 2000). Schweiger (1998) pointed out that credibility becomes an important heuristic for content selection at this present world of information overload. This paper examines the credibility of Al Jazeera English (AJE) news in Bangladesh. This study was done by survey using questionnaire among the viewers of AJE in Bangladesh. The study examines the degree by which the viewers of AJE in Bangladesh rate the channel on truthfulness, accuracy, dependency, in-depth ness, trustworthiness, expertise, reliability and dependency, which according to the author, constitute the credibility. In this study the credibility of AJE is compared with BBC, CNN and 2 (two) local channels namely ATN Bangla and Channel i of Bangladesh.
Al Jazeera was established in 1996 as an Arabic channel but its sister concern Al Jazeera English (AJE) was started its journey in 2006 as a 24/7 international channel. From 2006 AJE was also observed by Bangladeshi viewers and from then the viewers also judged this channel as one of the leading sources of international and high up local news. Now a days three international channels namely BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera English play the key roles in the international news arena of Bangladeshi viewers.
During the starting of Al Jazeera English it declared its intention to “reverse the flow” of information (which generally moved from the West to the East). It was also told by the speech of then AJE journalist Riz Khan who, like many of other AJE journalists worked previously with western media, while American news channels “show the missiles taking off, Al Jazeera shows them landing.”1
1. See Paul Farhi, “Al Jazeera’s U.S. Face,” Washington Post, November 15, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.con/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/14/AR2006111401363.htm1
(Accessed on October 25, 2009)
The effect of mass communication is always influenced by the credibility of a mass media. The acceptability of Bangladeshi mass media is also influenced by its credibility though now-a-days it is very critical for journalist and communication scholars of Bangladesh to keep a keen eye on media credibility. Because there are many media here which have already been accepted by the mass people of Bangladesh. Till today, as per my knowledge, there is no credibility study of any media in Bangladesh. The current study is to empirically examine the perceived media credibility by the viewers of Bangladesh mainly by the residents of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.
MEDIA AND CREDIBILITY
2.1. Defining Credibility:
“Credibility: It is hard to define, hard to earn, and even harder to regain once it is lost”.
— Howard Finberg (2002)
The word ‘credibility’ comes from the Latin word ‘credo’ which means “to believe” or “I believe”. The Webster dictionary defines credibility as the power to inspire belief.
In true sense there is no obvious definition of credibility. Following the World War I classical concept of ethos (morality) was established as the concept of credibility in the academic fields of communication, public relations, marketing and political science.2 by the late 1960s credibility was a “frequent variable for study or control in experimental research (McCroskey 1968, p. 65).
Credibility has been defined as believability, trust, reliability, accuracy, fairness, objectivity and dozens of other concepts and combination thereof (Self C. S. 1996). In case of media, it also has been defined in terms of characteristics of the message structure and content and perceptions of media (Metzger et al. 2003). Credibility is generally defined as the qualities of an information source which cause what is says to be believable beyond any proof of its contentions (West 1994). From the view of expression of content, credibility is also named as perceived credibility, credibility perception, credibility assessment and so on.3
2. Steven R. Corman et. el “Credibility in the Global War on terrorism: Strategic Principles and Research Agenda”, June 9, 2006.
3. Zhang Mingxin, “Present Situation and Analysis of Mass Media Use & Media Credibility”, China Media Research, 2(4), 2006.
In different field of study credibility is measured in different ways. For example, in information science, credibility has been understood as one of the criteria of relevance judgment used when making the decision to accept or reject retrieved information (Rieh and Danielson, 2007). Communication researchers have been examining credibility as a research agenda distinguish message credibility, source credibility and media credibility (Metzger, Flanagin, Eyal, Lemus & McCann 2003).
Generally credibility means believability. For example, credible people are believable people and credible information is believable information (Tseng and Fogg, 1999). Most credibility researchers agree that there are at least two dimensions of credibility: Trustworthiness and expertise (Hovland, Janis and Kelley, 1953). A person is trustworthy for being honest, careful in choice of words and disinclined to deceive (Wilson 1983). Any information becomes trustworthy when it appears to be unbiased, reliable and fair. On the other hand expertise is “the perceived knowledge, skill and experience of the source” (Fogg 2003a, p 124).
The two primary components of credibility (trustworthiness and expertise) have both subjective and objective parts. ‘Trustworthiness is a receiver judgment based primarily on subjective factors. Expertise can be similarly perceived subjectively but includes relatively objective characteristics of the source or message as well.’4
4. Flanagin, Andrew J. and Miriam Metzger, “Digital Media and Youth: Unparalleled Opportunity and Unprecedented Responsibility” Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 2008.
Communication researchers are always very much interested in credibility and they have tended to focus on sources and media, reviewing credibility as a perceived feature.5 Credibility is frequently attached to objects of assessment, as in source credibility, media credibility and message credibility, reflecting the fact that assessments of these objects differ (Kiousis, 2001). These inquiries led naturally to the examination of media message features and the role of message characteristics in influencing perceptions of credibility and have been followed more recently by a focus on medium or channel differences in studies of credibility in the electronic medium era (Johnson & Kaye, 1988; Kiousis, 2001). However, credibility assessments of sources and messages are fundamentally interlinked and influenced one another (Slater & Rouner, 1996). That is, credible sources are seen as likely to produce credible messages and credible messages are seen as likely to have originated from credible sources (Fragale & Health, 2004).
