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High Concept or High Quality

A multimodal analysis of claims-making in conflict coverage promotional spots of Al Jazeera English and CNN International

Masterarbeit 2013 98 Seiten

Medien / Kommunikation - Journalismus, Publizistik

Leseprobe

Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: 24-hour News
2.1 CNN International
2.2 Al Jazeera English

Chapter 3: Literature Review
3.1 Television Studies
3.1.1 Semiotics
3.1.2 Social Semiotics
3.1.3 Hodge’s and Kress’s Ideological complexes
3.2 Branding and High Concept
3.2.1 Film Trailers
3.2.2 TV Promo Spots
3.2.3 High Concept
3.2.4 High Concept in Television News
3.3 Quality
3.3.1 Professional Competence
3.3.2 Moral Competence
3.4 Theoretical Framework
3.5 Research questions

Chapter 4: Methods
4.1 Multimodal Analysis
4.2 Transcription
4.2.1 The Visual Image
4.2.2 Kinesic Action
4.2.3 Voice
4.2.4 Sound
4.3 Linking Analysis
4.3.1 Verbal Linking
4.3.2 Visual Linking
4.3.3 Visual-Verbal Linking
4.4 Analysis
4.5 Pilot Study
4.6 Sample
4.7 Software
4.8 Coding Sheet

Chapter 5: Analysis
5.1 Research Question 1: How is ‘journalistic quality’ represented in conflict coverage promos of CNN International and Al Jazeera English? How do they compare?
5.2 Research Question 2: How is ‘high concept’ represented in conflict coverage promos of CNN International and Al Jazeera English? How do they compare?
5.3 Research Question 3: How do the representations of ‘journalistic quality’ and ‘high concept’ differ?
5.4 Research Question 4: How do the findings relate to the ideological complexes of CNN International and Al Jazeera English?
5.5 Additional Findings:

Chapter 6: Conclusion
6.1 Theoretical Implications
6.2 Methodological reflections
6.3 Personal Reflections

Bibliography

Additional Bibliography

Appendices
Appendix 1: Multimodal transcription sample including linking of quality claims
Appendix 2: List of videos including links
Appendix 3: Data Sheet
Appendix 4: Supervision Sheet

List of Figures/Tables

Figure 2: Multimodal transcription sample sheet including linking analysis of quality claims

Figure 3: Quality claims: implicit/explicit

Figure 4: Most frequent quality claims

Figure 5: Quality claims by mode

Figure 6: Quality linking by mode

Figure 7: Quality linking by mode

Figure 8: Professional and moral competence

Figure 9: Quality: moral competence

Figure 10: Most frequent high concept claims

Figure 11˖High concept claims by mode

Figure 12˖ High concept linking by mode

Figure 13˖High concept links by mode

Figure 14: Total claims: quality/high concept

Figure 15: Overall claims by mode

Figure 16: Total links: quality/high concept

Figure 17: Number of links

Figure 18: Total claims: quality/high concept

Figure 19˖Overall claims by mode

Figure 20˖Overall linking by mode

Table 1: Information Linking. Categories found in conflict coverage promos are grey

Table 2: Adaptations of coding sheet

Table 3: Labels and examples

Table 4: Claims per clip

Table 5: High concept links and claims per clip

Abstract// Executive Summary

Since the 1970s, commercial pressures on news media organizations have increased and as a result, television news networks have started to adapt marketing and product differentiation strategies from the Hollywood movie industry. So today, even the war and conflict coverage of 24-hour news networks is subject to heavy promotion and part of the networks’ advertising and branding campaigns. These commercial aspects of news production, however, seem to oppose concepts of journalistic quality. Conflict coverage promotion and image spots of 24-hour news networks therefore pose a great opportunity to investigate a phenomenon at the cross-roads of both commercial entertainment television and quality journalism. This study analyses claims of journalistic quality and ‘high concept’ in these spots and how they are linked to better understand the ideological complexes of CNN International and Al Jazeera English. The findings show an equal number of quality and ‘high concept’ claims with differences in the nature of the claims between the two networks. The way the claims are distributed throughout the modes of visual, voice, sound and music, as well as the way they are linked within and across modes, however, show very similar patterns. These patterns exist for quality and ‘high concept’ claims as well as for both 24-hour television news networks. The largest number of claims appears in the visual mode. The research also shows that analysing this kind of media text needs to be multimodal and that a social semiotic approach is appropriate for analysing claims-making and linking in conflict coverage promotional spots.

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Chapter 1: Introduction

Ryszard Kapuscinski once wrote about war reporters that “Our salvation is in striving to achieve what we know we’ll never achieve.”1 With these simple words, he described not only his personal motivation to travel the world in pursuit of death and destruction, but also outlined a myth about war reporting that seems to prevail even today. This myth depicts war reporting as something untouchable, idealistic and highly virtuous. It takes the genre out of the wider context of commercial news production, of various conflicting interests and is blind to the relevance of the markets. Like anything today, news is business and war reporting does not pose an exception. Several aspects of news operations today even suggest an increasing commercialization of the trade. One of these certainly is the phenomenon of heavy self-promotion and self-advertisement which does not stop short of trying to exploit and benefit from war, conflict and suffering across the world. War is a spectacle - in modern times mainly a television spectacle. Jaramillo claims that “contemporary television news has become a complicated genre because it attempts to balance serious journalism and entertaining television” (2009, p.33). Pressures come from various sides: media executives, advertisers, sources, and not least, the audience.

It is this conflict between war reporting as a moral mission and war reporting as an element of a highly competitive entertainment industry, which has fascinated me for some time now. Coming from an undergraduate degree in media economics and pursuing a post-graduate degree in war journalism, this issue is also of personal interest to me.

The phenomenon of image and promotional spots of 24-hour news networks, which has become increasingly widespread in the past years, provides a wonderful foundation to study this moral-economic conflict. Clips of this genre promote the war and conflict reporting of a specific channel in the fashion of an advertisement or movie trailer, making claims about the channel and its reporting, differentiating the advertised media product from the competition and treating televised war like any other commercial programme or product. And yet, conflict coverage promos, as promotional spots of any journalistic programme, are very unique media texts, situated at the crossroads of news journalism and advertisement. They contain a mixture of elements from a rather wide spectrum of genres and are expected as well to contain conflicting claims that can provide an insight into the broadcasters’ organisational values.

Therefore the research focus presented in this project is on the representation of journalistic quality and aspects of commercial news production referred to as “high concept” in conflict coverage image and promotional spots of the international 24- hour news networks Al Jazeera English and CNN International. The study will look into claims made in the clips and how these are connected. That will provide insights into institutional values of these news organisations, what they deem relevant aspects of good or successful war and conflict reporting. The research will furthermore provide several structural, theoretical and methodological insights into this kind of very particular media text.

To do this, this first introductory chapter is followed by short profiles of the two broadcasters, Al Jazeera English and CNN International. Chapter 3 provides a review of relevant literature, a presentation of the theoretical framework and the research questions while chapter 4 describes the methods used to answer them. The analysis of quality and high concept claims and how they are linked is done in chapter 5 and a final conclusion containing theoretical, methodological and personal reflexions summarizes the study in chapter 6.

Chapter 2: 24-hour News

While I will introduce the two relevant 24-hour news channels below, the conflicts taken into consideration for this study will not get special attention for two reasons: first, the Arab uprisings including Egypt and the intervention in Libya are rather recent events with a lot of international media attention and therefore widely known, and second, it is not the conflicts that are under scrutiny here, but the promotion of their television news coverage. A basic understanding of the two broadcasters, however, might facilitate grasping their choice of self-promotion, their set of values.

2.1 CNN International

The 24-hour Cable News Network (CNN) is available to approximately 2 billion people in more than 200 countries around the world. In the initial stages after its launch in 1980, however, the news channel could merely reach 1.7 million homes within the United States (Cushion, 2010, p.16). After expanding its domestic reach in the early 1980s, CNNs founder, Ted Turner, decided to combine the signals of the two original channels, CNN and Headline News in 1985. CNN started broadcasting on satellite to a worldwide audience and CNN International (CNNi) was born. (Cushion, 2010, p.18; Flournoy & Stewart, 1997, p.3)

According to Flournoy and Stewart “CNN built much of its reputation as a credible source for international news on the basis of its on-the-spot reporting from such locales as Tiananmen Square in Beijing in May 1989, Baghdad under siege in January 1991, and the Parliament Building in Moscow in August 1991 (1997, p.7). Here, especially the case of Iraq is interesting, as CNN managed to produce exclusive, live images of the early stages of the conflict, putting not just the station, but 24-hour news as a whole, into the global limelight. This was possible because “CNN journalists had built up diplomatic ties with the Iraqi regime” (Cushion, 2010, p.18-19). Today, Turner Broadcasting claims CNN to be one of the world’s most recognized brands, a long way from being dubbed the “Chicken Noodle News” as in its early years.

At CNN, there is a great awareness that information is a commodity and news a business, with television’s purpose being the delivery of news (Küng-Shankleman, 2000, p.156). A CNN mission statement quoted by Küng-Shankleman (2000) further elaborates this: “Our mission is to cover the biggest stories in the globe, in a way that people want to watch them.” (p.155) CNN’s style is fast, immediate, entertaining and live (p.151-153). But in today’s world, with CNN standing amongst a multitude of 24- hour news channels from around the world, it has to “operate in a very crowded and highly competitive marketplace” (Cushion, 2010, p.23). As a result, CNN regionalised its programming in 1997, creating separate feeds for different regions and several local-language as well as online services2.

CNN is part of the Turner Broadcasting system, which, in turn is a subsidiary of Time Warner Incorporated, a publicly traded media conglomerate and one of the world’s largest. Institutional shareholders include some of the largest financial institutions including JPMorgan Chase and asset management funds such as Wellington Management3. This suggests that the commercial network not only faces influence, possibly including editorial pressure, from advertisers, but more indirectly also from shareholders.

