The Saturday debate: Do we pay too much attention to news from the US?

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

The tragic killing of six and injuries to thirteen others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, have received heavy coverage in the UK media, not only in response to the shooting itself but also following up the story subsequently. Yet other recent political deaths from countries around the world have received, at most, very little media coverage in the UK.

There are partial explanations – such as the murdered Nigerian politician being a local government figure rather than a national figure and the murdered Ukranian political party leader was leader of a small party. The murder in the Philippines received the most coverage in the UK, due I suspect to the tragic photo of the event. The murdered politician, Reynaldo Dagsa, was taking a family photo just as the murderer was pulling his gun, so the last act of Dagsa was to take a photo that shows his murderer pointing a gun straight at him. The killing of the Punjab governor in Pakistan received the most coverage, but even his death has received much less coverage in the UK than the US story.

So is it that the injuring of Gabrielle Giffords alongside the killing and injuring of others rightly justifies far more media coverage than other events? Or is that the media does not pay enough attention to countries such as Pakistan (a key country when it comes to events in Afghanistan and a country to which many people living here have close family ties) or the Ukraine (a country whose relations with Russia are important for our energy supplies and prices)?

Post your comments below…

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20 Comments

  • Trevor Stables 15th Jan '11 - 9:33am

    Definitely! There is too much news from the US and not enough european news, there is so much happenening in Europe that just does not get covered > elections, national disasters, floods and moreover, the news from europe that does get covered is often trivial and anti european. Also, can we please have subtitles and the original sound track rather than talk over in english…what chance have Brits got to hear other languaages if its constantly dubbed!

  • Richard Norris 15th Jan '11 - 10:06am

    I could not have put things better than Trevor Stables. i agree entirely with what he states but would amplify it by adding that the news media, indeed the wider consumers of news in this country, constantly make the esentially lazy assumption that anything of any note worth reporting, however trivial, happens within the almost hermetically sealed bubble that is the anglophone world.
    Concerning the treatment of foreign languages in television news items: I am always amazed that the BBC manages to find someone, at short notice, with a suitably fake accent to talk over the original foreign language speaker. Far easier, cheaper, and less patronising, to use sub-titles.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Jan '11 - 10:47am

    “Concerning the treatment of foreign languages in television news items: I am always amazed that the BBC manages to find someone, at short notice, with a suitably fake accent to talk over the original foreign language speaker. Far easier, cheaper, and less patronising, to use sub-titles.”

    Agree absolutely. Furthermore for anyone hard of hearing distinguishing the ‘talk over’ speech from the original foreign language can be quite difficult.

    And I agree with the view that there is far too much US news on UK TV and far too little from other areas of the world.

  • Edis is absolutely right. Just look at the events of the past week. The floods in Queensland started to make the news bulletins fairly early on although they still weren’t covered very extensively until there were some dramatic pictures for them to show. The floods in Brazil – far more devastating in terms of lives lost – didn’t get a mention until the number of deaths reached three figures. The floods in Sri Lanka haven’t received much coverage at all.

    Equally, coverage of events in Tunisia had been fairly low-key until yesterday.

  • yes! I was thinking this only the other evening, probably in the wake of extensive jaw-jaw on the news about the colorado shootings, clearly a ghastly business, but meriting of 15 minutes of prime time news?

    no doubt part of it is bbc journos preferring to spend our licence fee trvaelling stateside than in the 3rd world. always a pointless expense, since half the time they’re filmed in their hotel grounds anyway!

  • Joe Donnelly 15th Jan '11 - 12:59pm

    Yes, yes and yes. We are far too obsessed with US news and then beneath that obsessed generally with the anglo-saxon world. We barely ever get news of whats happening in western europe unless it directly affects us, or one of the characters (shroeder, merkel, sarkozy etc) has become well-known after half a decade or so for the general public to hear about them.

    I think this Anglo-centric view of the world in our media has also shaped our politics, theres absolutely no way that politicians could have peddled the ‘coalitions are chaos and nothing gets done’ line if we were more aware of European politics. Similarly, the public shouting for PR would probably be louder if people saw how effectively it worked in western european countries.

  • Simon McGrath 15th Jan '11 - 1:33pm

    Do the media cover the US more than say W Europe because of some intrinsic bias or does it reflect what readers/viewers are interested in.?
    Do news article on website about the US get clicked on more than similar stories about other countries?

    Perhaps people in the UK feel closer to the US because of common language, culture etc?

  • There is no such thing as a “general election” in the United States. The Americans have entirely separate elections for each house of their legislature and the leader of their government. It is entirely possible, and not at all uncommon, for there to be distinct results for each of these elections. As in the recent elections, in which the Democratic Party won the upper house and the Republican Party the lower house.

    I know of nothing that would support the statement “the Republicans are on course for winning the next general election” (sic). But then I do not get my news from Mr. Murdoch.

  • Patrick Smith 15th Jan '11 - 3:11pm

    Prime news of late has rightly followed full news of the Queensland La Nina floods and tragic loss of life and Brazil where the poor built housing has caused even more tragic deaths from its over flowing rivers.

    I agree that we are more aware of American news and less so about non English mother tongue countries and the UK has ensured a static situation in finding the response to put out any European language programmes or news in French,German,Italian or Spanish since EU membership in 1973.

    I share concern also that as a Teacher myself there ought to be more attention given to the current crisis in the low numbers of pupils choosing modern languages, in our schools at KS4.

    Since 2004, GCSE MSL was made optional and teaching of French and German, in particular, has gone into a downwards loop with 51% take-up in Nov. 2006 and in some schools now the numbers enrolling for KS4 Exams is barely double figures.

    I do accept that the new National Bacculearate is shaped to recognise the MFL concerns in the Dearing Report etc. but the dearth of foreign languges with English sub-titles,even in terms of French and German films, does not assist to promote a plural languages approach for school children or the adult viewer, by our mainstream news and programme controllers.

    This is relevant by the focussing of too much news on the news from English mother tongue countries i.e.US in particular is the main culprit

  • Dave Simpson 16th Jan '11 - 8:54am

    …and you don’t even mention the death of the President of Poland in an air crash, last week.
    But then neither did the BBC, CNN or Sky News.

  • No. USA is the most influential country in the world, arguably. Its politics hold lessons for our own and much of modern political discourse, especially within the liberal tradition, has been influenced or even invented in the US. The argument should be that we are as informed about the rest of the world, as we are of the US.

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