Fogg and his colleagues (Fogg 2003a; Tseng and Fogg 1999) proposed four types of credibility. They are presumed credibility (preexisting assumptions of the receiver), Reputed credibility (third party endorsement), Surface credibility (appearance upon simple inspections) and Experienced credibility (first hand expertise).
5. Rieh, S. Y & Danielson, D. R., “Credibility: A multidisciplinary framework. In B. Cronin (Ed), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (Vol. 41, pp. 307-364), 2007
2.2. News Media Credibility:
News media means any media which disseminate news e.g. newspaper, television, radio, internet etc. This means anyone seeking news may select print or broadcast media or go online. “With alternative sources for news and public affairs information growing, there have been many claims about the credibility and impact of particular information sources” (Drezner and Farrell, 2004; Kurtz, 2003).
There are several definitions of news media credibility. The concept of credibility in the media generally studied from within three overlapping domains: source credibility– concerned with judgments about the believability of the message originator; message credibility– exploring the impact of message characteristics and medium credibility– defined by a focus on characteristics of the channel through which the message is delivered (Metzger et al. 2003; Kiousis, 2001).
Communication researchers have been concerned with credibility for decades beginning with early inquiries into aspects of source credibility as a factor in acceptance of persuasive messages (Metzger, Flanagin, Eyal, Lemus & McCann, 2003). These inquiries led naturally to the examination of the features of media message and the role of message characteristics in influencing perceptions of credibility and have been followed more recently by a focus on medium or channel differences in studies of credibility in the electronic media era (Johnson & Kaye, 1988; Kiousis, 2001).6
6. Kjerstin Thorson, Emily K. Vraga, Brian Ekdale, “Do you believe this story? The impact of uncivil and ideologically incongruent adjacent opinion commentary on news credibility”, 2008
Source credibility was addressed during the twentieth century by some psychologists concerned in studying persuasion, largely as a response to propaganda efforts during the World Wars. The “Yale Group” led by social psychologist Carl Hovland, defined credibility as expertise and trustworthiness and for the first time, drew a distinction between source credibility, message credibility and audience credibility.7
The news media credibility depends on the source credibility, message credibility or even media credibility itself but Chaffee8 argued that various dimensions of credibility overlap and that many information consumers do not distinguish. The convergence of the three dimensions of credibility is very common today. Moreover, perception of credibility varies from person to person and also from one media to another media.4
People’s evaluation on news media credibility depends on various factors that affect the perception of a media. In some case receiver and source characteristics interact in credibility judgment. Message sources chosen to match audience attitudes and context lead to higher perceived credibility and better recall of the information.9 So, in case of credibility research the audience perceived capability plays an important role.
Finally it can be said that news media credibility focuses on the relative credibility of various media channels through which messages are sent. So, cross media comparisons have been sought to judge the credibility of a media.4 In this study the author tried to find out the credibility of Al Jazeera English (AJE) news in Bangladesh by comparing AJE with BBC, CNN and 2 local news channels.
7. Carl I. Hovland, Irving L. Janis and Harold H. Kelley, “Communication and Persuation” (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1953)
8. Steven H. Chaffee, “Mass Media and Interpersonal Channels: Competitive, Convergent or Complementary? In Inter/Media: Interpersonal Communication in a Media World, ed Gary Gumpert and Robert Cathcart (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 57-77.
9. C. Nadine Wathen, Jacquelyn Burkell, “Believe it or not: Factors influencing credibility on the web”, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and technology, 53(2):134-144, 2002.
2.3. Media Credibility Assessment:
Various measures and statistical techniques are being utilized by researchers to find out the media credibility. Statistical approaches like regression analysis (Mulder, 1980; Mulder, 1981), factor analysis etc. were used. For data collection telephone surveys, questionnaire survey, new technology like on line surveys and other experiments are to be used as well (Johnson & Kaye, 1998; Sundar, 1998). In this study the questionnaire survey was utilized to find out the credibility.
In 1980 Infante used three dimensions to measure source credibility. The 3 dimensions were trustworthiness, expertise and dynamism. Johnson and Kaye (1998, 2000) used believability, fairness, accuracy and depth of information in their study. In 1996 Sundar used believability, fairness, accuracy, objectivity, bias and sensationalism to measure credibility.10
For measuring credibility various researchers utilized media credibility scales. Despite the diversity of scales, the items used in the scales are very similar and measure the same underlying dimensions. Flanagin and Metzger (2000) measured credibility on the basis of five components: believability, accuracy, trustworthiness, bias and completeness. Meyer’s (1998) index for newspaper believability was composed of five dimensions: fairness, bias, completeness, accuracy and trustworthiness. For studying the credibility of internet Flanagin and Metzger (2000) utilized five concepts of credibility: believability, accuracy, trustworthiness, bias and completeness.10
In this study for the judgment of credibility 8(eight) dimensions of news were utilized which are: truthfulness, accuracy, dependency, in-depth ness, trustworthiness, expertise, reliability and communicability. These dimensions were asked to compare among AJE, BBC, CNN, ATN Bangla and Channel i on the basis of a scale of 1-5 where 5=highest and 1=lowest.
10. Rasha A. Abdulla et. el, “The credibility of Newspapers, Television news and Online news” (A paper presented to the Communication Technology & Policy Division, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Annual Convention, Miami Beach, Fla, August 9, 2002).