“CNN is not an organisation which places great emphasis on producing public statements of its strategies, goals and philosophies, preferring to leave such activities to its parent. In fact, the most succinct and accessible source of such information is its oft-repeated programme trailers.” (Küng-Shankleman, 2000, p.117) Therefore, analysing the claims in image and promo spots can lead to insights into the broadcaster’s mission and strategy, into parts of their organisational values.

2.2 Al Jazeera English

Today, one of CNN International’s strongest competitors is Al Jazeera, the name of which translates into “The Island”. While most of the programming is in Arabic, their English-language Al Jazeera English, caters to a global audience. The establishment of the Doha-based network in 1996 came as a result of the BBC’s failure to create an independent news channel on the Arabian Peninsula and a US $150 million grant from the Emir of Qatar (Aris, Geara & Johansen, 2010, p.2). Five years later came the time in the spotlights for Al Jazeera, when according to Cushion (2010) “it gained exclusive coverage of the first few weeks of the war in Afghanistan” and “video messages sent from Al-Qaeda members, most notably Osama Bin Laden” (p.22). The situation is reminiscent of CNN’s Gulf War success.

The Al Jazeera Media Network originally broadcast only in Arabic, but ten years later, in 2006, launched the English-language Al Jazeera English (AJE) as an international channel operated mostly by Western professionals (Cushion, 2010, p.3). In January 2013 and with a reach of 260 million households worldwide, the network announced the acquisition of cable operator Current TV and plans to create a separate Al Jazeera America4 which will stand in direct competition with the likes of CNN (domestic), Fox News Channel and MSNBC.

Al Jazeera does not have a strong dependence on advertisers and their commercial interests (Aris, Geara & Johansen, 2010, p.8). The strong financial backing by the Emir of Qatar, does, however, create a sphere of political influence. This could have an impact on future programming, especially considering the intervention in Libya was the first foreign military intervention with Qatari participation.

Chapter 3: Literature Review

3.1 Television Studies

In order to place this research project within a wider field and larger academic context, I will discuss the related concepts starting with the very general field of television studies and then narrow the debate down to the more directly related issues.

Studying television has been traditionally inter-disciplinary and has undergone several shifts of focus over the past decades. After Horkheimer and Adorno’s ‘Frankfurt School’ the field became rather quantitative and, eventually, through a “breakdown in the conventional boundaries that once existed between the arts and social sciences”(Creeber, 2006, p.2-5) found back to its qualitative roots. The approach relevant for this study is found in the contemporary television studies category of ‘textual analysis’ which analyses, mostly in qualitative terms, form, content and representation in television programmes (p.6). The different approaches to textual analysis, furthermore, are divided into the structuralist and post-structuralist traditions. Semiotics is seen as structuralist, social semiotics on the other hand as belonging to the post-structuralist school. I want to discuss the differences between them, so that an evaluation of frameworks can be done at the end of the literature review.

3.1.1 Semiotics

Saussure (1974) defines semiotics as “the science of the life of signs in society”(quoted in Hodge & Kress, 1988, p.1). It “offers the promise of a systematic, comprehensive and coherent study of communications” (Hodge & Kress, 1988, p.1), not just for media or television texts but for meaning making as a whole, in arts, literature or culture. Semiotics analyses meaning through signs, as these are the elements communicating meaning (Bignell, 2002, p.1). The signs analysed by semioticians consist of the ‘signifier’, or what we see, and the ‘signified’, the concept of meaning that we associate with perceived signifiers. There are ‘symbolic’ signs, specified by their arbitrariness, signs in which the signifier reflects in part the referent, so-called ‘iconic’ signs, and ‘indexical’ signs, characterised by a causal relationship to the signified (p.15).

Signs do have both, a denotative and a connotative meaning and are grouped into systems of codes. The combination of denotation, a labelling meaning, and connotation, a wider implied conceptual meaning, creates the ‘myth’.

Semiotics, just as qualitative analysis more generally, “can be defined as speculative in nature, allowing room for personal interpretation, theoretical issues and subjective conjecture in its investigation of culture” (Creeber, 2006, p.4). Semioticians, however, respond to this criticism arguing that coding systems as well as systems of signs are universal and pre-exist in society. Messages, furthermore, are attached to the texts themselves. (Hodge & Kress, 1988, p.12; Bignell, 2002, p.7-16) They would argue that myth, on the other hand, shapes the sign so that only a partial meaning remains, suggesting to read the sign in one certain way as opposed to any other (Hodge & Kress, 1988, p.22).

Semiotics is sometimes called a ‘semi-scientific’ approach and has passionate followers as it does fierce opponents. Over the years, the discipline has evolved and brought about the creation of sub-disciplines, different streams of approaches to semiotics in a range of research fields. One such research tradition that has evolved from traditional semiotics is social semiotics.

3.1.2 Social Semiotics

Though a continuation of semiotics, there are a few key differences between the traditional school of semiotics and the post-structuralist stream of social semiotics. Hodge and Kress (1988) argue that a central part of the critique of traditional semiotics was that “the social dimensions of semiotic systems are so intrinsic to their nature and function that the systems cannot be studied in isolation” (p.1). Therefore, and as the name suggests, in social semiotics there is a focus on the social. Meaning is no longer fixed to the text, but rather exists in plurality within the text and is ultimately subject to interpretation based on social values (Creeber, 2006, p.28). Codes are renamed ‘resource’ to emphasize the semiotic potential, their potential for meaning making, rather than the meaning itself (Van Leeuwen, 2005, p.3-4). Iedema

(2001) argues that while signs present analytical categories, texts are social categories.

It is important to note that social semiotics sees texts as the “material realization of systems of signs” and therefore also “the site where change continually takes place” (Hodge & Kress, 1988, p.6). Texts are influenced by discourse, which is seen as an engagement of social organisation and systems of signs, the combination of both ultimately influencing meaning and values of culture (p.6). By focusing on texts therefore, social semiotics can analyse how certain social values are promoted over others (p.187).

Van Leeuwen (2005) however argues that “there can be no ‘how’ without a ‘what’” (p.93) - in order to analyse how social values are promoted, social semiotics also needs to take a look at which social values are promoted (and which are not). Another key difference concerns modality and the question ‘As how true is something represented?’ Social semiotics defines language as being multimodal, with all aspects of communication holding modality resources (Van Leeuwen, 2005, p.160, 165). A multimodal approach offers new possibilities, but by making the approach more complete, certainly does not facilitate it. “Kress and Van Leeuwen (1996, 2001) have been influential in showing how meanings are produced not only through different modes, but also through their interaction and intersection with each other.” (Maier, 2009, p.163) This does not only strengthen the argument for language as multimodal, but also requires ways to analyse this integration and interaction. These tools will be discussed in the ‘Methods’ chapter.

3.1.3 Hodge’s and Kress’s Ideological complexes

Hodge and Kress (1988) state that in contemporary societies there are great inequalities and structures of domination, and that

“ In order to sustain these structures of domination the dominant groups attempt to represent the world in forms that reflect their own interests, the interests of their power. But they also need to sustain the bonds of solidarity that are the condition of their dominance. ” (p.3)

It is this duality that brings about the use of ideology and ideological complexes. They consist of seemingly opposing or contradicting claims of truth about the world which are related in their function and purpose (p.3). In the case of this research, these two contradicting claims of truth are journalistic quality and economic interests of the broadcasters.

Ideological complexes, however cannot function by themselves, they need social rules for production and reception of meaning, so-called logonomic systems. Rules concerning production are termed ‘production regimes’, as opposed to ‘reception regimes’ and are most visible in legislation, etiquette or industrial relations (Hodge & Kress, 1988, p.3-4). The production regime can be divided into the two opposing claims mentioned earlier, which in the case of researching conflict coverage promo spots form solidarity with the viewer - a solidarity complex - and a direct, target-driven approach, or interest complex. The solidarity complex is needed to achieve the goals more openly defined through the interest complex. Both claims, though superficially contradictory or opposing, eventually pursue the same goal.

Different professional and social groups, media channels or formats can make use of various logonomic systems. These are also present in the media industry and media companies where they can be explicit in the form of editorial guidelines, style manuals such as that of AP, and others. A clear division, or clear separation of elements into these two aspects of production regimes found in ideological complexes, however, is not always easy. Though grounded in theory, the classification does hold a strong interpretative element.

3.2 Branding and High Concept

Before taking a closer look at television news promotional spots, it is important to understand their origin, which is to be found in the promotion of movies and advertisements more generally.

3.2.1 Film Trailers

Kernan (2004) defines a movie trailer as “a brief film text that usually displays images from a specific feature film while asserting its excellence, and that is created for the purpose of projecting in theatres to promote a film’s theatrical release” (p.1). Maier (2009) adds that “parts of texts created for other purposes are transferred, rearranged and supplemented in order to attain a promotional purpose” (p.159). Most trailers include an introduction or conclusion, selected scenes from the film, a way of identifying the main characters, as well as a male narrator. These elements can also be identified in conflict coverage promotional spots of 24-hour news channels. Furthermore, and due to their semiotic density, trailers make up the core of movie promotional campaigns (p.7-15) and are among the “most overtly persuasive texts of the film industry” (p.37). Trailers are a form of advertising, and, as Williamson argues, the most important function of advertisements is to differentiate the promoted product from competing ones (quoted in Bignell, 2002, p.36). The trailer, however, is also fulfilling functions of branding (for the film or the studio). And just as the main function of advertising is product differentiation, the mission of branding is brand differentiation. Movie trailers used to be exclusively presented in theatres, but today are prominently featured on television and the internet as well.

3.2.2 TV Promo Spots

But it is not only movies that need promotion. Commercial television broadcasters are reliant on advertising revenue in a highly competitive market. Their success in attracting viewers and advertisers depends on how well they differentiate themselves from the competition (Jaramillo, 2009, p.33). According to Andersen (1995) one of the strategies used by broadcasters in this increasingly competitive setting is “aggressive self-advertisement” through promotional spots (p.41).

