In a Nutshell:
Absolutely! This has been academically demonstrated by repeated research efforts, Chomsky and Herman's "Manufacturing Consent" well known amongst most academics, and biased interviews that went viral like that of Jordan Peterson with Channel 4's Kathy Newman.
"Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media" was a 1988 book produced by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, which claimed the American mass media "are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion", by means of the propaganda model of communication.
They posited a number of structural ways this is achieved:
- Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large companies operated for profit, and therefore they must cater to the financial interests of the owners, who are usually corporations and controlling investors. The size of a media company is a consequence of the investment capital required for the mass-communications technology required to reach a mass audience of viewers, listeners, and readers.
- The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a "de facto licensing authority". Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.
- Sourcing Mass Media News: The large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, gaining special access to news by their contribution to reducing the media's costs of acquiring and producing it. Non-routine sources must struggle for access and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers. Editorial distortion is aggravated by the news media's dependence upon private and governmental news sources. If a given producer upsets the sources, it is subtly excluded from access to information losing readers or viewers and ultimately, advertisers. Media businesses editorially distort their reporting to favour government and corporate policies to stay in business.
- Flak and the Enforcers: "Flak" refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defence or defence of the media outlet's public image. Flak can be organised by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.
- Anti-Communism/Anti-Islamic: This was included as a filter in the original book, but Chomsky argues since the end of the Cold War (1945–91) anticommunism was replaced by the "War on Terror" focusing on Islam as the major social control mechanism.
The above study is are supported by a 2002 study by Jim Kuypers' "Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues". In this study of 116 mainstream US papers (including The New York Times, the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle), Kuypers found the mainstream print press in America operate within a narrow range of liberal beliefs. Those who expressed points of view further to the left were generally ignored, whereas those who expressed moderate or conservative points of view were often actively denigrated or labelled as holding a minority point of view. In short, if a political leader, regardless of party, spoke within the press-supported range of acceptable discourse, he or she would receive positive press coverage. If a politician, again regardless of party, were to speak outside of this range, he or she would receive negative press or be ignored.
Studies reporting perceptions of media bias are not limited to the print media. A joint study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism found people see media bias in television news media such as CNN. Although both CNN and Fox were perceived in the study as not being centrist, CNN was perceived as being more liberal than Fox.
Media bias is particularly evidence against Muslims with Western countries trying to contain an Islamic renaissance across the Muslim world. An April 2018 analysis of Washington Post and New York Times articles conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) found Muslims arrested on suspicion of plotting violent acts received 770 percent more news coverage than similar plots carried out by non-Muslims in the U.S., while violent acts by Muslim perpetrators received twice the media coverage than attacks carried out by non-Muslims. ISPU research showed "on average, prosecutors in the U.S. sought three times the sentence length for Muslim perpetrators as for perpetrators not identified as Muslim for similar plots of attempted ideologically driven violence." Additionally, "Muslim perpetrators received four times the average sentence as their non-Muslim counterparts for attempted plots of similar conduct."
A January 2019 report published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) however found that every fatal act of violence resulting from extremism in the U.S. in 2018 was linked to far-right ideologies.
The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Let's take a look at an example story that has been reported on for over half a century - the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"Israel bombs Gaza after Palestinian militants fire rockets"
This was the headline of an ABC report, as well as many other similar articles from several news outlets.
In TV news headlines, the presenter started with "Israel bombs Gaza in retaliation for rocket attacks".
One could argue this reporting is "balanced", it is "news" and the reporter is simply reporting "the facts on the ground".
But let's look a little deeper... Media Bias
To begin with, the headline itself is framed as a justification. This is hiding in plain sight. It sets the parameters within which the reader must stay. Whatever Israel did, the justification is there before we even start. It's not aggression, it's retaliation.
Next, there is no evidence, whatsoever, that any rockets were fired at all. Even if there were, there is no evidence it was Hamas who fired them. Hamas has denied involvement and Israeli commandos have been caught numerous times, sneaking into Gaza, pretending to be Palestinians and committing all manner of crime like, firing rockets into Israel.
In any case, there was no investigation, no proof, no witnesses, nothing. Only the IDF saying it happened. By contrast, when photographic, video or other evidence of Israeli crimes surfaces, the IDF always promises "an investigation". Such "investigations" by the IDF of the IDF either don't happen, are inevitably delayed for years and ultimately, find no guilt. But in the case of Palestinians, no investigation is even necessary.
Given there was no investigation, how would anyone at the ABC (or anywhere else) know what happened?
They had no reporters on the ground, or even in the area. Clearly, they relied on other news sources. In this case it was Reuters. Reuters did not have reporters on the ground either. So, what were their sources? It might not surprise you to learn that the IDF has a "media" department that creates, packages and freely distributes media stories to news channels around the world. It suits the news channel because it's free, they don't need to do the work and they don't need reporters on the ground. And of course, it suits the IDF because they can put whatever spin on it they wish.
The report showed pictures of a destroyed house near Tel Aviv and we heard the words of the distraught, English-born, Jewish owner. He said words to the effect of "This is the real Israel. If I didn't seek cover in the bomb shelter when I heard the air raid sirens, I would be burying my family now".
There was no interview with any Palestinian. There were no pictures of the dozens of 2, 3 and 4 story buildings destroyed by Israeli bombs and missiles or the hundreds of civilians killed, injured or made homeless. And there was no mention of the word "disproportionate". This was retaliation. As Netanyahu said: "Israel will not tolerate this. I will not tolerate this…….as we speak…..Israel is responding forcefully to this wanton aggression."
The message was repeated over and over. It's not our fault. We're responding to "their" aggression. We're "retaliating".
Even if Hamas did fire rockets, how is "retaliation" on such a scale acceptable?
How is the bombing of dozens of buildings, in heavily populated civilian areas anything but collective punishment?
Moreover, how is this the first and only option?
It is not. It is by definition, a war crime.
Except of course to Israeli voters, which is who this barbaric act of terrorism is designed to appeal. Israel was judge, jury and executioner. And that's how they like it.
And finally, and again even if Hamas did fire rockets, why is "that" not retaliation?
Why can Hamas not defend itself against a brutal 11-year military occupation, or the constant theft of Palestinian land, lives and dignity?
Despite appearances, this headline, like so many others, is very one sided. It is designed to placate the reader, smooth over Israeli war crimes and convince the reader that it's ok to do nothing because after all, they were just "defending themselves" .
So, you see, words DO matter.