People seek information for various purposes like for entertainment, education, getting knowledge etc. But all information is not useful and credible to them. Then they try to find out the helpful and credible information by filtering them. Credibility is one of the criteria using to filter unbelievable information (Wathen and Burkell, 2002). For obtaining information various media are used by people like newspaper, television, radio, magazine, books, web sites, cinema etc. Among them people attend television mostly because it present nearly, mainly in the drawing room of the people.
Television was widely diffused in 1950s and newspaper was also going side by side. Early studies found newspapers credible but consistently rated behind television (Abel & Wirth, 1977). Gazino and McGrath (1986) found that newspaper and television news credibility scores were correlated but television still scored much higher in direct comparison of credibility. Newhagen and Nass (1989) concluded that different criteria were required for measuring the credibility of newspaper and television because of public perceptions. They found that newspapers are judged as an organization but television news credibility is judged at the individual level.11 Newhagen and Nass concluded that
“The newspaper may be encumbered with an image of being distant, unfeeling and unresponsive because of its inability to establish reporters or editors as distinct individuals. The distance between newspaper people and their readers creates an editorial product with an anonymous quality, which works against credibility ratings for newspapers as much as immediacy of television works for that channel.” (Newhagen and Nass, 1988, p 279).
11. Bruce Garrison, “The perceived credibility of electronic mail in newspaper news gathering” (A paper presented to the Communication Technology & Policy Division, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Midwinter Conference, March 1, 2003, Boulder, Colorado).
Again recent studies have noted that newspaper credibility has grown, closing the gap between the two forms of media (Flanagin & Metzger, 2000). Kiousis (2001) reported that newspaper surpassed the credibility reported for TV news, claiming the title for ‘most credible media source’.12
The credibility research of television news channel Al Jazeera English (AJE) was not done by various studies because AJE was started its journey in 15 November 2006. But the credibility study of Al Jazeera Arabic and its website were done by various researchers. For example, Auter (2004) et el. surveyed Al Jazeera viewers through the Al Jazeera web site and found overall credibility approximately 3.9 on a 5 point scale. Similarly, a study of western internet websites showed that stories from the Al Jazeera English language website were frequently reprinted and were therefore considered a credible source by online news creators, especially those who created blogs and alternative news website (Azran, 2006).13
In 2005 Steve Tatham wrote an article in British Journalism Review named Al Jazeera: can it make it here where he said, “For more than 35 millions Arabs worldwide Al Jazeera is the undisputed primary source of credible and reliable international news.” In the book (2005) The Al Jazeera Phenomenon: Critical Perspectives on New Arab Media the writer Mohammad Zayani mentioned “Al Jazeera continues to be regarded as the most credible Arab news channel despite strong competition but it has also been criticized for sensational transmission of gory details and opinions from de-legitimized elite such as Bin Laden.”
12. Banning, Stephen A. and Sweetser, Kaye D. “How much do they think it affects them and whom do they believe?: Comparing the third person effect and credibility of blogs and traditional media”, Communication Quarterly, 55:4, 451-466, 2007.
13. Thomas J Johnson and Shahira Fahmy, “The CNN of the Arab World or a shill for Terrorists? How support for Press Freedom and Political Ideology predict credibility of Al Jazeera among its audience” International Communication Gazette, 2008.
Thomas J Johnson and Shahira Fahmy (2008) performed a study by a survey posted on the network’s Arabic language website to find out the credibility of Al Jazeera. Their result showed that Al Jazeera viewers rated the news channel as highly credible on all measures. The viewers rated BBC and CNN high on expertise but ranked them low on trustworthiness. Their result also showed that those who are younger and highly relied on Al Jazeera were more likely to judge the news channel as credible.13
In 2002 Philip J. Auter, Mohammed Arafa and Khalid Al Jaber studied about the relationship between the Al Jazeera and its audiences. They described Al Jazeera as a ‘Must See’ news channel for millions of Arabs living in the Middle East and in the abroad. They tried to find out the reasons behind it. For that they placed a questionnaire in the website (www.aljazeera.net) and got 5300 responses from Arabic readers with internet access in 137 countries of the world. In their study the authors found strong evidence that para-social interaction is related to amount of time spent with the channel and belief in the network’s credibility.14
If we consider the research on Al Jazeera English (AJE) television then a project named Al Jazeera English research Project (AJERP) (www.ajerp.com) was found which done by Dr. Mohammed El-Nawawy and Shawn Powers in 2007. The final report of this project was published in 2008 naming “Mediating Conflict: Al Jazeera English and the Possibility of a Conciliatory Media”. The primary findings of that project are 15:
1. Primary finding i: Al Jazeera English viewers found it to be a conciliatory media.
2. Primary finding ii: The longer viewers had been watching AJE, the less dogmatic they were in their thinking
3. Primary finding iii: Viewers tune into international news for affirmation rather than information.
14. Philip J. Auter, Mohammed Arafa and Khalid Al Jaber, “Identifying with Arab Journalists: How Al Jazeera Tapped Para Social Interaction Gratifications in the Arab world” The International Journal for Communication Studies, Copyright @ 2005, Sage Publications.
15. Dr. Mohammed El-Nawawy and Shawn Powers, “Mediating Conflict: Al Jazeera English and the Possibility of a Conciliatory Media”, 2008.