Promotional spots on TV can be compared to cinematic trailers though the setting is different. They are broadcast on the small screen as opposed to the big, but both are short promotional texts of a larger media text shown within the same medium and pursuing the goal of product or brand differentiation. Promo spots today not only promote fictional and entertainment programmes, but also the respective news programmes and news networks. CNN has used promotional spots as early as 19915.

TV promo spots of news channels, either advertise a specific programme, a journalist (e.g. a foreign correspondent), a beat (e.g. the coverage of the war in Afghanistan), or the channel’s operations in general. Non-programme -specific spots prominently featured on CNN and other 24-hour news networks are often referred to as ‘image spots’ and do not advertise a particular product or service, but rather work towards branding.

Maier's (2009) claim about film trailers (p.159) mentioned earlier can be applied to television news promos just as much. They consist of excerpts from relevant programmes which are rearranged and supplemented by additional material shot for the purpose of promotion. News promos are a special type of promotional text, however, because they are located at the crossroads of advertisement and news. While advertising “is defined by its function of selling products or services […] the genre of news is defined by its function of providing information about recent events of public interest” (Van Leeuwen, 2005, p.123). According to Lippman, Boorstin and Geller, conflict between the role of the media and commercial pressures have been researched since the early days of media studies, while the distinction of news and promotional content continuously diminished (quoted in Buchman, 2000, p.1). In the case of TV news promo spots, this barrier has fallen completely. They consist of elements of news, but also advertise news and form a ‘lead-in’ and ‘lead-out’ transition between news programmes and advertising content - further blurring the two.

3.2.3 High Concept

Jaramillo (2009)argues that “within the coverage of the war [in Iraq], promotional advertisements at CNN and Fox News Channel communicated an ‘image’ in much the same way that ad campaigns for high-concept films do” (p.179).

The exact origin of the term ‘high concept’ is unclear, but is most likely related to changing film marketing techniques in Hollywood in the 1970s. It describes a “product differentiated through the emphasis on style in production and through the integration of the film with its marketing” (Wyatt, 1994, p.109-110, 20). High Concept requires simplified characters and narrative, correlation of image and soundtrack and a ‘high-tech’ visual style to increase the films marketability (p.15-16). These specifications suggest that most high budget Hollywood blockbuster movies and many television shows do follow the principles of high concept. As media productions on this scale bring about substantial economic risks and the need for a strong form of product differentiation, economic and marketing concerns are central to high concept films. These include a strong emphasis on the visual form of marketability through cinematic trailers and television spots (p.19, 23). It is important to note that the ‘high- tech’ visual style typical for high concept changes over time, just as technology advances and popular culture undergoes transitions. This becomes apparent when looking at Hollywood movies from different decades or more relevant to this study, conflict coverage promos aired by CNN during the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 military intervention in Libya.

Critics point to the single sentence pitches, remakes and combinations of successful films common in high concept to dismiss the creative quality and stress their focus on economic success (p.13-14).Some go so far as to say that sophisticated promotions are used for unsophisticated products (Jaramillo, 2009, p.26). According to Wyatt (1994), film executives have even ceased using the term, while film critics refer to high concept to describe movies they don’t like (p.15). The phenomenon at the core of high concept, however, remains relevant and does so beyond the boundaries of the movie theatre as we will see.

3.2.4 High Concept in Television News

The rise of high concept goes hand in hand with the conglomeration of media companies. When the break-up of the powerful Hollywood studio system was reverted through continuous deregulation in the 1980s and 1990s, hundreds of media related company mergers took place every year (Jaramillo, 2009, p. 29). The separation of media production and distribution as well as that of television and cinema ended. Jaramillo (2009) claims that this conglomeration of media corporations has led to a “multifaceted mode of newsmaking that borrows its marketing strategies from high-concept Hollywood films” (p.22) and in the course has “moved the news away from public service and toward profit- and entertainment-oriented programming” (p.31-32). News programmes based on entertainment values, infotainment as well as the use of celebrities and celebrity reporters more specifically are part of the marketability of news programmes and therefore characteristic of a high concept media industry. Another aspect of high concept in television news is the simplification of the story into a marketable concept as already discussed in relation to Hollywood movies. A complex story, or in the case of news, a complex matter is simplified to a level where it can be described in a single-sentence pitch - the division into ‘good’ and ‘evil’, for example. Analysis, background, context and nuance are lost at the expense of marketability and the pursued economic interests. The recreation and re-invention of previous media texts as referents that is common in high concept movies, is therefore also relevant for television news. One example, intentionally exaggerated to clarify this thought, would be to refer to the Iraq war as ‘Afghanistan without mountains’.

More specifically related to this study, the relevancy of promotional spots originates in their location at the crossroads between news and advertising. These two categories, traditionally are strictly separated. Television promo spots, however, do not only combine contents and stylistic elements of both, news and advertisements, but also form a temporal buffer in the programming between the two. Image and promotional spots, no matter if of conflict reporting or other kinds of programming, are usually found before and after advertisement breaks. They therefore create a lead-in and lead-out between what seems to be a solidarity complex on one hand and an interest complex on the other.

Promotional spots are dense television texts loaded with claims about possibly conflicting versions of reality and have to satisfy both, an institutional self-interest and solidarity with the consumer. I therefore expect a strong and visible conflict between the two opposing production regimes forming CNN’s and Al Jazeera’s respective ideological complexes in promotional spots of their conflict coverage. The findings will be able to tell us more about CNN and other commercial 24-hour news networks institutional values. To analyse these ideological complexes, it is not only necessary to take a close look at the representation of high concept, but also at claims and representation of journalistic quality.

3.3 Quality

To answer the question ‘What is quality journalism?’ seems impossible by scientific means. Answers would be highly subjective and not bring about consent, but rather tendencies of quality perceptions in different social groups. Essential to this project, however, are claims and representations of quality characteristics, not a measureable concept of journalistic quality. What I offer, therefore, is not a definition of journalistic quality, but rather an overview of the topics and issues commonly referred to in debates about quality journalism and war reporting.

Based on the discussions of Klaidman and Beauchamp (1987), Charles and Stewart (2011), Atkins (2002) and Zaller (1999), I put the discussion of journalistic quality in the two categories of (1) professional competence, and (2) moral competence.

3.3.1 Professional Competence

Professional competence consists of concepts such as production skills, context and immediacy. Klaidman & Beauchamp (1987) as well as Atkins (2002) put emphasis on context and immediacy, as do other academic debates. The professional discussions are more centred on production skills. Machin & Niblock (2006) argue that “proficiency in communication is essential for accuracy and ease of reading” (p.137), but expand the concept to the visual. White (2005) extends on this and suggests that lively stories need “good pictures, interesting sound bites, and a well-written script”(p.257). There is an on-going debate on whether text or images are more important, but ultimately television news needs both. Production skills on an institutional level are part of the production value. “Production value is a term employed by media professionals as one visible, manifest marker of program quality, often associated with technical aspects of content” (Cummins & Chambers, 2011, p.738). It is a combination of skill and available funds and though it is not defined in its particulars, Cummins and Chambers (2011) argue that in their research, “viewers were able to detect variations in production value” (p.746). Considering, however, that CNN International and Al Jazeera English operate at the highest level of news production, certainly in technical terms, I intentionally excluded production values from the list of professional competence quality concepts used in the analysis.

3.3.2 Moral Competence

Dimensions of moral competence can be divided into aspects of fairness, accuracy and idealism and consist of such heavily debated issues as objectivity, balance, completeness and empathy. Most interestingly, objectivity, which is still seen as substantial to journalistic professionalism by many, “has become the target of unremitting attack by academic critics of news and journalism” to a point where a consensus against the idea of objectivity has been reached (Charles & Stewart, 2011, p.19). Martin Bell of the BBC and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour support this academic perspective and suggest that objectivity eventually results in neutrality between good and evil (p.25). Even war reporting legend Ryszard Kapuscinski, if not explicitly, dismisses objectivity by promoting empathy and solidarity. In an interview he claimed “Empathy is perhaps the most important quality for a foreign correspondent. If you have it, other deficiencies are forgivable; if you don’t, nothing much can help” (Atkins, 2002, p.219-221). The debate about objectivity seems to feature prominently especially in the field of war reporting, where the opposites of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ can be far apart and have an impact on a relatively large number of people. Less contested, but unclear in evaluation is completeness. Klaidman and Beauchamp (1987) suggest looking at completeness on a scale from ‘no truth’ to ‘the whole truth’ and aspiring to achieve ‘substantial completeness’, a degree at which a targeted reader’s desire for information is satisfied (p.35). Similar and sometimes overlapping with ‘completeness’ is the concept of ‘understanding’, about which Gjelten in a war reporting context states that good journalism has to “put developments into a historical and political context and identify root causes of conflicts” (1998). Rules of fairness, such as balance and impartiality, should be in place to balance opposing claims and conflicting interests (Klaidman & Beauchamp, 1987, p.21). Accuracy, on the other hand, suggests reporting only information that can be sufficiently proven (p.50). The problem, generally, with academic or professional discussions on moral aspects of journalistic quality is that there are not many areas of consent and many concepts either lack a clear definition or an accepted way of measuring their occurrence. This discussion of qualitative aspects of journalism therefore barely touches the tip of the iceberg. It is, however, merely intended to illustrate some of the concepts involved, so that they can be identified and put into the context of high concept and TV promos of war and conflict reporting.

This is important, as high concept and the commercial pressures that provoke it potentially have an impact on the professional and moral competence of journalism. High concept also suggests the production and broadcasting of the kind of promo spots that are analysed in this study. These do not only use high concept techniques, but also have their origin in high concept. Therefore, and because quality claims in TV news can be used to pursue the goals of high concept, I would argue that both, implicit and explicit mentions thereof are prominently featured in promo spots alongside cues of high concept.

