Media bias is one of the most controversial issues in
political and professional circles and is also one of the most neglected topics
in communication research, particularly in empirical research. Niven’s
observation of a few years ago, that little research has subjected allegations
of bias to meaningful tests is still true today.
Most existing studies do not provide operational definitions of bias; they
employ a variety of methods and approaches and present contradictory and
confusing results. Many studies have attempted to find a bias in favor of a
liberal or conservative ideology or rival parties such as the Democratic and the
Republican parties in the US.
Several scholars have examined bias via input, while others assessed output. A
few studies have dealt with public perceptions of bias. Several have offered
general statements, while others preferred specific case studies. A number of
studies present direct observations made by participants in the news-making
process, while others present empirical results based on interviews, surveys,
content analysis and public opinion polls.
This work departs from existing directions in bias
research. It examines bias in commentary and analysis of events, personalities
and processes, and it offers a new methodology to accomplish this task. In
today’s complex world, commentary has become a major function in providing
adequate context, specific explanations, policy considerations as well as
alternative policies. The public demands to understand and not only to
know what is happening. The media has recognized this need and devotes
considerable space and time to commentary. Outstanding commentators enjoy
prestigious status in journalism and those who have syndication contracts are
well-known beyond their specific media outlet.
This work applies the new methodology to the case study of
the Oslo Peace Process, 1994-2004. We examine the Israeli mainstream broadcast
media over a period of 10˝ years: Two television channels (Channels 1 and 2) and
two radio stations (The Voice of Israel and the Israeli Army Radio stations).
In this work I examined whether the media was biased or
balanced, and made a comparison between the periods of the Labor Governments
(1994-1996 and 1999-2001) and those of the Likud Governments (1996-1999 and
 D. Niven, “Bias in the
News: Partisanship and Negativity in Media
Coverage of Presidents George Bush and Bill
Clinton”, Press-Politics, 6, 3, pp.
31-46, 2001; D. Niven, Tilt? The Search for
Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.
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