AL JAZEERA ARABIC AND AL JAZEERA ENGLISH
4.1. The Rise of Al Jazeera Arabic TV Channel:
Al Jazeera started its journey in 1 November 1996 as a Qatar based Arabic news channel and declared its identification as, “Reporting from Qatar, this is al Jazeera”. Al Jazeera means ‘the peninsula’ or ‘the island’ in Arabic. Its golden logo resembles a drop of water and its design spells the Al Jazeera in Arabic.16
The establishment of Al Jazeera dates back to 1995 when the BBC world service signed a contract with the Saudi owned company (Rome based) Orbit Communications (Radio and Television Service) to provide Arabic newscasts for orbit’s main middle-east channel. At that time BBC world service had been trying to develop all Arabic television station in conjunction with Orbit radio and television station.17
16. Edwin Visser, “Is Al Jazeera breaking the mould: A new channel for a new era” March 2008.
17. The internet web address http://www.allied-media.com/aljazeera/JAZdemog.html
(Accessed on December 20, 2009)
But BBC was very insistent on its editorial independence which drew clash between BBC and Saudi Governments. BBC tried to broadcast some controversial issues like documentary showing graphic executions and the activities of prominent Saudi dissidents which also broaden the gap between BBC and Saudi Government. In April 1996 when BBC broadcasted a story on human rights in the Saudi Kingdom which showed footage of the beheading of a criminal and then Orbit Communications cancelled the deal with the BBC.17
Few months later in 1996 then Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani after his long disappointment by the lack of press freedom in the Arab world decided to establish a TV channel. The Emir then purchased the rights to the Arabic TV division of the BBC news service and established Al Jazeera. As part of his move to introduce democratization to his state the Emir planned for the network to be an independent satellite TV network free from Government control and manipulation (El Nawawy and Iskandar, 2002). Upon taking power of Qatar in 1995 then Emir lifted censorship of the media by abolishing the Ministry of Information which was the source of media censorship. The emir Sheikh Al Thani, Chairman of the Board of Al Jazeera, explains the rationale: “The Ministry of information …… is the Ministry that controls the news media, be it television, radio or newspaper…… We don’t see that a Ministry of Information has any positive role to play in future media projects.”18
When BBC’s Arabic TV network collapsed then many media professionals of that channel became jobless. The founders of Al Jazeera decided to recruit the majority of the BBC’s Arabic TV service editorial staff because they have the training on western journalism style though Al Jazeera’s 25% staffs are Qatari. By the year 2001, Al Jazeera had a staff of some 350 journalists and 50 foreign correspondents working in 31 countries of the world including the USA (El Nawawy and Iskandar, 2002).
18. Sheikh Hamad Bin Thamer Al Thani, Interview with Abdullah Schleifer and Sarah Sullivan, Transnational Broadcasting Studies, No.7 (Fall/Winter 2001), http://www.tbsjournal.com/Archives/Fall01/Jazeera_chairman.html (Accessed on January 27, 2010)
Al Jazeera was started its journey in 1996 with the initial grant of USD 150 from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. Before starting of this channel, the Emir signed a decree in 1995 where he declared to establish a TV channel financed by the Government. Accordingly in 1996 Al Jazeera was established with 150 USD as a grant from the Government for five years. That is, the Emir thought that the channel will be self dependent within 2001 though till today the channel is dependent on Qatari Government. Two factors prevented the channel to become profitable. First, the general advertisement market in the Middle East is not very growing. Second, there is a hesitation on the part of Arab conglomerates to advertise on Al Jazeera as they fear that the channel’s shaky relationship with the Arab Governments may harm their business interests.19 After all, “Al Jazeera executives have expressed the hope that one day the network might be incorporated as a private company and sell its stock to the general public” (Miles, 2005, p. 25).
During its establishment, the Emir declared that Al Jazeera’s editorial board would be independent of his control and his intention to establish this channel was the democratization of Qatar. But the financial dependence of Al Jazeera on Qatar Government has blurred its status as a private or a state run news network. Again many theories and model of media believe that there are more or less political motives behind the establishment of any media. Al Jazeera is not exception of this. For this it is often said that “Al Jazeera has been critical of most Arab Regimes but barely covers domestic politics in Qatar” (El Nawawy 2002).
Al Jazeera has shown its editorial independence based on the principle “The opinion and the other opinion” and doing its criticism to the Arab Governments and raising debates on some hot topics like women empowerment, the voting right of women, the religious involvement in politics, the effectiveness of human rights, democracy in the Arab region etc. By doing that Al Jazeera has got a great deal of credibility in the Arab region and also among the Arabic speaking people throughout the world.20
19. Wheeler Brain, “Al Jazeera’s cash crisis”, BBC News Online, April 7, 2003.
20. Daniela Conte, “The influence of satellite television on freedom of the press and global flows of information.” A paper for the 9th annual conference on ‘Al Jazeera and the new Arab media’ May 4-5, 2007
Al Jazeera started with only 6 hours programming then 12 hours and by 2000 it became a 24 hours (24/7) news channel. Prior to Al Jazeera, Arab audiences could receive their news from either state owned media or from several Arab Satellite channels but news of these channels was to some extent censored and controlled by state authorities. Therefore many analysts considered Al Jazeera to be a novelty in the Arab world not only because of its 24 hour broadcasting but also its free presentation style.21
According to a BBC report (2005), the Arabs may be hungry but for television and not for food. For getting information Arabs are dependent on oral culture where the spoken rather than the written word play a dominating role. As a result satellite television has become a major source of information for the 22 Arab states and satellite dish is a top priority for many Arab households. But the Arab satellite televisions were unnoticed by the world before US led wars against Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003 respectively. It is often said that Al Jazeera took the widespread attention of the world during the US attack on Afghanistan in 2001 after 9/11.22
Before 2001 Al Jazeera’s popularity was fueled by the coverage of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then came Afghanistan war during when Al Jazeera became the exclusive first run outlet for the videos of Osama Bin Laden. On October 7, 2001 Al Jazeera broadcasted the first declaration of Laden’s tape where he confessed the terrorist attack of September 11 and that was the first time that an Arab satellite channel, Al Jazeera, became the principal source of information for western people. After that international popularity of that channel has increased more and more and an Arab point of view has appeared in the media landscape.20 During Afghan war Al Jazeera not only gave news to its viewers but also it telling the world top stories to the people of the planet via other international news channel like CNN, BBC that had no choice but to use Al Jazeera’s footage (El Nawawy and Iskandar, 2003).
