Media coverage of state capture saga

This is study focuses on how the media covered state capture saga in 2016, the focus is on two South African daily newspapers, The New Age and The Star. State capture is defined by the World Bank as ‘the efforts of (or such groups as the military, ethnic groups and kleptocratic politicians) to shape the rules of the game to their advantage through illicit, non-transparent provision of private gains to public officials’ (World Bank). The main media related theory in this study is bias, which is describes as ‘any tendency in a news report to deviate from an accurate, neutral, balanced and impartial representation of reality of events and social world according to stated criteria’ by McQuail (2010:549). And will look at framing theory as a tool used by media practitioners around the globe.

McQuail (2010:549) adds that bias can be distinguished from intended and unintended bias. In a country like South Africa with Democracy at heart and a press code that puts freedom of expression at the forefront, it is important to understand the role played by social, economic and political elements in the production of news. The motive behind this study is the need to understand how ownership of media organisations and political alignment can influence reporting of certain issues in the country, and what are the main concerns with regard to political bias in a Democratic state like South Africa? I chose to focus on The New Age, because of debates that re-emerged when the publication said to be aligned to and sympathetic to the African National Congress (ANC) government in 2010 (Gumede, 2011:150).

As stated above this study seek to find how the media content can be affected (directly or indirectly) by media ownership and political alignment. Though I was unable to find a study similar to this one, I can cite the study conducted by the Media Policy and Democracy Project on Nkandla, the study was a critical textual analysis on how the press reported the Nkandla scandal. The study focused on City Press and Mail & Guarding, juxtaposing the KwaZulu-Natal based publication Ilanga. The study found that out of 300 articles on Nkandla, they will only focus on 84 articles, with only five of that 84 being published by Ilanga (Prinsloo 2014:41).

The study then aims at critically analysing the news reports about state capture published in 2016 and find differences in coverage and uses of words and media theories such as framing, should they transpire in such reporting. This will be done by understanding the ownership structures of both publications, sources quoted in state capture reporting, and differentiating between state capture and white monopoly capital, which is a phrase that is used to defend the issue of the alleged state capture by the Gupta family. White monopoly capital is understood as ‘the massive firm that control the bulk of the country’s economy’ (Olifant, 2017. Introduction. Par1). (NEXUS)

Summary of Preliminary Literature Review and Theory

McQuail (2010) defines bias as ‘any tendency in a news report to deviate from an accurate, neutral, balanced and impartial representation of reality of events and social world according to stated criteria.’ He further explains that distinctions can be made between intended and unintended bias, intended bias has its roots from partisanship, advocacy and ideological standpoints if the media or sources. In contrast, unintended bias is linked to organisational and routine factors in selection and processing of news (McQuail, 2010:549). Based on this definition Rodny-Gumede (2011) argue that political bias in is underlain by political partisanship and ideological views of a particular newspaper or individual journalist. In other words she believes that political bias is an intended act by media organisations.

Furthermore, unconscious bias occurs during the process of selecting and prioritisation based on professional practices and considerations (Rodny-Gumede, 2011:148). Not only the assumptions and beliefs can influence media content, a complicated set of structural factors that make up the media institution can also make media content. Hallin and Mancini (2004:8) argue that political bias is influenced by the socio-political structures within which it operates. To support this claim, McNair (1998:82) argues that political environment defines the expected functions of a journalist in any given society (Rodny-Gumede, 2011:148).

Moreover, it is believed that internal media policy frameworks are always articulated within the limitations of the external media policy framework (Oosthuizen, 2001b:190).
The internal media policy frameworks are therefore influenced by the by particular socio-political structure of a particular country. He also state that policy is then used to indicate or determine the expected social functions of the media, and influences the internal code of conduct and the ethical guideline of the media and their content (Rodny- Gumede, 2011:148).

As far as political bias is under discussion, Hallin and Mancini (2004) explains why media in certain countries have a distinct political orientation, why media in other countries do not, the two authors uses the notion of political parallelism. Political parallelism can easily be understood as system where a certain political party is represented by a certain newspaper. I can be argued that in the recent days, political parallelism is growing. And in South Africa 2010 marked the establishment of the Gupta-owned newspaper, The New Age. The newspaper was said to be aligned and sympathetic to the ANC government (Rodny-Gumede, 2011:150). The family was reported as having political connections with President Jacob Zuma and the Finance Minister, Melusi Gigaba, as published by AmaBhungane Reporters (2013).

