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Theory Of Framing In The Media

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“Journalists often subconsciously engage in essentially the same process when they decide how to describe the political world. They choose images and words that have the power to influence how audience interpret and evaluate issues and policies”. Agenda setting increases the accessibility of an issue, when the audience are given more exposure to news related to the particular issue. When people want to know which news is important, they check for issues that have received more attention in the media.

With regards to media agenda setting, the focus is not only on the positive or negative aspects of an issue, but on the emphasis placed on one issue over another. The extent to which people regard issues as being important as a result of the emphasis on these issues in the media is the central focus of media agenda setting theory. In a poll conducted in May 2016, the respondents cited ‘economy’ as the main reason for voting for ‘leave’ or ‘remain’. In June 2016, ‘immigration’ was voted as the most common reason. This shift is attributed to media agenda setting.

One of the main functions of crime frames are to blame. They either blame the individual or the institution they belong to. “Each nation’s media frame the crisis in a way that fits their own rhetorical goals”. There are difference in the way Church abuse is framed depending on how the Church is embedded within the society. The Netherlands and UK blame the institution, where UK extends the blame to the Pope too. Whereas, in Belgium and Ireland offenders are portrayed as individuals.

To invoke fear and panic among the audience, the media introduces a ‘problem frame’ which present a complex issue in a simplistic way to entertain their consumers. They create a fear by stressing ‘threats and danger to media consumers and their communities’. To frame Swine Flu virus in Mexico, the frames adopted by media were fear, disaster and othering. The stereotyping of Mexico is attributed to many reasons. ‘Institutional changes and issues’ may have contributed to the frequent use of fear and othering frames. Also, studies reveal that many medical journalists lack the skill to interpret medical reports. Even when many publications acknowledged issues with the coverage of Swine Flu virus and it could invoke fear and hysteria, the trends did continue hinting that ‘significant underlying issues with both American media consumers’ expectations for Latin American coverage, as well as with institutional expectations for reporters’.

Media acts as a gatekeeper and decides what topics should reach the public. “By setting the agenda and by framing messages, media can influence the public perception and therefore also the culture within society’. However, media will reflect the most dominant culture within the society. In understanding the framing of Swedish milk, which is a threat to climate and environment and at the same time has a long history of being connected to Swedish culture. The media portrayed the positive side of milk and milk industry, while giving less importance to its environmental impacts. In fact, in few cases, it was spoken in an opposite direction, where milk is good for the environment. This proves the cultural influence on media.

Media Frames

Entman suggested that frames in the news can be examined and identified by ‘the presence or absence of certain keywords, stock phrases, stereotyped images, sources of information and sentences that provide thematically reinforcing clusters of facts or judgments.’ Gamson and Modigliani identify metaphors, exemplars, catch-phrases, depictions, and visual images as framing devices. Certain frames can be apposite only to specific topics or events, these can be categorized under issue-specific frames. Other frames transcend thematic limitations and can be identified in relation to different topics, some even over time and in different cultural contexts. These frames can be labeled as generic frames.

Generic Frames

Lorie Hogan, identified that the same types of frames identified in research of other topics are also used in the news coverage of public education. The study focused on generic frames – ‘attribution of responsibility/ blame’, ‘conflict’, ‘sensationalism’, ‘context’, ‘episodic’ and ‘thematic’ to find out how media has framed U.S public education since No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Blame and conflict news frames are used more frequently, and news articles have a negative tone rather than a positive one. The study showed that all articles, except one had at least one of the four frames studied: attribution, conflict, sensationalism or context. Sensationalism was found very less frequently. Episodic frames were used more than thematic frames. Conflict and sensationalism frames are more often used than context frames. Most of the articles had a neutral tone, over negative and positive tones.