21. “Al Jazeera News Network: Opportunity or Challenge for U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East?” CRS Report for Congress, July 23, 2003.
22. Leon Barkho “The Arabic Al Jazeera vs Britain’s BBC and America’s CNN: who does journalism right?” 2005
In March 2003, The USA and its coalition countries invaded Iraq. As Al Jazeera had the recent experience of Afghanistan war and so it did well to cover the Iraq war arguably better than its global media competitors and for this Al Jazeera has been recognized for its access to Iraq. During this war, though Al Jazeera was criticized for its slanted and sensationalistic coverage of US military operations but some observers praised al Jazeera for keeping several reporters and camera crews in the ground of Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and delivering feeds of wartime footage which had also been used by other international news channels.21 According to Business Week, during Iraq war Al Jazeera had more reporters in Iraq than any other major news station.23
Hugh Miles in his book Al Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World (London, Abacus, 2005) said, “History has taught us that war makes television channel” (P. 135). The first Gulf war in 1991 made CNN and then the Afghanistan war and also Iraq war made Al Jazeera. In his book he mentioned three turning points to the development of the station: Al Jazeera. First, in 1998 when under Operation Desert Fox USA and UK carried out an attack in Iraq then the only Al Jazeera covered the attacks live from Baghdad. Second, in 2001 during the 2nd Palestinian Intifada the conflict between Israel and Palestine was lively covered only by Al Jazeera. Third, after 11 September 2001 attack USA started war against Afghanistan on 7 October and during this war Al Jazeera and Osama Bin Laden became the household words of USA and the West by the broadcasting power of Al Jazeera.
By this way Al Jazeera’s popularity has been increased day by day. Al Jazeera has now established a brand that is widely known and trusted. The Al Jazeera’s performance during war signifies, “a virtual reversal of the international news that usually runs from the West to the East and to the South” (Hafez 2002, p. 121). The globalization effort of Al Jazeera is now established. Al Jazeera is not now an Arab media but it is a Global media.
23. “Al Jazeera: In an Intense Spotlight”, Business Week Online, March 26, 2003.
4.2. The beginnings of Al Jazeera English (AJE):
Al Jazeera English (AJE) as a sister concern of Al Jazeera Arabic launched in 15 November 2006. It started as an independent 24 hour English Satellite News channel and boldly declared its intention as, “Reverse the flow of information”. This channel structure was designed to broadcast with wider coverage by its four broadcasting unit situated in Doha, Qatar; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London, UK and Washington D C, USA. The editorial concept of each broadcast centre is independent and autonomous.24 AJE is available though satellite or cable television and its programming can also be viewed on the internet via the website YouTube.com where AJE has a dedicated page, as well as the station’s own website, english.aljazeera.net. According to the AJE’s own data, the channel is now available in at least 60 countries of the world.
Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English (AJE) are the part of a same network but as Al Jazeera is older it enjoys a strong institutional identity than AJE. There are similarity and dissimilarity between these 2 channels. In case of similarity both channels are financed by the Emir of Qatar, both channels carry the same logo and both channels headquartered at Doha, Qatar. From the marketing point of view, Al Jazeera and AJE are the part of same brand. In case of dissimilarities, Al Jazeera at first emerged in a pan Arab media environment with a new brand of journalism and then it entered into USA and other Western states but after launching AJE becomes one of the players of global media where it has to compete with BBC, CNN, Sky news etc. Al Jazeera’s audience is regional mainly Arabic language viewers but AJE has the audience throughout the world but it has inspiration towards the global south where English is most like a second language.25
24. Veronica Pedrosa, “Working for Al Jazeera: the realities”, November 2008, available from: Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, http://www.wilsoncenter.org (Accessed on February 26, 2010)
25. Marwan M. Kraidy, “Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English: A comparative institutional analysis”, November 2008, available from: Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, http://www.wilsoncenter.org (Accessed on February 26, 2010)
Considering all these it can be said that Al Jazeera and AJE belong to the same family as the Associate Professor of School of Communication of the University of Pennsylvania Marwan M. Kraidy said in 2008, “Al Jazeera and AJE are cousins who do not really like each other but because of family ties have to learn to live together.”
At the time of launching of AJE, The Al Jazeera network framed its new channel AJE as a competitor of BBC and CNN but with a ‘global south orientation’. AJE was launched with the hopes of providing a ‘voice to the voiceless’ and promoted an ambitious mission of ‘setting the world’s news agenda’.26 AJE has a special commitment to Asia and it is also prominent by the declaration of the Director General of Al Jazeera Network, Wadah Khanfar “Outside of the Middle East, Asia is AJE’s second most important market”. Editorially Asia is the breaking news region of the world because earth quakes, tsunami, floods etc. are the common news events of Asia and the most important thing is that Asia has a significant Muslim population.27
Miles (2005: 415) proposed that the rise of Al-Jazeera English (AJE) will have an enormous impact on people in the West: “For the Western people it will be extraordinary for them. It is exactly likely having an Arabic army invading the United Kingdom of the United States.”
