Agence Francaise Presse
Agence Francaise Presse
International News: Who
decides what’s news
There are 3 elements in the
maps we draw
Centrality: we tend to place our own country or
region in a more central position. Less important
regions are moved to a peripheral position
Volume: we enlarge the volumes of our own
countries, and reduce that of countries we consider
Detail: draw our own countries in more detail than
Who we are determines what
Like the maps we have just explored, news
too is a cultural production
What is thought to be important and
newsworthy, depends on who is reporting
and distributing the news
March 23, 2003 was a tough
day for the US
5 of their soldiers were captured and shown on
US and British forces encountered strong resistance
for the first time since the invasion
The bombing of Baghdad continues, and civilian
Let’s see how four different newspapers dealt with
Galtung and Ruge’s findings on what
constitutes international “news:
Frequency: events with a relatively short time span
are more likely to be seen as news than events that
take weeks or months to unfold.
Elite Nations/persons: seen to be more newsworthy
than non elite people and nations.
Culturally meaningful areas and events will get more
Scale and intensity: the larger the scale of an event,
the more likely it will be considered news.
The collection and distribution of international
news follows the structure of international
The major distributors of international news are
based in “elite” nations in the world: the United
States, the United Kingdom, France.
Three major news agencies AP, Reuters and AFP
process and disseminate more than 80 percent of
the international information that is broadcast
around the world.(UNESCO figures)
Two other major sources of international news
are CNN (based in the US) and the BBC (based in
Founded in London in 1851 by Paul Julius Reuter to
distribute financial information.
Describes itself as the world's largest international news
and television agency ,with 2,498 editorial staff,
journalists, photographers and camera operators in 198
bureaux in 150 countries.
Over 8 million words published daily in 26 languages.
Editorial policies based on “ independence, integrity and
freedom from bias.”
Agence France- Presse
Founded in 1835 in France by Charles- Louis Havas as Agence Havas,
described as the “first worldwide news agency.
After the German occupation of France in World War 2, Agence Havas
shuts down, and is re-launched outside occupied France. The French
government is a major shareholder, and to this day retains a stake of
slightly under 50 percent.
Provides services in six languages: French, English, German, Spanish,
Portuguese and Arabic.
More than 2,000 staff, including 900 outside France, producing
400,000 to 600,000 words a day, 700 photographs and 50 news
Guarantees its clients “total objectivity, editorial quality and reliability”.
Founded in 1848 as a non profit co-operative owned by newspapers and
news organizations in the US.
Describes itself as “ the backbone of the world's information system”.
Used by 5,000 radio and television stations and 1,700 newspapers in the
US and 8,500 newspaper, radio and television subscribers in 121 other
242 total bureaus worldwide, 3,700 editorial, communications and
administrative employees, puts out 20 million words and 1,000 photos a
Stated mission is “to provide factual coverage to all parts of the globe for
use by the media around the world.”
International arm of the British Broadcasting
Corporation, Britain’s state owned broadcaster.
Describes itself as the fastest growing international
news channel with 253 million subscriber homes
“Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are
independent, impartial and honest”
Cable News Network: founded by Ted Turner in
1980 as a 24- hour news channel
Became famous internationally with its live coverage
of the 1991 Gulf War (“CNN’s war”)
Main market is the US, but CNN International has
160 million subscribers outside the US. Sees itself as
a global news channel
“Our brand is about journalistic credibility” Chris
Cramer, managing director, CNN International
The story teller determines the story…
Can anything be done about this?
In the 1970s developing
International news organizations had a
responsibility to report not merely disasters, but also
other developments in their countries.
They also felt that international news flows were one
sided, with more news from the rich countries to the
poor countries, and less the other way around.
They wanted to develop their own international
Attempts to change the
In the 1970s and 1980s, UNESCO, the United
Nations Educational, Social and Cultural
Organization, was the scene of a bitter debate
between developing countries and the west.
The MacBride Commission
UNESCO set up a commission of distinguished
experts led by Nobel laureate Sean MacBride to look
at ways to ensure a better flow of news
“Many Voices One World”- report released in 1982,
made 82 recommendations calling for “a free flow
and wider dissemination of information.”
Opposed by western nations who saw it as an
attempt to put restrictions on the press.
Western media organisations
saw this as
A threat to press freedom, and an attempt by
developing country governments to dictate
what the major news organizations should
and should not report.
A threat to the commercial interests of
western news organizations.
A group of mainly western media representatives
produced a counter declaration, “The Declaration of
Talloires”, on behalf of the “free world media”
Strongly opposed any attempts by governments to
place restrictions on press reporting, and rejected
the UNESCO proposals as a an interference in the
Attempts to develop new channels of
information failed in the 1970s and 80’s
The debate happened during the Cold War
period and became part of the larger EastWest conflict
Developing country media companies did not
have the resources to go global.
Alternate sources tended to be government
controlled and lacked credibility
The big media organizations tried
to address the problem by
Becoming more local, developing local and regional
content, hiring more local staff
Time, CNN, The Asian Wall Street Journal, all have
Asian editions, and say they provide an Asian
Some alternative news media
IPS- Inter Press Service: a news agency founded in
1964 by an Italian-Argentinian journalist, Roberto
A not for profit association of journalists: reporters
in over 100 countries.
Uses local, developing country perspectives
Weakness: depends for funding on various aid
organisations- not commercially sustainable
International news comes from a handful of global
media organizations based in the west.
News from these organizations is factual, but can be
driven by western perspectives and news values
Solution: a greater variety of news sources,
especially local and regional ones. The internet has
helped this process.