In political media communication, the conflict frame emphasizes how individuals, groups or institutions are in conflict with each other, to the public. The human interest frame brings an emotional angle on how the issue is framed for the public. In economic consequences frame “the media will commonly use this to report an event as potentially having dramatic economic repercussions for individuals, groups or the state”. The morality frame is an indirect moral judgment to an event. Finally, the attribution to responsibility/ blame, blames the government, individuals or groups responsible for the causing or solving the issue. The study revealed that both the newspapers have predominately used economic consequences and conflict frame to cover the European Referendum. It also proved that the online outlet of both the newspapers did not have these as the salient frames, but human interest and attribution to responsibility frames.

Framing Theory and Textual Analysis

Employing a textual analysis of media reports on the narratives of natural disaster survivors in Indonesia, the paper looks into how the narratives are reported rather than how often. Narratives of survivors are underrepresented as compared to socio-economic impact and chronology of disaster. “Media narrates the conditions of children as the most vulnerable group in the post-disaster period”. The author argues that this conclusion has an impact on its readers through the usage of emotional appeal.

Framing theory has become an attractive approach to news studies because of its unique (inter)national applicability. Through selection and salience, ‘frames can define problems, can diagnose causes, make moral judgments and suggest remedies’. Tania Cantrell and Samantha Joyce has identified various latent and manifest frames from their study through an interpretative textual analysis. It is a powerful tool ‘when used to apply framing theory’. Interpretative textual analysis helped in the identification of ‘whispered, culturally- embedded, latent frames’. However, they argue that the analysis method has a flaw, where systematic guidelines for record interpretation do not support textual analysis.

Textual analysis is better suited for detailed analysis of complex text. Mohammad Zubair Iqbal and Shabir Hussain focused on manifest and latent meanings of the text to know how differently Pakistan newspapers have framed four wars. The findings of the study are consistent with the available literature on war-media.

Framing Elections

Frames are defined as ‘largely unspoken and unacknowledged’. Frames that has emerged dominant have important effects on ‘public attitudes, cultural interpretations and policy outcomes’ and it can influence voters’ choice through framing of issues. In an attempt to understand which type of news received more coverage, it was found that political issues got more coverage, i.e., Business and Economics, social issues, crime and cultural in both newspapers analyzed. These political stories analyzed were categorized under four frames: Legal issues, Electoral process and issues, Economy and Governance, and Corruption. While one newspaper had a gradual of issues covered from non-political issues to political issues in the second and third quarters of a year, the other covered political issues throughout the three quarters. Tejasvi Vasudevan argued that media frames can somehow change public perception of candidates contesting in elections and can move the public away from issues that were important before elections, make them focus on a single issue framed by the media and create a brand around a leader. In this study which was to analyze the frames used in covering electoral process of 2014 Lok Sabha elections, months prior to elections, Mr. Narendra Modi and his party received widest coverage. Among five news frames, four were pro-Modi. This proved that not only did the newspapers framed ‘Mr. Modi as a prime ministerial candidate but also showed people to think of Mr. Modi as a harbinger of economic development of future India if he was elected as prime minister’. Newspaper and Television news channels helped in creating a brand around Mr. Modi.

In contrast to what Tejasvi Vasudevan found, Dr. Mwidima Peter Charles, argued that there is no direct relationship between media framing and audience framing. He questions the influence of media on audience. The findings of media framing and audience framing of 2015 Tanzania elections ‘confirms that during election campaign, campaign rallies or meetings play a significant role (58%) of information the prospective voters about party or candidate agendas or political manifestos whereas the media contribute very little (23%)’. “Audience framing is the mechanisms through which audiences receive and interpret incoming information which they end-up by creating their own meanings”. It has further revealed that the effect of framing depends on audience framing. The audience may not make decisions on information received from media. They can be selective of the information and can accept or not accept information from media based on ‘knowledge, affiliation, religion, gender, or emotions’. This finding has challenged all the previous studies that proved that media framing can change audience’s preferences.2.1.8 Framing Political Issues Mass media structure their content as an interpretation of reality for audiences, and the media content is created by various economic and political factors that result in different versions of reality. In order to understand the international coverage of China’s domestic politics, they adopted ‘a conceptual framework that incorporated the “micro-level” attention to the evaluative undertones manifested in specific news stories about various issues and the “macro-level” interpretation of the “larger meaning” reflected in the sum of the specific undertones regarding the aggregated presentation of the China’s domestic politics’. While AJE blamed gave a negative tone for China’s one child policy and policy of security forces in Tibet, BBC’s ‘negative tone was focused on overall reforms in political system, political rivalries, judicial, and economic affairs’. The reason for anti-Chinese frame can be traced to the historical stereotypes and conventional fear of Communism among western countries.