According to an estimation of 2008 AJE reaches 113 to 120 million homes worldwide- more than twice the no. of households that Al Jazeera Arabic and almost half of the no. of homes that receive CNN International.28 AJE is now available in more than 100 countries of the world. AJE has more than 1200 highly experienced staff from nearly 50 nationalities including more than 45 ethnicities making AJE newsroom the most diverse in the world. AJE broadcasts news and current affairs24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with 12 hours broadcasting from Doha headquarters and 4 hours from other 3 broadcasting units Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington D.C.29
26. Associated Press, “Al Jazeera Launches English Language Version” November 15, 2006, available from, http://www.foxnews.com (Accessed on March 12, 2010)
27. Trish Carter, “Al Jazeera in Asia: The Origins”, November 2008, available from: Asia Program, Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, http://www.wilsoncenter.org
(Accessed on February 26, 2010)
AJE has a major target group of English speaking Muslim population in Asia especially in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and also in Bangladesh. From its inception Al Jazeera Arabic and also AJE both were viewed by Bangladeshi people. In Bangladesh AJE viewers are generally higher educated people having the satellite television network in their homes. The Bangladeshi viewers also observe the BBC, CNN and other local channels for the local and International news. The news organizations are rated by the viewers on the basis of credibility. My research is related with the credibility of AJE news among Bangladeshi viewers.
28. Sean J. Miller, “Al Jazeera English looks through a different lens,” Christian Science Monitor, July 10, 2008, http://www.csmonitor.com/2208/0710/p20s01-wogn.htm1 (Accessed on April 01, 2010)
29. Availableat http://www.aljazeeraenglish.net/aboutus/2008/07/200871711452669833.htm1 (Accessed April 12, 2010)
4.3. Al Jazeera and Credibility:
In the book, “The Culture of Al Jazeera: Inside an Arab Media Giant” (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland and Company, 2007) the writer Mohammad Zayani and Sofiane Sahraoui explained how Al Jazeera has managed to be the right channel at the right place at the right time. They discussed the success story of Al Jazeera laid on many factors including flexibility, independent thinking and most importantly the editorial freedom of the channel. By its new style of objective journalism with the combination of BBC and CNN style Al Jazeera became one of the credible news source. According to Zayani (2005) Al Jazeera has been “providing food for an audience that is hungry for credible news and serious political analysis.”
In 2004 Al Jazeera was voted by brandchannel.com, the 5th most influential global brand keeping behind Apple Computer, Google, Ikea and Starbucks.30 One of Al Jazeera’s advertisement states, “Telling the truth is difficult; not telling is more difficult”. Consistent with its slogan “The opinion and the opposite opinion”, Al Jazeera’s communication does not identify who states whose opinion dominates or whether there is a balanced representation of verifying opinions.31
Al Jazeera had some criticism from the time of its launching. It is said that “Al Jazeera irritates everyone- except its viewers”. Not only the West but also the Arab Governments criticize Al Jazeera and label it as unreliable source at best and an irresponsible and dangerous source at worst.13 Arab Government which generally tries to control its media and so criticize Al Jazeera for its open coverage of taboo topics like sex, polygamy, Government corruption etc. (Zayani and Ayish 2006).
30. Daniela Conte, “The influence of satellite television on freedom of the press and global flows of information”. A paper for the 9th Annual Conference on “Al Jazeera and the new Arab Media” May 4-5, 2007
31. Jihad N. Fakhreddine, “Who is the best communicator of them All- Al Jazeera or Al Hurra?” Global Media Journal, Volume 4, Issue 6, spring 2005
The US Government tried to stop it, bombed it and finally realized it has no choice but to court it (Miles 2005). US Government officials have blasted Al Jazeera as being biased, Al Qaeda mouthpiece with no legitimate news (AP 2006). Former U.S. defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously lambasted Al-Jazeera as – “terror TV” and former U.S. president Jorge W. Bush referred Al Jazeera as “hateful propaganda” coming from the Arab world.
Al Jazeera scholar Mohammed el-Nawawy (2003) described that criticism from both the Arab and Western world proves the credibility of Al Jazeera. According to him, “The common understanding in the news business is that if you anger both sides, you must be doing something right” (el-Nawawy 2003:15) It is an established fact that Al Jazeera achieved that credibility of Arab Nationals and so they termed it as
– “CNN of the Arab World”
(Auter, Arafa & Al-Jaber, 2005; Al-Kasim, 1999; el-Nawawy, 2003)
The Arab Advisors Group found Al Jazeera (Arabic) was the most watched network with 82% viewers among all Arabic satellite television (Al Jazeera viewers, 2005). During Afghanistan war Al Jazeera was allowed to stay in Afghanistan though Taliban kicked out all other western journalists (Hickey 2002, 40). During Palestine-Israel conflict the Arabs living in abroad used to watch Al Jazeera to hear the other side of the story and find the coverage “…. more credible and truthful version of the events and their aftermath (Matar 2006, 1028).
4.4. Code of Ethics of Al Jazeera Arabic and AJE:
To find out the credibility Al Jazeera or AJE, Code of Ethics of the network may play one of the crucial roles. Al Jazeera Network has adopted its Code of Ethics on July 15, 2004. Being a globally oriented media service, Al Jazeera shall determinedly adopt the following Code of Ethics in pursuance of the vision and mission it has set for itself: 32
- Adhere to the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity, giving no priority to commercial or political over professional consideration.
