Several media houses target their niche audience. Thus, their news is tailored to meet that particular market segment. Taiwan Independence Movement is an issue that is quite emotive in different ways. Therefore, the media houses have different editorial policies while reporting on issues such as this one. This goes beyond the need for reporting objectively. This paper will, therefore, look into how the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and South China Morning Post (SCMP) report differently on Taiwan independence movement. Thus, the paper will focus on the reporters, graphics as well as the sources used.
The issue of whether Taiwan is part of China has been a controversial one. The territory of China has never over the years been fixed(Dongtao, 2009). The mainland Chinese leadership considers Taiwan as being part of its territory while Taiwan views itself as independent. Taiwan calls itself Republic of China (ROC) and is not controlled by the mainland China. The mainland China considers Taiwan its province, though it does not control it. Many countries have diplomatic ties with Taiwan. This issue of Taiwan independence has attracted a lot of media attention. Hence, the two media houses, the BBC as well as the SCMP, have extensively been reporting on this independence movement.
To understand the two media houses, a brief background suffices. BBC, as the name suggests, is a British government media house founded in the 1920s. The company’s editorial policy is in line with that of the British Government. Though the organization rides on the platform of objectivity, it has received some criticism as a propaganda machine for the British government, and the West in particular. BBC has diversified into radio, television, internet, cable news and magazines. This makes BBC the leading media house internationally with an audience of over 300 million weekly (BBC Media Centre, 2015).
Based in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) is the oldest English- language media house. Just like the BBC, it has branched into magazine and even internet news. The media house got established in 1903 by Tse Tsan-Tai and Alfred Cunningham and it is only in the 1980s that it got privatized by Media Mogul Rupert Murdoch under his company News Corporation (Richardson, 2014). It however, got freed later. Lately, it has been acquired by Alibaba Group, together with its assets. In fact, there have been protests by some social companies that this latest acquisition spells doom for the independence of the press as Alibaba Group is allegedly having links with government. All in all, the company has an audience of about 69 percent of adults weekly. Non-Chinese audiences constitute about 61 percent while it commands 78 percent of those people with higher education (BBC Media Centre, 2015).
The two media houses, BBC, and SCMP, have varied ways of reporting on Taiwan Independence Movement. The differences are exhibited in the phraseology used. Phrases do play a significant role in journalism as they reveal the reporter’s attitude towards the topic of discussion. Equally important is the choice of graphics. This also leads the audience towards a certain intended meaning. Sources also mark another area in journalism. Sources can be used to tilt information in a particular way too. The media houses employ the different approaches appealing to their niche audiences. In essence, the approaches tilt the thinking and emotions of their respective audience.
Though Britain has not officially recognized the independence of Taiwan, it has diplomatic ties as well as trade ties with it. It should also not be lost that BBC is British Media. The BBC’s editorial policy is neutral on paper. However, by and by, studies have indicated that the media house tends to lean towards activism. As concerns Taiwanese independence movement, the BBC has been viewed as supporting the pro-independence clamor, though discreetly. This can, however, be inferred from the various approaches it uses while reporting on this issue altogether. The South China Morning internet news is based in Hong Kong. Hong Kong serves as the administrative unit of mainland China. Given the Chinese stranglehold on media, it is expected that SCMN is accommodative to the cause of mainland China (Chung, 2015). However, it should not be forgotten that SCMP in an independent English language media house which has a retinue of independent-minded journalists on its payroll.
Articles by the two media houses reveal so much. A clear analysis of the items is quite telling. For example, one of the articles on SCMP reads "Taiwan Independence Movement: DPP fails to appear at anti-mainland protests.” Another one goes "DPP seeks to build ties with the mainland.” Another one also reads "Mainland spouses support tolerant Ma for re-election.” All these titles are quite telling since from them, one can see that the media house seems to vouch for unification rather than independence of Taiwan.BBC articles also have a certain streak. One of the articles states "independence debate.” Another article reads "Taiwan Flashpoint.” Finally, another one goes "living in places that need freedom” (BBC NEWS, 2015). From the articles, it can be seen that the BBC leans towards Taiwan independence activism.
The language used by media influences standpoints. From what the BBC standpoint it is clear that the media house values independence movement. This is quite obvious looking at the way the articles and the amount of time dedicated towards convincing public opinion on the issue. From the items, the coverage offered for contrary opinion is quite limited, or at time missing altogether. Further, the headings are quite sensational. This is done to whip emotion of the readers rather than welcome the reader to an objective piece of journalism. A good balanced piece of news should offer balanced coverage to both sides. Further, the frequency of articles should alternate between those for unification as well as those that favor independence. After all from an independent survey on the Taiwan issue, it was found that many Taiwanese remained divided on independence. There are quite a number of them who want things to remain the way they are. The same situation applies to the reporting by SCMN media house. In this latter case, one can understand that it is under heavy control of mainland China’s strong media control. However, by sometimes looking at the body language of its reporters, it is quite telling that whatever is reported is censored.
The same portrayal is reflected in the graphics. In the BBC articles, most photos are those of activists carrying placards. Also, most of the protesters exhibited appear to be quite agitated. What is almost surprising in the photos is that most of the characters are young. This is in line with what is known about who drives Taiwan Independence Movement. It is the youth who want this independence badly (BBC, 2016). Photos in the SCMN are very limited. However, these portray friendly characters, with smiles spread all over their faces (South China Post, 2016).
Sources play a major role in journalism since they have their political perspectives. The BBC articles use sources of mostly young activists. This is even represented in the photos found in its articles. What is most surprising, the interviews in articles involve pro-independence proponents. This is in sharp contrast with the SCMN whose main sources include "Official” pro-establishment sources. One, therefore, wonders if the choice of source promotes neutrality. As the BBC under-represents official sources, SCMN under-represents progressive voices as well as other public- interest voices while reporting on Taiwan Independence Movement.
It can be concluded that the two media houses use different approaches while reporting on Taiwan independence movement. From the various aspects analyzed, it can be found that the various sources used and phrases bring about the intended message. This is perhaps done to appeal to their targeted audience. They do this to influence the opinion of this niche audience. This state of affairs calls for a re-assessment of objectivity and neutrality as espoused in the journalism tenets.
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