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Framing media mergers in France and the United States
Unformatted Document Text:  Framing media mergers in France and the United States 2 owner, the connection between the coverage of media policy issues and the economic well-being of a media institution’s owner is clear. There is an intriguing disjuncture between the coverage various media outlets gave to the merger between AOL and Time Warner, billed as “the biggest merger in history” and “most mega mega-merger (sic)” creating “a colossus” 2 and data regarding the public’s reaction to the event. Evidence from public opinion surveys conducted during the month following the merger’s initial announcement on January 11 th 2000 was characterized by essentially one trend – apathy. While recognizing the methodological flaws prevalent in this type of instant newspaper polling, most polls seem to suggest that the public was not overly interested in the merger as a news event. In some cases more than 50% of the respondents expressed “indifference” or “neutrality” towards the issue. When asked about specific implications, the respondents were a bit more forthcoming, neutral attitudes falling to 40%. When these questions were framed in terms of “concern” regarding the merger, the proportion of neutral respondents (those answering “don’t know”) dwindled to almost zero. Finally, more than 50% of respondents in another poll admitted that they followed the event “not to closely” or “not at all closely”. This apparently ‘world shattering’ event had a very small audience – the public seems not to tune in to news about the news 3 . In order to understand better this discrepancy and also gain some insight into the way the media covers itself and presents events that have pertinent policy implications such as the dangers of concentration for journalistic autonomy, articles covering the event in four publications – The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Newsweek and Time – in 2 All quotes are from the New York Times: Hansell, January 11; Berenson and Carter, January 11; Rich January 15. 3 For list of survey sources see Appendix A.

Authors: Davidson, Roei.
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Framing media mergers in France and the United States
2
owner, the connection between the coverage of media policy issues and the economic
well-being of a media institution’s owner is clear.
There is an intriguing disjuncture between the coverage various media outlets gave to the
merger between AOL and Time Warner, billed as “the biggest merger in history” and
“most mega mega-merger (sic)” creating “a colossus”
2
and data regarding the public’s
reaction to the event. Evidence from public opinion surveys conducted during the month
following the merger’s initial announcement on January 11
th
2000 was characterized by
essentially one trend – apathy.
While recognizing the methodological flaws prevalent in this type of instant newspaper
polling, most polls seem to suggest that the public was not overly interested in the merger
as a news event. In some cases more than 50% of the respondents expressed
“indifference” or “neutrality” towards the issue. When asked about specific implications,
the respondents were a bit more forthcoming, neutral attitudes falling to 40%. When
these questions were framed in terms of “concern” regarding the merger, the proportion
of neutral respondents (those answering “don’t know”) dwindled to almost zero. Finally,
more than 50% of respondents in another poll admitted that they followed the event “not
to closely” or “not at all closely”. This apparently ‘world shattering’ event had a very
small audience – the public seems not to tune in to news about the news
3
.
In order to understand better this discrepancy and also gain some insight into the way the
media covers itself and presents events that have pertinent policy implications such as the
dangers of concentration for journalistic autonomy, articles covering the event in four
publications – The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Newsweek and Time – in
2
All quotes are from the New York Times: Hansell, January 11; Berenson and Carter, January 11; Rich
January 15.
3
For list of survey sources see Appendix A.


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