- Endeavour to get the truth and declare it in our dispatches, programmes and news bulletins unequivocally in a manner which leaves no doubt bout its validity and accuracy.
- Treat our audiences with due respect and address every issue or story with due attention to present a clear, factual and accurate picture while giving full consideration to the feelings of victims of crime, war, persecution and disaster, their relatives and our viewers and to individual privacies and public decorum.
- Welcome fair and honest media competition without allowing it to affect adversely our standards of performance and thereby having a ‘scoop’ would not become an end in itself.
- Present the diverse points of view and opinions without bias and partiality.
- Recognize diversity in human societies with all their races, culture and beliefs and their values and intrinsic individualities so as to present unbiased and faithful refection of them.
- Acknowledge a mistake when it occurs, promptly correct it and ensure it does not recur.
- Observe transparency in dealing with the news and its sources while adhering to the internationally established practices concerning the rights of these sources.
(Accessed April 12, 2010)
- Distinguish between news material, opinion and analysis to avoid the snares of speculation and propaganda.
- Stand by colleagues in the profession and give them support when required, particularly in the light of the acts of aggression and harassment to which journalists are subjected at times. Cooperate with Arab and international journalistic unions and associations to defend freedom of the press.
The code of ethics of Al Jazeera was the first such move in the Arab world. It includes a pledge to adhere to international standards of reporting with renewed emphasis on the core values of accuracy, serving public interest, impartiality, independence and accountability.22 BBC-trained al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ahmad al-Sheikh summed up his channel’s journalistic ethos in this way: “Be accurate, factual, be there first – that’s not necessarily most important – and be with the human being all the time – you don’t stay at the top getting the views of politicians and diplomats.” (Ahmed Al Sheikh 2004)
In the code of ethics two words emphasize the most: Independence and Credibility. By declaring the code of ethics Al Jazeera tried to build up its image as a global media. The code of ethics of Al Jazeera and AJE are the same and the codes definitely helped Al Jazeera to build up its credibility.
MEDIA SCENARIO OF BANGLADESH
Bangladesh has been established itself as a Sovereign, Independent state in the globe on 16th December 1971. After its birth the media scene has been changed from time to time here. “The media what initially started as an outcome of missionary zeal has now grown into a full-fledged industry, employing a significant number of journalists and plays an important role in the shaping of democracy in Bangladesh” (Asif Saleh and Mridul Chhowdhury 2009).
According to PID (Press Information Department) of Bangladesh Government there are about 400 registered newspapers in Bangladesh. Among them significant daily Bangla newspaper no. is 10-12 and top English newspaper is 3-5 in no. The electronic media environment is also competitive here. Bangladesh Betar (Radio Bangladesh) and Bangladesh Television are the Government owned media. Private radio channel is increasing in recent years and presently 4-5 private radio channel is operating their broadcasting.
Before 1995 Bangladesh Television (BTV) was the only television station with terrestrial facility. BTV has been running since 1964 with the aim of improving the national culture with information, education, motivation and entertainment. The country’s first private channel went into air in 1997. After that a boom has been witnessed in the private television sector and at present 11 private TV channels are running in the country. All the private channels are broadcasting through the satellite television network.
The first 24/7 Bangla language News channel CSB News started its journey on 2nd week of April 2007 but then Army backed Caretaker Government of Bangladesh shut down the transmission of that channel on September 6, 2007. Now a 24 hour Bangla News channel ATN News (a sister concern of ATN Bangla) is going though test transmission and hoping to start full transmission within a short time.
Recently on 27 April 2010 the Government of Bangladesh stopped the transmission of Channel 1. The reason for the closure said by the Government: “The channel has broken the rules of frequency allocation. They could not provide proper replies to the several notices sent to them. So a decision was made to close the channel in line with the Telecommunications Act 2001.” However, it may say that presently Bangladesh press industry enjoys freedom. The article 39(2) of Bangladesh constitution ensures the freedom. In Bangladesh there are no specific laws and regulations to control the private channels. As a result the private channel business is one of the profitable businesses here. At present 11 private channels are running and more than 12 private TV channels are in pipe line to start broadcasting shortly.
In this era of internet age, new media outlets have seen a steady increase in Bangladesh. The premium news outlet among them is bdnews24.com which, within the last couple of years, has positioned itself as significant player dominating news coverage among the urban educated people. Many people here are also using blogs with personal viewpoints and express their own opinions and use the blogs as outlets for citizen journalism.
5.1. Scenario of International TV Channel in Bangladesh:
Bangladesh Television (BTV) was the only TV channel in Bangladesh up to 1992. But its monopoly was ended with the introduction of satellite television in 1992. Before that BTV broadcasted some foreign programs. According to a report of Niriksha, BTV imported 32% programs from abroad (Niriksha, 1980: 31). Satellite Television (STV) was introduced in Bangladesh mainly in Dhaka city in 1992 with the introduction of TVRO (Television Receive Only) Dish system by then Government of Bangladesh. As the Dish antenna is too costly then in 1993 the cable operators made possible the ‘victory of satellite’ for the middle class viewers in Dhaka City by the wiring up homes in different parts of the city. Due to a far lower cost of the cable connection it succeeded in reaching the widest audiences in the Dhaka City (Jahangir, 1997: 79-95). With the help of cable connection the popularity of international TV channels are booming after 1993.