3.4 Theoretical Framework

Before discussing and evaluating different models to study multimodal texts, it is important to define the specific requirements to such a framework. It needs to enable me to:

(1) Identify representations of social values (claims of journalistic quality and features of high concept) in all modes of communication;
(2) Describe how claims and features are supplemented (strengthened or weakened) in the remaining modes and through time; and
(3) Analyse the two production regimes “quality” and “high concept” to make conclusions about CNN and Al Jazeera’s ideological complexes.

Based on the first of these three requirements, the framework needs to be based on a social semiotic approach, as it is multimodal in nature and does not exclude any modes and furthermore is, as mentioned before, suitable to analyse representations of social values. The second requirement, that of analysing how claims and features are supplemented across modes and through time, suggests that a way of analysing information linking is necessary. Ultimately, and based on the third requirement pointed out, the analysis needs to enable me to relate the findings to a bigger context, which can be achieved by using the social semiotic concept of ideological complexes and production regimes.

Multimodal frameworks in a social semiotic context have been employed for similar studies. Most relevant to this project, are Carmen Daniela Maier’s “Visual evaluation in film trailers” (2009) and Rick Iedema’s (2001) “Analysing Film and Television: a Social Semiotic Account of Hospital: an Unhealthy Business”. Maier (2009) follows the question of “how the persuasive purpose of film trailers is attained through specific visual features” (p.159), but does so by extending her research design to all modes and conducting a multimodal analysis. The conceptualization of film trailers in Maier’s research finds relevance in this study as there are many similarities between film trailers and television promo spots.

Her work shows a strong focus on how persuasion is created, almost ignoring what it consists of. It does however imply the objective, which is to make sure “the viewer is continually assured that the film is worth seeing” (p.175). The framework consists of a complex mix of a multimodal approach and narrative theory. This allows Maier to investigate how the promotional purpose of the visual is supported or subverted by other modes. The findings show that the “visual evaluative meanings of the shots can be strengthened or subverted by evaluation provided by non-diegetic voice-over comments or by off-screen words uttered by characters that precede, accompany or follow those shots” (p.175). Maier’s research extends this notion to other evaluative means in the aural mode, sound effects and music for example.

Though it is not explicitly stated, the study does provide findings which point towards elements of high concept in the 12 comedy film trailers analysed.

“ Certainly, there are also clusters of evaluative devices which are meant ‘ to universalize ’ both the story and the characters by referring directly or indirectly either to the diegetic world of similar films or to the non-diegetic world of the viewers. ” (p.174)

Furthermore, the analysis of visual communication elements, such as distance, camera angle, movement, titles and visual effects, does include features of high concept. Maier’s most striking finding, however, is a “recurrent pattern of semantic relationships” which present “complex means of expanding the evaluative potential of the trailers as a whole” (p.175). Unfortunately she does not provide proof beyond some examples and does not discuss these patterns in more detail.

Iedema’s (2001) “Analysing Film and Television: a Social Semiotic Account of Hospital: an Unhealthy Business”, on the other hand, looks at how a particular documentary film represents the stakeholders and “how the filmic mode has been exploited to serve specific interests” (p.199-200). The stakeholders are separated into two groups, the first of which consists of patients and medical professionals, the second of managers and administrative personnel. The multimodal approach here uses what Iedema calls the “six levels of analysis” (p.188), a division of the text into six temporal filmic units from the single frame to the whole film. The other aspects of the study’s multimodal framework Halliday’s three metafunctions of meaning-making - ‘representation’, ‘orientation’ and ‘organization’ (p.191) and the interpretative principle of redundancy. Iedema claims that the latter enables the making of inferences about specific creative choices by looking at how patterns strengthen each other (p.201).

A multimodal transcription of the documentary film produced a transcript divided into the categories “Step in the argument”, “Scene”, “Visuals”, and “Relevant talk” (p.196), which was then summarized in an analysis of the three metafunctions divided into three, rather than the mentioned six temporal units. The transcript does not seem to follow a standardized method and therefore appears more like an interpretation, rather than a systematic step Iedema states the particular framework made the analysis “quite technical” (p.200). The goal of the study, though, was to show the importance of social semiotics and multimodality and present a functioning approach to analyse the representation of social values. He did find a difference in stylistic representation between operational medical and administrative managerial staff. These differences are presented also in the analysis summary described earlier, but seem generalized and little proof is given for the interpretative decisions.

Thematically, Deborah L. Jaramillo’s (2009) “Ugly war, pretty package” comes closest to this project’s research focus. The book analyses how CNN and Fox News Channel positioned and marketed the 2003 Iraq War coverage in relation to high concept. Instead of choosing a social semiotic, multimodal approach to analyse audio-visual texts as the previous two studies, Jaramillo makes use of critical theory and elements of film studies. Most importantly, however, she adapts Wyatt’s (1994) work on high concept movies to television news, more specifically to war and conflict reporting on 24-hour news channels.

Even though Jaramillo argues that not all news formats or themes are suitable for high concept, she claims that in regards to the Iraq war coverage, both, CNN and Fox News Channel committed to high concept through visual, aural, narrative and other means (p.210-211). Furthermore, she comes to the conclusion that the marketable concept of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was in fact provided by the Pentagon (p.201). The war’s marketable concept, was centred around “the assumptions that Saddam Hussein was connected to Al-Qaeda and was harbouring weapons of mass destruction” (p.42). The two main structural limitations faced by the two news networks enabling high concept to prevail in television news are identified as limited resources and censorship efforts (both direct and indirect) by the Department of Defense. Interestingly, Jaramillo extends high concept from the coverage also to the promotion of the Iraq war’s reporting. News programming was high concept, because it followed a simplified government narrative without controversy or context, and instead incorporated entertainment, visuals and constructed stories for an increased marketability. Promotional spots, however, contained high concept “by incorporating the style of advertisements” (p.20).

Most relevant for this study, however, are not necessarily the framework and findings, but instead the application of high concept to television news and war and conflict reporting more specifically. Jaramillo shows that high concept is a model that is relevant beyond the confines of Hollywood blockbuster movies and is applicable to analyse conflict coverage promotional spots on 24-hour news channels.

3.5 Research questions

Based on my interest in the promotion of conflict coverage and the academic discourse laid out in this chapter, I did form the following four research questions to be at the core of this project.

RQ1: How is ‘journalistic quality’ represented in conflict coverage promos of CNN International and Al Jazeera English? How do they compare?

RQ2: How is ‘high concept’ represented in conflict coverage promos of CNN International and Al Jazeera English? How do they compare?

RQ3: How do the representations of ‘journalistic quality’ and ‘high concept’ differ?

RQ4: How do the findings relate to the ideological complexes of CNN International and Al Jazeera English?

Chapter 4: Methods

4.1 Multimodal Analysis

Based on the research questions formulated in the previous chapter, this study is done using a multimodal analysis. The importance of multimodal analysis is summarized by Bezemer and Jewitt (2006) in their three theoretical assumptions about social semiotics and multimodality. They argue that: (1) representation and communication in social semiotics is always multimodal, (2) all modes of communication are shaped by cultural, historical and social use, and (3) meaning in any one mode is connected to meaning made in other modes (p.183-184).

The importance of the concept of multimodality to television programmes should be apparent from the basic technical specifications of the medium, which combines the possibility to transmit visual as well as aural messages. Marie-Laure Ryan argues that “verbal language is the native tongue of narrative, its proper semiotic support”, but adds that there are relevant meanings which are better transmitted in other modes (quoted in Tomaščíková, 2010, p.259). The interrelation of modes can be seen also in technical terms. Sound, for example, is described in relation to the corresponding images as on- or off-screen (Jaramillo, 2009, p.148). Just to what extent meaning could get lost when one mode gets singled out for analysis will become clear in the presentation of the analysis found in the next chapter.

While multimodality “is first of all a term for a phenomenon rather than a theory or method” (Van Leeuwen, 2011, p.551), the tools necessary to investigate the phenomenon do exist. Van Leeuwen argues that multimodality, therefore, “is also a term for a particular set of theoretical concepts and analytical practises, aimed at understanding how a variety of communicative resources is used in multimodal communication” (2011, p.551).

The biggest challenges to multimodal analysis are the rather technical analysis and a strong interpretative component, both of which though, ultimately enable the deconstruction of editorial and camera strategies, images and sounds to unlock “a whole universe of meanings” (Iedema, 2001, p.200-202). The multimodal approach to social semiotics is not fully developed and has limitations in terms of sample size, process and embedding. Bezemer and Jewitt (2010) point out some of these: theory, standards of transcription and analysis are not fully developed; the analysis of different modes poses the risk of losing detail and nuance in the analysis of each mode individually; and the scale raises questions about how the analysis of such a small sample can speak about a larger population (p.194). At the same time, however, social semiotics does provide tools “to understand and manipulate what might otherwise remain at the level of vague suspicion and intuitive response (Iedema, 2001, p.200).

When taking into consideration the specific research area, the need for a multimodal analysis becomes even more obvious. “TV advertisements are a well-known example of a contemporary text in which language, whether written or spoken or both, will invariably not be the only source of meaning” (Baldry & Thibault, 2006, p.17-20). Television promo spots, however, cannot simply be seen as advertisements, but as highly compressed promotional texts also include many characteristics of film trailers. Maier (2009) claims about film trailers’ multimodality that:

“ No single semiotic mode is supposed to carry the whole or only evaluative information of a shot or scene. Visual, verbal and aural evaluative devices are co-deployed to maintain or subvert each other ’ s evaluative load both on the diegetic and non-diegetic levels. ” (p.172)

The distinction between diegetic and non-diegetic levels or elements here is found in the relation elements of a scene have to each other. A voice-over, for example is non- diegetic, as the source of the sound is not naturally hosted in the visual scene. At the same time a voice what we can identify as interacting with the characters visible on screen, but the origin of which is off screen is diegetic, as we can make the association, that the speaker or sound source is placed in the same natural environment.

