From Message Received (GUMG ed. Greg Philo, Longman, 1999)

The Media and the Rwanda Crisis: Effects on Audiences and Public Policy
 (Greg Philo, Lindsey Hilsum, Liza Beattie and Rick Holliman)

This chapter focuses on the quality of information which was available to those who watched television accounts of the Rwandan refugee crisis of July 1994, and how television coverage can affect governments and non-governmental organisations.

The Media and Africa: Images of Disaster and Rebellion (Liza Beattie, Emma Miller, David Miller, Greg Philo)

The authors examine press and TV coverage of the crisis in Rwanda and Zaire between October 1996 and May 1997.

Rwanda was an extremely complex society; it is not easy to understand the events of the genocide without a knowledge of its history. There is an important point to be made here, about how journalists can adequately express such complexities in routine news coverage. A detailed account of Rwanda could not be included in every news bulletin. It would also be unlikely that most viewers would retain a high level of detail on this, or on other stories from the developing world.

Yet there is still an important issue, which is that the working assumption for journalists should be that actions and events do have complex political and economic histories. This is certainly a key assumption for both journalists and viewers when discussing events in the developed world. For example, viewers may not understand the intricacies of the 'Cod War' which Britain once had with Iceland-but they do not believe it arose because of the tribal fury of the Norsemen. Equally, they may have little knowledge of the Weimar Republic or the rise of Fascism in Europe, but they are not told that the holocaust occurred because of the essentially volatile and primitive nature of the Germans.

Even the most violent and cruel conflicts in Europe are nonetheless shown as emerging from organised political interests and strategies. This is important because political conflicts can in the end have political solutions. After the Second World War, for Germany to be rehabilitated in Europe, it was required that it be 'de-Nazified'. This included the public trial of its political leadership, who were either executed or imprisoned, followed by a major programme of cultural transformation.

Whatever the solutions to problems in Africa they cannot begin to be discussed if the working assumptions of journalists, and the information which we receive, does not go beyond post-colonial clichés. Of course, not all journalism on Africa could be described in this way, but it is a not unreasonable description of some of the material in our sample of the Rwanda/Zaire crisis.

From Getting the Message (GUMG ed. John Eldridge, Routledge, 1995)

Backyard on the Front Page: The Case of Nicaragua
 (Lucinda Broadbent)

Lucinda Broadbent examines coverage of Nicaragua in ‘First’ world media in the 1980s and provides a case study of US media coverage of the Nicaraguan elections in 1984.

From Buerk to Band Aid: The Media and the 1984 Ethiopia Famine
 (Greg Philo)

This chapter is a case study of the television coverage of the Ethiopia famine from 1984 to 1985. It examines the priorities of news organisations and asks why it was that the famine that was predicted well in advance took so long to be generally publicised. It also examines the content of news reports and the impact of these on mass audiences.

The Mass Production of Ignorance (Greg Philo)

This paper examines key issues in the relationship between television news content and the manner in which audiences respond to it. In past research this relationship has been analysed from various theoretical perspectives. I think elements of each of these can add very importantly to a developed understanding of this issue. In making this case I will draw upon three major studies which were undertaken by the Media Group at Glasgow University that all focussed on news content and public understanding of the developing world. This paper is also published as Television News and Audience Understanding of War, Conflict and Disaster in journalistic studies.