Studies show that media can incite violence, and media coverage can affect how the audience learn, understand or think about an issue. To understand this better, she learned how media frames are used for IPOB/ Nigerian army clash and how has it influenced the audience in South East. Along with content analysis, survey questionnaire was used to understand the influence. Even though the issue received a wide coverage, proper investigated reports for the cause of the clash was missing and follow-ups were minimal. The study proved that the selection and emphasis, along with the supporting sources and solutions (framing process), helped the audience of South East to perceive the clash as a conspiracy against them.

Protest News Frames

Communication scholars identified protest paradigm when news media portrayed ‘social protests as deviant, threatening, or impotent’. However, developments in social and media environment has led to varied media representations of protests. His study shows that ‘the protest paradigm is more likely to emerge if the protest involved radical tactics, if the protest’s target responded to the media, and, in politically conservative newspapers, when the protest addressed political topics’. Protests coverage is less negative if it concerns a political matter and other studies have proved that protest coverage has become less negative over time. “The analysis reveals that several features of the protest paradigm—such as emphasis on violence and disruption, de-emphasis of the protesters’ voices, and invocation of negative comments from bystanders — were more likely to appear if the protests involve radical tactics”. It also proved that the political orientation of media outlets matter in framing protests.

In another study the authors prove that the protesters are reported from a de-valuing angle. The mainstream media only focuses on ‘tactics, spectacles, and dramatic actions, rather than the underlying reasons for the protest’. The study relied on nominal variables that used injustice frames, sympathy frames, legitimizing frames, de-legitimizing frames, spectacle frames and contextual frames. The results revealed that NYT employed a spectacle frame that exaggerated violence and drama rather than explaining why the citizens started to protest. However, Global Voices and Kristof’s Twitter feed took a different approach, legitimizing the protesters.

“Framing theory assumes that the mass media give specific interpretations in news representation, using certain words or phrases, choosing certain films or pictures, making certain contextual references, referring to certain sources, giving examples as typical, and so on such that audience do not just read about an issue but view it from a particular perspective”. In his study of framing bring back girls campaign, the author proved the assumptions of the theory. The media gave prominence to the issue by projecting the various activities positively. Also, the findings reveal a shift in the framing trends over time, where news are presented through identified lenses called “protest paradigm” to frame campaign movement stories. “The dominant and most frequent negative frames that present movements as disruptive, violent, illegitimate, freak, etc., as captured by various media have shifted to presenting them as victims of incompetent governance and violence”.

‘Social Problem’ Frame

Social Constructionist Theory proposed by Berger and Luckmann argues ‘media has the ability to shift public perceptions about an issue by discussing it from a specific perspective and justifying the accuracy of their perspectives, using statements made by influential figures, such as officials who proposed solutions to the discussed issue’. According to Loseke, there are three frames used by media to create a ‘social problem’ frame around an issue. The diagnostic frame, which is used to introduce the topic as a social problem. It also includes important people who are responsible for creating a specific problem. Second, the motivational frame that follows the diagnostic frame, persuades the audience to care more about the issue. Third, the prognostic frame, where the media discusses about the solutions that ‘have either been proposed, utilized, or desired to resolve the issue and aid the victims’. The study analyzed the framing of wrongful convictions. The NYT utilizes the diagnostic frame more than the motivational and prognostic frame and specifies specific officials to blame.

Most of the previous researches indicate that media framing of social and political issues through selection and emphasis, can influence the reading audience along with the media agenda which can affect or change the public agenda. This study will analyze the news stories on cow slaughter using framing and agenda setting theory.

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