Having mainly written on cinema during his career as a lecturer on film and television at
Building on a Gramscian notion of hegemony in which elite interests are presented as universally beneficial, he argues that post-modernism, derived from post-Fordist globalization, is the dominant ideology in the
Ben-Shaul uses qualitative content analysis to compare three stations’ coverage of two different types of conflicts. First, the “War on Terror,” or what he terms a “direct core-periphery conflict,” and second the Al Aqsa Intifada, an indirect one. Unfortunately he spends the most time analyzing CNN, which has been the subject of numerous content analyses, and the least space analyzing PATV, which has not previously received much scholarly attention.
While the first half of the book lays out his theoretical and epistemological assumptions, the second half seeks to understand how different national news stations cover the same emotionally-charged events, and in this respect he succeeds. He identifies two frames that dominate coverage of violent news by the PATV and the two Israeli channels. The first frame he describes works to devalue the emotional standpoint of the other side and to embed the dominant ideologies of their respective elites. In the Israeli channels, this frame depicts Israelis as besieged victims, and in PATV, it depicts a sense of heroic sacrifice. The second frame is employed to garner support from the American superpower. Yet Ben-Shaul’s analysis of CNN unfortunately outstrips his analysis of Israeli and Palestinian television news coverage.
After identifying these potent frames, however, he jumps to the conclusion that they support the production of a post-Fordist globalization discourse in which the ideologies of core (American) elites and dependent peripheral elites (Israeli and Palestinian) are embedded. The conceptual overreaching from micro-frames to macro-processes is not fully explicated, leaving the two feeling disjointed. Nonetheless Ben-Shaul makes some interesting and rather unpopular insights into news coverage of violent events, such as the American coverage of the September 11 attacks and the War on Terror, the Palestinian advocacy of martyrdom for children, and the Israeli coverage of its military campaigns against civilians. In his analysis of CNN’s coverage of the Bin Laden tapes, for example, he describes how the audiovisual content of the tapes betrayed the perspective presented by the reporter, a reflection of the dominant elite ideology promoted by administration officials that the
One of his most interesting findings is that Israeli television covers terrorist attacks within
For its willingness to take on and expose the dominant elite ideologies, this book deserves credit. Though not written for a general audience, specialists who can wade through the dense language, dependent clauses and compound strings of adjectives that clutter this book will discover some interesting insights into the ways audiovisual choices in news coverage provoke certain responses. The book is a valuable contribution to comparative media analysis and specifically to studies of Palestinian television, which have been few and far between.