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Film Explores U.K. Media Coverage of Developing Countries

by Katia Savchuk

Last Wednesday, the Institute of Development Studies in the U.K. released a short film exploring how the British media depict poverty in developing countries. "Famine, War and Corruption: The British Media's Portrayal of the Global South" includes interviews with journalist and filmmakers, many of whom say that the press disproportionately focuses on war and disaster. This not only leads to an inaccurate view of life in developing countries among the British public, but also desensitization, hostility to aid and ignorance about the structural causes of poverty.

"News is about bad news," ITN presenter Jon Snow points out, which drives reporters to focus on worst-case scenarios. Ratings pressures, time constraints and staffing cuts are also limiting possibilities for in-depth reporting. But as some point out in the film, the main culprit is the failure of many reporters to transcend simplistic narratives and examine deeper causes or multiple views of a situation.

The journalists interviewed in the film see a need for more frequent in-depth stories, locally based media and depoliticized coverage. This means no longer treating the public as the "lowest common denominator," World Development Movement director Deborah Doane said.

Beyond the small slice of the world each of us sees first-hand, the media, broadly defined, entirely construct our understanding of the world "out there." This immense power makes it a moral imperative that mainstream media outlets evaluate the narratives they put in our minds and that the public support diverse and probing coverage.

You can see longer interviews with Jon Snow and Deborah Doane here:

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