Taking into account this discussion of multimodality and its relevance to the research area, there really is no suitable alternative to conducting a multimodal analysis. The two main steps for a multimodal analysis are the transcription and the analysis, in this case linking analysis. Both are explained in detail below.

4.2 Transcription

Multimodal transcription tries to “reveal the multimodal basis of a text’s meaning in a systematic rather than an ad hoc way” (Baldry & Thibault, 2006, p.21).There are different approaches to multimodal transcription of video, but gaze, gesture, movement, body posture, image and speech are common descriptive dimensions (Bezemer & Jewitt, 2010, p.187). It is important to note furthermore that the transcription includes both, systematic as well as interpretative elements.

For the task of analysing television promo spots of CNNi and Al Jazeera English, I adapted Baldry and Thibault’s transcription model (2006) and made project specific adjustments. The particular model was chosen over others, because it is widely used in different areas of multimodal research and due to its structure provides a simple and effective way of adjusting it to specific research requirements.

The modes taken into consideration are: (1) the visual image, (2) voice, and (3) sound. The smallest and common unit of transcription is the shot. An interpretation of relevant quality or high concept cues is done per mode, per shot. As compared to Baldry and Thibault’s model, I have separated soundtrack into voice and sound and expanded the interpretational element to enable interpretation for each mode separately and in every single shot. This decision was taken in connection to the requirements for a linking analysis. Not all aspects of analysis used in the mentioned approach to multimodal transcription have been included. Instead, project specific tools have been added to enable the analysis of quality and high concept in the very particular format of television news promotional spots. The process of arriving at the final categories involved first watching several of the spots repeatedly and trying to apply the listed tools, and finally a pilot study which consisted of a multimodal transcription and linking analysis of one conflict coverage spot - the CNNi Libya Uprising Image Spot #2A. The tools will be discussed according to the respective mode of appearance below.

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Figure 1: Multimodal transcription sample sheet including linking analysis of quality claims

The tools below were the first step in adjusting Baldry and Thibault’s transcription model (2006), then followed by another adaptation after the pilot study.

4.2.1 The Visual Image

The visual image will be transcribed in terms of style, spatial relations, gaze, composition, clothes, iconic referents and celebrity reporters.

The following are tools adopted from Baldry and Thibault (2006, p.193-202):

Style includes categories of visual salience (‘VS’), colour (‘CR’), and coding orientation (‘CO’), the latter of which describes the realism of the image (naturalistic, sensual and hyperreal). The differentiation here is done through visual special effects such as titles, animations, graphics and other elements which are not naturally occurring in the filming environment.

Spatial relations are analysed through the following categories:

- camera position (‘CP’ - stationary, panning, dolly, sagittal/tilting, forwards or backwards): here, the possibility of using a handheld camera, which is quite common in conflict reporting, was included as an additional parameter.
- horizontal perspectives [of the camera] (‘HP’ - direct or oblique)
- vertical perspective [of the camera] (‘VP’ - high, median or low)
- distance [between viewer and object] (‘D’ - very close to very long: VCS, CS, MCS, MLS, LS or VLS)
- Gaze is described by visual focus (‘VF’) and measured through direction (participant, aspect of self, viewer, off) and distance (close, median, far).

The relevance of these categories and their interpretational component vary. Taking distance as an example, “the close-up shot [VCS or CS] can be considered a strong evaluative device in itself because the closer the camera comes to the character, the more subjective the shot appears to be” (Maier, 2009, p.168) and when put in combination with a voice over, the evaluative effect of both is enhanced (p.169).

In addition to these multimodal transcription tools for the visual image suggested by Baldry and Thibault (2006, p.193-202), I have added the categories composition, clothes, iconic referents and celebrity reporter to facilitate detection and interpretation of high concept. Composition in this circumstance describes the placement of the relevant person or object on the left, right, or centre, a distinction in meaning made “throughout history and across different cultures” (Van Leeuwen, 2005, p.201). Simply put, left is given, right is new, the centre can act as mediation between objects in proximity (Van Leeuwen, 2011, p.554-557). Clothes points out special outfits of the persons of interest, mostly the reporters. As iconic referents, I describe elements “which are meant ‘to universalize’ both the story and the characters by referring directly or indirectly either to the diegetic world of similar films or to the non-diegetic world of the viewers” (Maier,2009, p.174). Celebrity reporter, at last, describes if and how a well-known reporter is placed in the shot.

4.2.2 Kinesic Action

Kinesic action is transcribed in terms of movement and posture, a description of what is happening in the shot.

4.2.3 Voice

Based on Baldry and Thibault’s (2006) model, I would transcribe spoken and written text and mark it in terms of type, loudness and tempo. Types include voice over, onscreen, off-screen and titles, with additional specification of male or female speaker. Titles receive special attention, because what Maier (2009) says about captions in film trailers can just as much be applied to titles in television promo spots. She argues that “the information provided through captions in film trailers is both diegetic and nondiegetic due to the promotional purpose of film trailers” (p.166).

4.2.4 Sound

Similar to the category of voice, sound includes music, atmospheric sounds, sound effects and silence. Both aural modes are transcribed in terms of tempo (slow, median, fast or S, M, F) and loudness (very soft - very loud: pp, p, n, f, ff) as suggested by Baldry and Thibault (2006, p.218).

A more general, but useful observation made by Maier (2009) is that when emphasis is put on voice over narration, the rhetoric of the story is the dominant element, while when emphasis is on the cast, the story characterizations are dominant (p.56).

The tools described here should enable a systematic transcription of densely packed multimodal texts and be the prerequisite for a linking analysis.

4.3 Linking Analysis

The second step of the multimodal analysis applied for this research project is the linking analysis.

“ In what Marayuma (ibid.: 29) calls ‘ contextual information ’ [ … ] the value of information lies in its relation to its context: information can only be interpreted in the context of other pieces of information and of specific communicative interests and purposes ” (Van Leeuwen, 2005, p.219)

Van Leeuwen (2005) therefore describes how items of information are meaningfully linked across modes (p.219) and presents a framework to investigate this phenomenon - linking analysis. The approach includes verbal linking, visual linking (both information linking within a mode), and visual-verbal linking , or linking across modes. Van Leeuwen (2005) argues that

“ A given item of information can either elaborate of extend the information presented in other items of information. In the case of elaboration, it repeats or restates information for purposes of clarification. In the case of extension, it adds new information, linking it to the existing information in a particular way - for example, temporally, or logically ” (p.222).

These two basic functions are divided into a number of subtypes according to the mode of linking.

Table 1: Information Linking. Categories found in conflict coverage promos are grey.

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4.3.1 Verbal Linking

Verbal linking happens within a mode and across time. Van Leeuwen divides it into the categories elaboration, temporal linking, logical linking, additional linking and spatial linking. Elaboration explains, specifies, exemplifies or summarizes other items of information. Temporal linking connects items through time and logical linking gives reason, condition or comparison. Addition linking adds information without temporal or logical links and spatial linking, finally, provides a relation in terms of physical location. (2005, p.222-225)

4.3.2 Visual Linking

Visual linking features most of the same categories as verbal linking, with an adaptation to match editing strategies and the exclusion of additional linking. Generally, visual linking happens across cuts, edits or shots and therefore, just as verbal linking, through time. In the slightly special case of elaboration linking happens through a “cut or transition from CS [close shot] to LS [long shot] of same subject” or through a “cut or transition from LS to CS of same subject” (Van Leeuwen, 2005, p.229).

4.3.3 Visual-Verbal Linking

In a multimodal text, linking, however, does not only happen within modes. Visualverbal linking therefore does not necessarily link through time, but rather across modes. Van Leeuwen bases his visual-verbal linking on Barthes’ (1977) claim:

“ Formerly the image illustrated the text (made it clearer); today the text loads the image, burdening it with a culture, a moral, an imagination. Formerly, there was reduction from text to image, today, there is amplification from the one to the other. ” (quoted in Van Leeuwen, 2005: p.230)

Van Leeuwen’s (2005) visual-verbal linking includes elaboration and extension. In elaboration, the image illustrates the text; the text is anchored in the image or explains the image. Extension happens when contents of text and image are similar, contrasting or complementary to each other. (p.230) Contrasting extension, here, is a unique category, as it describes the image and sound opposing each other.

Linking analysis is done as a continuation of the multimodal transcription on copies of the transcription sheets. In order to answer the research question, linking analysis is done separately for quality and high concept. The goal of the research is not to show how claims of quality and high concept are connected, but rather how individual claims are linked to create a specific representation of the two concepts separately. Connections are marked on the transcription sheets using tagged arrows and analysis is done per spot.

4.4 Analysis

The analysis, though based on a systematic multimodal transcription and annotation of linking, holds a strong interpretative component. I would argue, however, that the research focus of quality and high concept with the inclusion of Hodge and Kress’ (1988) ideological complexes eliminates a multitude of possible meanings. This enables me to narrow down the social meaning or representation according to the respective logonomic systems and the dual use of ideology in the production regimes of CNNi and Al Jazeera English. The analysis will therefore be one of description, interpretation and comparison, but not without (scientific) justification.

4.5 Pilot Study

As stated earlier, there were three phases of the coding process: the initial or original coding sheet, the adapted, and the final version. The latter was a result of a pilot study, which suggested some amendments and adjustments not included in the first adaptation. The reason is that this first adaptation, described in detail above, was based on the theoretical requirements of the very specific genre and research focus rather than on its application. This process including the relevant categories is visualized in Table 2: Adaptation of coding sheet.

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The pilot study was conducted on one spot, the CNN International Libya Uprising Image Spot #2A. Based on two linking analyses, each done on the same 16-page multimodal transcript, but with different colour-coding for quality and high concept, several adjustments were made to form the final transcription model.

