This study by Swiss Propaganda Research was first published in 2016, it is presented by off-guardian.org in English for the first time. Translated by Terje Maloy.
It is one of the most important aspects of our media system – and yet hardly known to the public: most of the international news coverage in Western media is provided by only three global news agencies based in New York, London and Paris.
The key role played by these agencies means that Western media often report on the same topics, even using the same wording. In addition, governments, military and intelligence services use these global news agencies as multipliers to spread their messages around the world.
A study of the Syria war coverage by nine leading European newspapers clearly illustrates these issues: 78% of all articles were based in whole or in part on agency reports, yet 0% on investigative research. Moreover, 82% of all opinion pieces and interviews were in favor of the US and NATO intervention, while propaganda was attributed exclusively to the opposite side.
Part 2 - “The Invisible Nerve Center of the Media System”
So what are the names of these news agencies that are “always at the source of the story”? There are now only three global agencies left:
- The American Associated Press (AP) with over 4000 employees worldwide. The AP belongs to US media companies and has its main editorial office in New York. AP news is used by around 12,000 international media outlets, reaching more than half of the world’s population every day.
- The quasi-governmental French Agence France-Presse (AFP) based in Paris and with around 4000 employees. The AFP sends over 3000 stories and photos every day to media all over the world.
- The British agency Reuters in London, which is privately owned and employs just over 3000 people. Reuters was acquired in 2008 by Canadian media entrepreneur Thomson – one of the 25 richest people in the world – and merged into Thomson Reuters, headquartered in New York.
In addition, many countries run their own news agencies. However, when it comes to international news, these usually rely on the three global agencies and simply copy and translate their reports.
Wolfgang Vyslozil, former managing director of the Austrian APA, described the key role of news agencies with these words:
“News agencies are rarely in the public eye. Yet they are one of the most influential and at the same time one of the least known media types. They are key institutions of substantial importance to any media system. They are the invisible nerve center that connects all parts of this system.”
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