2:1: Cable Networks, Including Al Jazeera America, Pushed Military Action in Syria

September 18, 2013 - 10:20 AM

Al Jazeera America

(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Al Jazeera America’s coverage of the conflict in Syria resembled that of most other major U.S. cable news networks, where stories in favor of U.S. military intervention “outnumbered those opposed by about a 2:1 ratio,” according to a Pew Research Center report released Monday.

However, the coverage was at odds with polls showing a large majority of Americans opposed to military action.

Pew analyzed daytime and primetime cable news stories on Syria from August 26, “the day Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people,” through August 31, “the day President Obama announced he would ask Congress to authorize a military strike.”

“The most common message conveyed in Al Jazeera’s coverage – that the U.S. should get involved in the conflict – was also the No. 1 message on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News,” Pew reported.

Forty-three percent of Al Jazeera America’s Syria coverage conveyed the message “that the U.S. should respond militarily,” similar to CNN and Fox News. “Only MSNBC, at 64%, had a markedly higher number.” MSNBC also devoted the least amount of air time to its coverage of Syria: 194 minutes, compared to 381 minutes on CNN.

However, “the cautionary message that a U.S. entry into the Syrian conflict would lead to larger Mideast problems appeared in 16% of Al Jazeera America stories, followed closely by CNN (14%), and then by MSNBC (10%) and Fox News (8%). And that was far lower than the frequency of that message on BCC America (31%),” the report stated.

BBC America was identified as an outlier even though it offered the most balanced coverage. Forty-two percent of its Syria stories were “in favor of U.S. involvement,” while “the sentiment to avoid military action” appeared nearly as often (40 percent).

“While a number of polls show that a large majority of the U.S. public is against military action against Syria, in the week studied, the overall percentage of cable stories conveying a message that America should get involved (47%) solidly outnumbered stories with messages counseling against a strike (27%),” the report noted.

Forty-three percent of Al Jazeera America’s Syria coverage conveyed the message “that the U.S. should respond militarily,” similar to CNN and Fox News coverage. The network “devoted the biggest chunk of [its] Syria coverage to the debate over whether the U.S. should become militarily involved in the conflict that pits the government of Bashar al-Assad against an array of rebel forces.”

On Sept. 4, just hours before a U.S. Senate panel voted to give President Obama authority to use military force against the Assad regime, Syrian rebels backed by al-Qaida attacked Maaloula, an ancient and predominantly Christian village located about 40 miles northeast of Damascus.

Al Jazeera America, which is owned by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network, was launched in August and “replaced Al Gore’s Current TV in more than 45 million TV homes.” “During its first week on the air, [it] drew viewership in the tens of thousands – a substantially smaller audience than its competitors,” according to Pew.