In Bangladesh CNN was at first available through BTV in 1993 because at that time the BTV authority decided to broadcast the programs of CNN from 7am to 2pm by considering it as a part of its six-month programs (Jahangir, 1993: 97). Before that Bangla services of Radio from BBC and Voice of America (VOA) were available in Bangladesh. But the international TV channels were growing in Bangladesh after the introduction of satellite television in 1992. Today BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera English, VOA, DW-TV etc. international TV News channel are available in maximum homes of Dhaka city with the help of cable connection. Not only the international TV News channel but the other hundreds of channels like Indian Zee TV, SONY TV, STAR Sports, ESPN etc. are available in the Bangladesh media market.
This research is done mainly through qualitative procedure. Creswell (1998) defined qualitative research as “an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyses words, (and) reports detailed views of informants” (p 15). Qualitative research has various applications including critical theory, interpretive paradigm, hermeneutics, and naturalistic inquiry (Strelitz, 2002). The main theme of the present study is to find out the credibility of Al Jazeera English (AJE) news in Bangladesh.
6.1. Research Questions:
This study investigates the credibility of Al Jazeera English (AJE) News in Bangladesh. It examines the various dimensions of news credibility and posses the following research question:-
– To what extent Al Jazeera English (AJE) viewers of Bangladesh judge this channel as credible source of news?
– How the AJE viewers rank this channel compared to BBC, CNN and two local channels ATN Bangla and Channel i?
6.2. Data Collection techniques:
The sample of this study consists of 70 media personnel. In this study data are collected by using questionnaire. The questionnaire was adopted from previous studies on credibility (Thomas J. Johnson and Shahira Fahmy 2008, Flanagin and Metzger 2007) and also discussing with the Resaerch Supervisor Dr. Robert W. Vagaan. For the distribution and collection of questionnaire, the author visited all the TV Channels (Private and Govt. owned) and interviewed (informal) 4(four) Controller of News of 4 local channels named BTV, ETV, RTV and Diganta TV in Bangladesh.
To find out the credibility of Al Jazeera English news in Bangladesh the researcher applied 8(eight) dimensions of credibility: truthfulness, accuracy, dependency, in-depth ness, trustworthiness, expertise, reliability and communicability. In the questionnaire these dimensions were asked on the basis of a scale 1-5 where 1=Lowest and 5=Highest.
6.3. Participants Demographics:
The participants of this study are the viewers of AJE. The selection of the participants are criterion referenced and purposive (Creswell 1998) in nature. The participants were selected on the basis of their watching habit of AJE and other international and local channels. For this, media personnel were selected and the researcher distributed the questionnaire among the persons who are at any level related with the media. 100 questionnaires were distributed to the sample of the study and of them 71 completed questionnaire were collected, producing a 71% response rate. Among the 71 respondents only 16 were female. The professions of the respondents fall into 6 categories: Journalist, Teacher (Journalism), Writer, Govt. Officials (Working in the media), Business person and others. Demographic data of the participants who completed the questionnaire are shown in table 1 and table 2.
|Sl. No.||Profession of the Respondents||Male||Female||Total||Percentage|
|04||Govt. Official (Working in the Govt. Media)||14||02||16||23%|
Table 01: Types of respondents by Profession and Sex
Figure 01: Different Respondents by their profession (in Percentage)
The percentage of different categories of profession is shown in the figure 01. Among the respondents the highest percentage of profession is Journalists (48%) and the lowest is the business person (1%).
Among the 71 respondents 26 are Journalists who are working in the TV channels or in the print media, 14 are Govt. Officials who are broadcast journalists working in the Govt. Radio or Television, 07 are teacher working in the Journalism department of various Universities. So, it can be said that total 47 are journalists among 71 respondents.
Figure 02: Different Respondents by Sex and Profession
Among the 71 respondents only 16 are female which represents that the no. of female working in different professions is very low.
In case of media credibility, Westley and Seyerin (1964) found demographic variables affect perceived credibility and this has been validated by many other researches (Abel & Wirth, 1977; Gunther, 1992; Mulder, 1981; Ibelema & Powell, 2001). In this study the demographics items were taken to find out the preference of them towards various news TV channel.
|Master in Journalism||36||51%|
|Master in Other subjects||35||49%|
|Less than Tk. 300000||23||32%|
|Between Tk. 300000-700000||18||25%|
|Above Tk. 700000||09||13%|
|Not interested to mention||21||30%|
Table 02: Types of respondents by Age, Education and Yearly Income
Respondents in this study ranged in age from 23 to 59 years old. The age level 30-39 represents the highest group (39%) and then 23-29 represents the second highest group (37%). The maximum respondents of this study have the age limit between 23 to 39 years old. All the respondents have the university degree and 51% are master in Journalism and the rest 49% are master in other subjects.
In terms of income more than thirty percent (32%) reported their annual income less than BDT 300,000 (USD 4286), one quarter (25%) reported their annual income ranged between BDT 300,000 to 700,000 (USD 4286-10000), more than ten percent (13%) mentioned their income above BDT 700,000 (USD 10000). About one third (30%) of the respondents were not interested to mention their income.
6.3.1. Freedom to Choose the TV Channels:
In this study the respondents were asked the question, “Do you watch news in the television channel?” All the respondents answer yes (100%). Then they were asked which type of news they generally watch and they answered that they watch both types (Local and International) of news. They have the options to choose one or more channels. For Local news they prefer the following channels:
|Channel 1 *||15||7%|