‘When the media doesn’t talk to Arabs, coverage of them is negative’

New research finds a direct correlation between negative media coverage of Arab society in Israel and the exclusion of Arab voices and interviewees in that coverage.

By Oren Persico

File photo of Israel’s Channel 1 evening news broadcast. (Anna Kaplan/Flash90)
File photo of Israel’s Channel 1 evening news broadcast. (Anna Kaplan/Flash90)

The participation of Arab interviewees in Israeli news items relating to Arab society in the country has a  correlation on the content and tone of the reporting, new research published by Israeli NGO Sikkuy last month has concluded. (Full disclosure: The Seventh Eye partnered with Sikkuy for its ‘Representation Index’ project.)

The research project, conducted by Edan Ring along with the Ifat Group, examined news coverage of Arab citizens of Israel in the Hebrew-language media during October 2015, a month in which a serious escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took place, including almost daily attacks against Jewish Israelis.

According to the researchers’ conclusions, the mainstream Israeli media covered Arab citizens of Israel particularly negatively during that period, largely by excluding them entirely as interviewees. However, the research also found that in the few items on Arab society in Israel in which an Arabic-speaker was included, the tone of the item was notably more positive.

The research looked at 1,096 news items relating to Arab citizens of Israel published or broadcast on the three major television stations, two leading news radio stations, and six leading print and online news outlets (in total, 13 percent of all news items relating to the escalating violence that month).

Roughly half of those news items were of negative character or tone, the research found. Only one-quarter were positive stories, and the rest were found to be of either mixed or neutral tone.

“Coverage of Arab citizens during this period suffered from especially negative framing and tone,” the Sikkuy report said.

The most negative coverage was on television (57 percent of news items were negative and only 11 percent positive), with print media doing slightly better (43 percent of news items were negative and 35 percent were positive). The numbers for print media, however, were not necessarily representative of all print coverage because Haaretz, which was particularly positive, brought up the average percentage of positive stories.

The research by Sikkuy also confirmed a finding from the “Representation Index,” which touches on the exclusion of Arab interviewees in media coverage that discusses Arab society. According to their research, only 31 percent of news items that deal with Arab citizens of Israel included an Arabic speaker. In other words, only 69 percent of news items about Arab society in Israel included the voice of an Arab citizen.

“The significance of that statistic is far-reaching,” the Sikkuy report stated. “Most of the coverage and presentation of life for Arabs in Israel during that period was conducted exclusively by Jewish Israeli voices.”

Their research into both of those parameters, the tone of coverage on one side and the inclusion of Arab interviewees, led the researchers to there is a clear correlation between them.

Of the news items examined as part of the research, 35 percent of items that included an Arab interviewee took a more positive tone, whereas when there was no Arab interviewee, only 15 percent of news items were positive.

“Including Arab interviewees and speakers in news items on the Arab public is neither a privilege nor a special request, but the minimal professional requirement of news organizations who say they provide fair and balanced coverage,” the researchers concluded. “Media that does not give fair space to one side of a narrative actually contributes to the escalation of the conflict, and it seems that the Israeli media is not mindful of the danger in that.”

Read this article in Hebrew.