The modes ‘visual image’ and ‘kinesic action’ are combined into a single visual mode including more detailed descriptions. The pilot study showed that separating a description of objects and people, of what is there and what happens was not useful for analysing claims. In terms of modes, furthermore, ‘music’ was separated from the category ‘sound’ to stand individually and therefore enable it for inclusion in cross- mode linking. It was furthermore simplified to convert an entire song into a single claim. Verbal linking needed extension to non-verbal audio or the mode of ‘sound’ as claims can be made implicitly through atmospheric sounds or sound effects and could be linked through mode or time. Since specification does not have to be explicit but can happen implicitly and through images, I decided to also include it in visual linking.

A range of transcription parameters were dismissed as they did not provide data relevant to the research focus of quality and high concept claims. ‘Horizontal perspective’ does not add to either high concept or quality claims. It is usually used to analyse representation of certain individuals or groups and their ranking within a hierarchy. Furthermore, it is not necessary to include ‘celebrity reporter’ in the transcriptions, as the label is included in the visual description, ‘voice’ category and respective interpretations of high concept claims anyways. ‘Colour’ was removed from the coding, as it could be included in ‘visual salience’ if colour relevant to quality or high concept does exist. Analysing voice, sound and music for ‘tempo’ and ‘volume’ did not prove relevant to the study.

More generally, I decided to make adjustments to the linking analysis. While the transcription would follow the proposed model, the analysis would be highly simplified and remove all subcategories leaving only the three kinds of links for analysis: verbal, visual and visual-verbal. The rest of the analysis follows a similar pattern, in which qualitative data is quantified to bring about a stronger empirical element. As a result, the analysis would become less descriptive than a social semiotic approach would make believe. Seeing semiotics as the strictly qualitative research tradition it is, the decision to quantify findings certainly poses a broken rule. Breaking known rules, however, sometimes is the only way to achieve a desired effect. Moving the results of a social semiotic analysis beyond interpretation and towards the capability to measure frequency and find patterns, I claim, justifies breaking a semiotic rule. The patterns and tendencies in the representation of certain social values would otherwise remain hidden in a purely qualitative approach to analysing multimodal transcripts.

This chapter has shown, that the methods used to analyse conflict coverage promo spots of CNN International and Al Jazeera English are based on previously tested, standardized multimodal transcription and linking analysis tools of a social semiotic research tradition. They have been re-assembled and rather heavily modified, however, according to the requirements of the research focus as well as to try and strengthen the validity of the findings.

4.6 Sample

In total, 6 different promotional spots of CNNi and Al Jazeera English were analysed. I chose image and promotional spots of 24/7 television news networks to analyse ideological complexes of news organisations, because they are some of the most dense promotional texts in the news industry. In addition, wars and conflicts pose defining moments for the news industry. The promo spots are uniquely situated between journalistic and commercial interest of these news organisations allowing a direct comparison of quality and high concept following journalistic and commercial interest respectively.

CNN International and Al Jazeera English were chosen for their international reach and prominent position within television news. They are agenda-setters in their own rights and each reach more than 200 million households. CNN claims it is the most watched global 24-hour news channel and Al Jazeera lays claims to running the most watched news channel on YouTube6. The sample consists of more than one network so that claims can be generalized beyond a single channel. At the same time, it was important to look at more than one conflict. Limiting the scope in terms of media outlets enabled me to analyse spots of three different conflicts: Egypt, Libya, and the so-called ‘Arab Spring’. This is an interesting combination, as the revolution in Egypt happened without foreign involvement, a foreign military intervention was conducted in Libya and the Arab Spring includes several conflicts and can, therefore and to a certain extent, be seen as general conflict. The Libyan intervention saw the active military involvement of both, the United States - home to CNN, and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is headquartered.

The source of the materials is the YouTube channel “Morpium” accessible at http://www.youtube.com/user/MorpiumsVideos/. While I do realize that this is an unconventional way of accessing television programming, I am convinced that it is justified in this particular case. Morpium’s channel offers access to 3,378 videos, which are, a few exceptions aside, related to the branding and promotion of television news networks. Scanning the channel for spots promoting the general coverage of the conflict in Egypt, Libya and the Arab Spring instead of a particular programme resulted in 23 hits for the chosen news channels - 15 from CNNi and 8 from Al Jazeera. A random sample of one clip per channel per conflict has been created using the Social Psychology Network’s Research Randomizer website7. This approach was taken as the use of their computer algorithm simplifies randomizing a sample enormously while achieving the results needed. The need for a random sample resulted from the complex and lengthy transcription and analysis methods. To be able to generalize from a small number of clips to a larger population, a random sample was necessary. The online randomizer needs input of the number range (number of specific population) and the amount of required numbers (1) to give out a random number. The number could then be used to find out which clip should be sampled.

I want to add to the decision of using a YouTube sample, that I did, in fact, receive video clips from CNN International’s Director of Creative Services, Jonathan Killian directly. Morpium’s YouTube channel, however, provided a much larger population to sample from and could act as one source for both, CNN International and Al Jazeera English clips. The clips received from CNNi were, however, used to confirm the authenticity of the population and inspect it for detectable manipulation. Downside of my sample is the inability to confirm whether the available population equals the population in its entity. There is a chance that CNN International or Al Jazeera English did broadcast image and promo spots of the discussed conflicts that are not included in Morpium’s channel. The spots provided to me by CNNi, however, were all in the collection. A more fundamental point of critique some might bring forward is that by looking only at the clips out of context, some contextual meaning might be lost. While this is generally true, I want to state once again, that 24-hour news promotional spots are an element of lead-in and lead-out between advertisement and news content, and contain stylistic elements of both. They are therefore not necessarily taken out of context, they are context. Furthermore it has to be acknowledged that no research can be holistic, and that narrowing down the focus of interest is part of any research project, even more so in a M.A. thesis of limited length.

The names of the clips sampled are:

- CNN International - Libya Uprising Image Spot #2A
- CNN International - Egypt Image Spot #1A
- CNN International - Arab Unrest Image Spot #1A
- Al Jazeera English - ‘Battle for Libya’ Promo #1A
- Al Jazeera English - Egypt Unrest Coverage Promo #7A
- Al Jazeera English - Arab Awakening Coverage Promo #1A

Links to these clips, including a backup copy on another webserver are to be found in the appendix.

4.7 Software

Since YouTube does not allow downloading videos, I had to use an online tool called KEEPVID8 to do so. This allowed me to download the 23 clips of the population to sample from by copy-pasting the YouTube URL and clicking the download button. After the previously mentioned random sampling, the sample videos needed to be segmented into shots, the unit of analysis. Additionally, a still frame for each shot needed to be exported and the time code marked for the transcription sheet. Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 enabled me to do all this. Useful for the transcription and analysis were other editing and playback capabilities of Premiere which allowed me to analyse the spots, or parts thereof manipulating different parameters, such as speed, volume, etc.

4.8 Coding Sheet

The coding sheet in table 3 provides a list of all quality and high concept labels applicable to the study. It also includes an example from the transcriptions for most labels. Those that are missing an example are either not applicable or did not appear. The examples should give further clarification of the interpretative process involved in transcribing claims in conflict coverage promo spots of 24-hour news networks.

Table 3: Labels and examples

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Chapter 5: Analysis

This chapter will present data and provide answers to research questions 1-4 in order to eventually be able to make also theoretical and methodological conclusions about the research project and evaluate the usefulness of a social semiotic and multimodal approach to analysing television conflict coverage. The data presented here is based on the quantification of qualitative data as described in the methodology section. This allows for a convenient analysis and visualization of the findings. It also backs the social semiotic analysis with hard numbers. The table holding all data extracted from the multimodal transcriptions is attached in the appendix. Research questions are first looked at in terms of the data findings, which are then put into context to provide clear answers. Not all parameters of transcription were analysed (in quantitative terms), only those directly related to the research questions.

The data sheets on which all these findings are based can be found in the appendix along with one version of a sample transcription to be taken for reference. It includes colour-coded quality claims and a linking analysis thereof. The transcriptions show the process and functioning of the multimodal transcription and linking analysis and therefore how the results in the data sheets were achieved. Including the transcriptions of all 6 spots would be simply too much, but the attached multimodal transcript of the CNN International Libya Conflict Coverage Promo #2 provides proof of the findings of one spot and stands exemplary for all of them in terms of methodological application. The other promo spots were transcribed in the same fashion. In addition, the appendix includes links to the six YouTube URLs of the spots and an additional backup link on a different webserver should the clips have been removed from the YouTube video platform for any reason.

5.1 Research Question 1: How is ‘journalistic quality’ represented in conflict coverage promos of CNN International and Al Jazeera English? How do they compare?

There are a total of 209 quality claims in the six television spots analysed. That’s roughly 35 quality claims per clip whereas CNN International averages at about 43.7 compared to Al-Jazeera English’s 26. These 209 quality claims are linked through 128 connections through time or modes which results in an average of approximately 21 links per spot - 25 for CNNi and roughly 18 for AJE.

Table 4: Claims per clip

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While high concept claims are always made implicitly, quality claims can be made both, implicitly and explicitly. In the coding, explicit claims are marked by “(direct claim)”. In total, only 31 quality claims, or about 15% are explicit, while 178 claims, or roughly 85%, are implicit in nature. This division of claims into an implicit majority and an explicit minority is almost identical for both channels with CNNi having a slightly smaller percentage of explicit claims. Implicit and explicit claims can be combined, as is the case in the CNN International Libya spot. Here, the implicit claim of proximity in the visual mode, achieved through images of a camera in a young, cheering crowd, is supported by an explicit claim of proximity in the voice mode, where a male voice- over narrator states: “CNN took you there”.

The findings were tested for statistical significance by a chi-square test, which, according to Brynman (2012) “allows us to establish how confident we can be that there is a relationship between the two variables in the population” (p.348). In the case of the differentiation of implicit and explicit quality claims, the chi-square test, at a p-value of 0.564841 shows no statistically significant difference between the two channels.