In the wake of Democracy, South African media enjoyed freedom (Rodny-Gumede, 2011:155). The South African constitution replaced the oppressive censorship laws under which the media had to operate under, the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression of the media (Rodny-Gumede, 2011:155). Unlike the media under the apartheid era, the current media landscape is framed with the social responsibility framework, which according to Oosthuizen (2001) put more emphasis on public interest (Rodny-Gumede, 2011:155).

McQuail (2010) defines framing as a way in which media practitioners give overall interpretation to isolated items of fact. He adds that framing in journalism occurs when a story is given meaning ‘by reference to some particular news value that connects one event with other similar one,’ (McQuail, 2010:380). Framing influences the particular journalist’s objectivity and it therefore introduce what has been discussed above as unintended bias (McQuail, 2010:380). Information provided by sources to a particular media organisation carries a built-in frame which suits the sources’ purpose and it becomes hard to be purely objective (McQuail, 2010:380).

Entman (2007) cited by McQuail (2010:380) distinguishes between content bias and decision-making bias; content bias is defined as a form of bias where news reality is framed to favour one side over the other in a conflict situation, and decision-making bias is guided by the journalist mind-set, which at the ends influences the reality in news unintentional. Furthermore, source that are chosen and the national context in which news is produced are believed to be as a result of framing (McQuail, 2010:381).

Research Methodology

This study will take a qualitative approach as it attempts to understand the South African media landscape with reference to how different media houses report on certain issues which might have some form of political influence to the organisation and its reporting. I chose qualitative research because ‘deals with the underlying qualities of subjective experiences and meanings associated with phenomena,’ (Strydom & Bezuidenhout, 2014:173). Qualitative research is mainly concerned with exploring, understanding and describing, which is in contrast to what the quantitative research aims at (Strydom & Bezuidenhout, 2014:174). Quantitative aims includes, measuring, quantifying, predicting and generalising (ibid. 2014:174).

In conducting this research my population will be made up of mainly newspaper article published in 2016 by The New Age newspaper and The Star Newspaper. I chose these two publication on the basis that they are both daily newspapers. I will be using qualitative content analysis, analyse news article about State Capture which were published by the two publications. Qualitative content analysis, which is an inductive approach which researchers can use to develop or test existing theories (Strydom & Bezuidenhout, 2014:191). In analysing the text, I will be focusing on three specific words and/or phrases; ‘state capture’, Gupta, and Zuma, and source analysis focusing on sources quoted by the two publication when reporting on state capture.

In terms of sample size I have discovered about 755 article from different publications in South Africa and narrowing it down to my two publications, I found around 90 article with either one of the words/phrases and only 16 of those article were from The New Age and over 70 articles were from The Star. To gather all these information I used Sabinet Reference.

I also planned to interview editors of the two publication and find the motive behind their coverage of state capture saga and then draw from their interviews in order to come up to a clearer conclusion on why their coverage differed if they did, and also on the difference in the number of articles published, taking into consideration the fact that both newspapers publishes daily.

Proposed Structure of Study

1. Introduction

2. Literature Review

3. Methods

4. Findings
4.1. The New Age Coverage Of State Capture
This section will discuss and give an overview of how The New Age has reported on state capture.
4.1.1. Findings

4.2. The Star Coverage Of State Capture
This section will discuss and give an overview of how The Star has reported on state capture.

4.2.1. Findings

4.3. Differences In Coverage
This section will highlight some of the differences in state capture news reports from The New Age and The Star.

4.4. Recommendations
This section will give possible recommendations based on the findings of this study.

5. Conclusion
6. Reference list

Ethical Considerations

There are no ethical considerations for the study.

Reference List

Hallin, D.C. & Mancini, P. (2004). Comparing Media Systems: Three Models of Media and Politics. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press
McQuail, D. (2010). McQuail’s Mass Communication Theory. London. Sage Publications Ltd

Olifant, N. (2017). What exactly is ‘white monopoly capital’? Mzwanele Manyi offers a definition. Times Live. Accessed from‘white-monopoly-capital’-Mzwanele-Manyi-offers-a-definition

Prinsloo, J. (2014). NKANDLAGATE: A critical textual analysis of the press coverage. Pretoria. Media Policy and Democracy Project. Accessed from

Rodny-Gumede, Y. (2011). Analysing ethics and political bias in South African news media. In Hyde-Clarke. (2011). Communication and Media Ethics in South Africa. Cape Town. Juta

Strydom, A. & Bezuidenhout, R. (2014). Qualitative data collection. In Du Plooy-Cilliers, F. Davis, C. & Bezuidenhout, R. (2014). Research Matters. Cape Town. Juta & Company Ltd

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