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Study: Americans Think Al Jazeera English is Unbiased… When It Has a CNN Logo Placed On It

A very interesting study has been posted in the journal Arab Media & Society. The study examines whether Al Jazeera English will be able to capitalize on the “CNN Moment” it saw during coverage of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.

To start, the authors asked people whether they watched AJE or its primary U.S. competitor, CNN International. Not surprisingly most people watched neither channel, as both have limited distribution in the U.S.

Respondents were assigned to one of three groups: AJE, CNNI or a control group. The AJE and CNNI groups were shown a video report that originally appeared on AJE about the Taliban and the Afghan government. The report did not mention the U.S. in any way.

For the CNNI respondents, the AJE logo was replaced with the CNNI logo, though the report remained exactly the same in all other respects. The control group was not shown any video.

What did they find?

Respondents that saw the clip with the AJE logo were far more likely to believe the clip and network were biased than those that saw the clip with the CNNI logo.

“The findings that show differential bias ratings between AJE and CNNI based on the same exact news clip suggest Americans are, on average, still unable to fairly evaluate the station,” the authors write. “Ninety-eight percent of participants had little or no exposure to the news channel, yet generally find it untrustworthy and are uninterested in watching, even after exposure to a clip that is credible enough to boost CNNI evaluations when ascribed to that network. This does not bode well for the prospects of AJE gaining a audience in the United States, while CNNI’s better evaluations likely resulted from the goodwill of CNNI’s brand. This study indicates that AJE faces a long road if it hopes to overcome the negative associations its brand suffered in the years of the George W. Bush administration.”

Check out the whole study here.

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