Figure 2: Quality claims: implicit/explicit

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The most frequent quality claims are ‘proximity’ and ‘proximity to fighting’, numbering 62 and 43 respectively. All other claims are significantly less frequent. ‘Immediacy’, ‘analysis, background’, ‘composition: established’, ’proximity (direct claim)’, ‘context’, ‘continuity (direct claim)’, ‘explanation’, and ‘witnessing history’ appear only 16 to 7 times. The remaining claims are even less frequent. There are differences between CNNi and AJE, most strongly visible in the categories ‘analysis, background’, ‘composition: established’, and ‘explanation’. Here, AJE is outnumbered by CNNi by 1:11, 2:10 and 0:7. Amongst the most frequent claims, AJE has the upper hand only in terms of ‘proximity to fighting’ (27:16) and ‘proximity (direct claim)’ (8:2).

Figure 3: Most frequent quality claims

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In relative terms, however, it becomes clear that AJE puts more emphasis on ‘proximity to fighting’ - 35% to CNNi’s 12%- and ‘proximity (direct claim)’ with 10% as opposed to CNNi’s 2%. CNNi on the other hand puts a stronger emphasis on ‘analysis, background’ (8% to 1%),’composition: established’ (8% to 3%), ‘context’ (5% to 3%) and ‘explanation’ (5% to 0). These differences between CNNi and AJE are supported by the p-value (0.000267) implying a statistically significant difference between the two.

Just how important the notion of proximity to danger is, becomes apparent when looking at the CNN International Libya conflict promo. There is a shot of Sara Sidner supposedly in danger. She walks with a low body posture, keeping her head down and talks about snipers. The people who are with her, however, seem much less concerned, walking upright, one even backwards, their attention not to the surroundings, but to CNN’s Sara Sidner.

Figure 4: Quality claims by mode

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Quality claims are made in multiple modes. The visual mode carries most quality claims (62%), followed by voice (28%) and sound (10%). Quality is not expressed in the mode of music. A typical claim in the visual mode would be proximity, CNN’s Nic Robertson standing in front of a crowd of protesters, for example, while the same claim in the voice mode could be achieved by a translated on screen voice (or UN voice) stating “God-willing the future will be better for my son”. In the sound mode, the same claims would be made through chanting crowds, for example.

There is a slight difference between the two networks. With 75 visual quality claims, 41 vocal quality claims and 15 aural quality claims, CNNi distributes quality claims more across modes than AJE. In the latter, 54 visual quality claims stand alongside 17 vocal quality claims and 7 aural ones. AJE therefore relies heavily on the visual mode to carry quality claims. The pattern of quality claims-making in modes is confirmed by the chi-square test, which, with a resulting p-value of 0.221768, does not find a statistically significant difference between the two broadcasters.

Quality claims are also frequently linked. There are 128 links for 209 claims. Half of these are visual links - links between images and therefore across time. An example of the CNNi Libya spot would be succeeding shots of Frederik Pleitgen and Matthew Chance, both reporting from the midst of celebrating crowds. Verbal links of quality claims are less frequent at only about 16%. In the same CNN spot, Sara Sidner (“This is the moment that they have broken in to Gadhafi’s compound”) and immediately following her, Frederik Pleitgen (“They truly believe that Muhmar Gadhafi will not return”) make claims of witnessing history. Links between modes, the so-called visual- verbal links are quite prominently featured as well, with 44 links or roughly 34%.

The differences found in the linking of quality claims between CNNi and AJE are stronger than in the separation of quality claims into the different modes. Here, AJE is even more reliant on images, with almost 70% of all links happening in the visual mode. Verbal linking seems to be almost entirely neglected by AJE at 6% while visualverbal linking is still relatively common at 25%. The values at CNNi are much more balanced, with the majority of linking happening between modes (41%), but also visual as well as the verbal mode both seeing substantial linking (36% and 23% respectively). A significance test does support this. The p-value of 0.000453, here points to a significant difference between CNNi and AJE.

Figure 5: Quality linking by mode

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Figure 6: Quality linking by mode

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The discussion of quality to this point assumed quality as a singular entity. As discussed in the methods chapter, however, quality can be divided into the categories of professional and moral competence. Overall, claims of professional competence are more frequently featured in the analysed spots than those of moral competence - 72% to 28%.

Comparing AJE and CNNi in terms of professional and moral competence does follow the same trend of a dominant professional competence. There is a difference, however, in the weight. While the claims of moral competence make up only 13% in the AJE spots, that number rises to 37% at CNNi.

Figure 7: Professional and moral competence

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In the previous chapter, I further categorized moral competence into ‘fairness’, ‘idealism’, and ‘accuracy’. Here, only 1 claim, or 2% of moral competence claims falls into the category ‘fairness’, while ‘idealism’ makes up 12% and ‘accuracy’ an overwhelming 86%.This trend can be seen in both, spots of AJE and CNNi.

Figure 8: Quality: moral competence

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It can be said thus, that journalistic quality, in conflict coverage promo spots of Al Jazeera English and CNN International, is represented mostly through claims of proximity - either to the people or to the fighting. All other aspects of quality are significantly less present. In addition, journalistic quality is represented through a vast majority by concepts of professional competence as opposed to those of moral competence and through a surprisingly large amount of implicit claims.

5.2 Research Question 2: How is ‘high concept’ represented in conflict coverage promos of CNN International and Al Jazeera English? How do they compare?

The number of high concept claims in the 6 promo spots at 209 equals precisely that of quality claims. Therefore, roughly 35 high concept claims exist per spot, 21 for AJE and almost 49 for CNNi. The gap between the two is even larger than is the case for quality claims. High concept claims are less frequently linked, however. At an average of roughly 18 links per clip, AJE counts for around 13 and CNNi for approximately 23 links per clip.

Table 5: High concept links and claims per clip

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Figure 9: Most frequent high concept claims

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The most frequent claims or clues of high concept are ‘supports marketable concept’, ‘VFX as high concept’ and ‘celebrity reporter’. These are present 56, 54 and 45 times respectively. ‘Composition supports MC’ and ‘brand representation’ are still rather frequently featured with 21 and 12 occurrences. The remaining claims, ‘branding the conflict’, ‘clothes support MC’, ‘composition supports MC’, ‘high-tech studio’, ‘music as high concept’, and ‘SFX as high concept’ are featured on average once per spot or less.

The marketable concept varies slightly from clip to clip, but is generally concerned with a “good”, new force rising against an old and “bad” oppressor. The civilians, including children, women and the elderly are in support of the new powers and the civilian population is not divided, but instead presented as one. The notion of directionality is quite interesting here as well. The sympathised with rebels often hold the right-hand space of the frame, while the oppressor is confined to the left. This phenomenon is extended to movement and the directionality of fighting: the rebels shoot right to left, for example in the CNNi Libya spot, where a rebel fires a rocket propelled grenade from a centre-right position into a building complex to the left. The same clip prominently features the use of celebrity reporters, which are not only visually featured, but also given weight through ON and OFF sound and are introduced by animated visual special effect titles including their name and location.

It is striking here, however, that the focus of the two broadcasters is very different. This becomes apparent when looking at the relative values. ‘Celebrity reporter’ makes up 31% of all high concept claims of CNNi while it is absent from AJE entirely. AJE puts stronger emphasis on VFX (38% to 21%), composition (14% to 8%) and brand representation (10% to 4%). ‘Supports marketable conflict’ features prominently on both stations at percentages of about 27%. The differences in the focus of the two networks are confirmed by the chi-square test (p-value: 0.00006).

Figure 10˖High concept claims by mode

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High concept claims are very heavily reliant on the visual mode. 72% are found in the visual mode, 20% in ‘voice’, 5% in ‘sound’ and 3% in ‘music’. High concept claims are, therefore, more unevenly distributed across modes than quality claims. Once again, there are differences found in the distribution across modes in CNNi and AJE spots. CNNi contains 97 visual claims, 35 vocal and 14 aural claims (including music) whereas AJE includes 53 visual claims, 7 vocal claims and only 3 aural claims. Thought the patterns are similar, the results do present a statistically relevant (p-value: 0.009698) difference between the two news networks.

Just as is the case for quality claims, high concept claims are strongly linked. 209 claims are supplemented by 106 links, slightly fewer than the 128 quality links. Just about 51% are visual links, roughly 13% verbal and 36% visual-verbal. This pattern is almost identical to that of quality claims with 50%, 16% and 34% respectively.

There is again a noticeable difference between CNNi and AJE, even more so than in the case of quality links by mode. Visual, verbal and visual-verbal links make up 35%/18%/47% in the content of CNNi and 79%/5%/16% in that of AJE. That is the same pattern found in quality linking, but the differences are stronger. At 79%, AJE almost exclusively uses visual linking, while CNNi’s use of visual-verbal linking, at about 47%, is even more prevalent than in quality linking. This does, at a p-value of 0.0001, present a statistically relevant difference.

Figure 11˖ High concept linking by mode

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Figure 12˖High concept links by mode

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To summarize the findings made in terms of high concept, it can be said that in conflict coverage promo spots of Al Jazeera English and CNN International high concept is represented most prominently through the marketable concept and celebrity reporters. AJE’s lack of using celebrity reporters more prominently, however, does come as a surprise. The representation of high concept additionally relies more exclusively on the visual mode than that of journalistic quality. The pattern of how representations of high concept are linked, however, is almost identical to that of journalistic quality. Quite surprisingly, there is little brand representation to be found in the conflict coverage promo spots apart from the little broadcaster logo, which is present also in normal programming and was not considered for coding.

5.3 Research Question 3: How do the representations of ‘journalistic quality’ and ‘high concept’ differ?

The representation of journalistic quality and high concept in conflict coverage promos does not differ much. The number of quality claims equals that of high concept claims, both counting 209.

Figure 13: Total claims: quality/high concept

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Figure 14: Overall claims by mode

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While visual claims make up the majority of both, quality and high concept claims, the dominance is stronger in high concept, where 72% of claims are made in the visual mode, the remaining being divided amongst voice (20%), sound (5%), and music (3%). The tendencies in quality and high concept claims are the same, with the ratios differing only little. A chi-square test did not show statistically significant differences between quality and high concept (p-value: 0.492144) or AJE and CNNi (p-value: 0.120715).

The same phenomenon can be observed in terms of linking. There are a total of 128 quality links (55%) and 106 high concept links (45%). This trend is consistent across channels, though there is evidence of a slightly higher emphasis on quality linking than on high concept links in AJE as compared to CNNi. The difference, however, is not statistically relevant (p-value: 0.869619).

In general it can be said that there are no major differences in the representation of journalistic quality and high concept found in conflict coverage promo spots on Al Jazeera English and CNN International. In detail there are minor differences between the representations of the two concepts and between the two broadcasters. The only one worth mentioning here is that while quality claims are to a certain extent also made explicitly, high concept claims are exclusively implicit in nature. The small differences found, however, do no harm to the patterns of similarity overarching all findings which are quite striking.

Figure 15: Total links: quality/high concept

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Figure 16: Number of links

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5.4 Research Question 4: How do the findings relate to the ideological complexes of CNN International and Al Jazeera English?

The findings can give insight into the production regimes of Al Jazeera English’s and CNN International’s ideological complexes. Simply put, the two opposing claims making up an ideological complex, which, in the case of this research consists of quality and high concept. High concept stands for the (economic) interest of the broadcaster, while quality stands for the solidarity with the viewer. The ideological complex is, therefore, made up of interest complex and solidarity complex. While broadcasters, like other companies or dominant groups, are pursuing their own interests, solidarity is required to achieve this goal. So, both seemingly opposing claims follow the same purpose. The division into claims of interest and claims of solidarity does include interpretative aspects, but is generally grounded in theory.

The 6 spots analysed for this study suggest that CNN International and Al Jazeera English have many similarities in their ideological complexes. Representation of both, quality and high concept follows the same patterns in terms of frequency, mode and linking. Overall, there is a balance between solidarity complex and interest complex, with CNNi leaning slightly towards high concept and AJE slightly to quality.

Figure 17: Total claims: quality/high concept

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The solidarity complexes of both channels are mostly constructed through the idea of being there. Solidarity with the viewer is achieved through solidarity with the people affected. The interest complex, on the other hand, is most strongly defined by following a marketable concept, by simplifying a complex issue into an idea as simple as ‘good versus evil’. Interestingly, this concept is supported by composition and directionality of the images. In terms of placement as well as movement, especially in a context of fighting, the left stands for the “oppressor” whereas the right is reserved for the “liberator”. This directionality establishes the conflict parties. Rebels, for example, are mostly portrayed shooting right to left.

Though the ideological complexes of Al Jazeera English and CNN International appear similar, it is important to point out several differences. While Al Jazeera English bases its solidarity complex heavily on forms of proximity, CNN International also includes immediacy, analysis, context and explanation. The American network includes moral competence as a substantial part of its solidarity complex, not only relying on professional competence as the competitor from Doha does. The most striking difference between the two interest complexes is CNNi’s extensive use of their celebrity reporters, a high concept claim almost entirely absent from AJE’s clips.

As pointed out on the previous pages, there are great similarities in the characteristics of Al Jazeera English and CNN International’s ideological complexes. There are, however, differences found within the two components of the channels’ ideological complexes, the solidarity complex and the interest complex. How these complexes are assembled of the various claims does differ slightly between the two broadcasters. I would argue therefore, that brand differentiation in the case of conflict coverage promotional spots happens through differentiation within solidarity complex and interest complex, rather than between these two.

The findings can also be interpreted in a way to tell us what Al Jazeera English and CNN International consider “good” war reporting or how they want their war reporting to be perceived. This is interesting as no conclusion has been found to the question of what defines quality reporting, let alone quality war reporting. The two broadcasters’ notion of quality war reporting seems to evolve mainly around the following points: being there, being close, reporting live, looking good, recognizing and trusting the reporter, explaining the issue and simplifying complex problems. Looking good here refers to a modern high-tech look with high production values and special effects, while the simplification of complex problems contains the explicit and implicit simplified marketable concept which is supported through visual cues such as the structured orientation and directionality. The solidarity complex centring on proximity, especially in relation to reporters on the ground, is interesting for another reason: it once again emphasises the importance of the visual. The reporting that is done by these conflict reporters often does not in fact require them to be there at the location. A studio anchor could provide the same statement, the same information. He or she could, however not substitute the claim of proximity, of proximity to fighting or that of the reporter under fire that an on screen journalist in a war or conflict zone so frequently makes. The claim of witnessing history does as well benefit from the reporter on the ground and most likely could not exist with the same credibility without him or her.

The small importance put on moral competence comes as a surprise, just as Al Jazeera’s lack of using well-known and credible reporters. It seems as if CNN International and Al Jazeera English define the quality criteria of war and conflict reporting according to professional concepts rather than moral ones. The small number of explicit claims is surprising, but goes in line with modern advertising techniques.

5.5 Additional Findings:

There are several findings that, though not at the core of the research focus, might be interesting for follow-up research projects.

Information or as in this project claims linking, in all cases supports and strengthens either claims made previously or in another mode. How claims of quality are linked with claims of high concept was not part of this research project, but the pattern could look different here, with Q and HC claims potentially subverting each other. The vast majority of links happened through ‘similarity’, which means a claim was either supported by the same claim in a different mode or by the same claim following directly or closely to the first in the same or another mode. Directionality played an important role for the representation of both, quality and high concept. It appears in terms of composition and movement in the categories ‘composition: established’ and ‘composition supports MC’.

Both, the quality category ‘proximity’ and the high concept category ‘celebrity reporter’ often appear in connection to protesting or celebrating crowds. Especially the CNN International reporters would be close to, or within the crowd, often emphasizing the people around them by directing their arms towards them. This crowd mostly consists of men, but the images often prominently feature children amongst them. Women do not have a strong presence in these mass rallies. The claims in the visual mode are linked to similar claims in the sound mode, crowds chanting for example, and in some cases to other claims across modes. Reporters in the field almost without exception either wear casual clothes or flak jacket and helmet. Another one of the commonly featured claims, ‘proximity to fighting’, mostly consists of two scenarios: it either depicts a reporter on the frontline, or shows rebels shooting off screen, towards an invisible enemy. Rebel gunfire would usually be directed from right to left. These visual claims are often supported by the sound mode, where gunfire strengthens the notion of being there on the battlefield.

Claims of ‘immediacy’ on the other hand happen almost entirely in the visual mode, mostly through night-time shots or by the reporter being at a site of attack with the fire still burning. Direct or explicit claims on the other hand are mostly made in the voice-over and in titles. Some shots can be so densely packed that several claims can be made in a single mode of a single shot. One such shot is the previously mentioned shot of Sara Sidner reporting about rebel forces entering Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli. Here, the visual mode alone carries the quality claims ‘composition:established’, ‘proximity to fighting’ and ‘immediacy’ as well as the high concept claims ‘celebrity reporter’, ‘VFX as high concept’ and ‘clothes support MC’.

As stated, these findings were not part of the research questions, but interesting enough not to be dismissed and possibly an inspiration for further research.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

The research leaves no doubt about the importance of multimodality. Claims in conflict coverage promo spots of Al Jazeera English and CNN International are made in all modes and linked within as well as across modes. Linked claims mostly support each other so that claims are strengthened. A multimodal framework is absolutely necessary to analyse this particular kind of multimodal text.

There are clear trends and similarities found in the representation of both, quality and high concept. These trends regard the nature of how claims are made, rather than what the claims consist of. Claims-making, in numbers, strikes an exact balance between journalistic quality and high concept. The distribution of claims across modes is very similar for both of the discussed concepts. And even though there are differences between the two channels, the findings show that distributions of claims across modes as well as the way claims are linked follow strong patterns. Generally speaking, the visual mode holds most claims.

This emphasis on the visual element, however, is stronger in the Al Jazeera English spots than it is in those of CNN International. The American network does more actively involve all modes and there is also a difference in terms of linking. While in conflict coverage spots of Al Jazeera English visual linking is most frequent, visualverbal linking dominates both, information linking of quality and high concept claims at CNN International. On a more general notion, quality linking slightly outnumbers high concept linking at both channels.

Furthermore, claims-making is not as explicit as expected. Instead, it happens almost entirely implicitly and those few explicit claims are all referring to journalistic quality. Another rather surprising finding is that it is professional competence, not moral competence that dominates the solidarity complexes of both broadcasters. In direct comparison, though, CNN International does represent quality more prominently in terms of moral competence than the competitor from Doha.

The arguably most defining element of high concept, the marketable concept, shows a strong presence in conflict promo spots. It is supported by content, composition and clothes, appears in all modes and is linked across these. Another cornerstone of high concept, the use of celebrity reporters, surprisingly, was entirely absent from AJE’s materials. On a small number of occasions, reporters did appear in Al Jazeera English spots, but they were neither identified, nor easily identifiable and I did therefore not include them in the high concept category of celebrity reporters.

Overall, the data also shows that CNN International’s clips are more densely packed with claims than Al Jazeera English’s, though the difference is minor (1.72 : 1.58 claims per second). This difference appears larger in absolute terms, but the total runtime of the clips differs a lot between the two networks. AJE’s three clips total only 89 seconds while the three sampled spots of CNN International add up to 161 seconds.

The ideological complexes of both broadcasters most prominently consist of the claim of being there (solidarity complex) and a simplified marketable concept (interest complex). Assuming that brand or product differentiation is the goal of advertisement and promotion, it can be said that in the case of conflict coverage promos the differentiation between Al Jazeera English and CNN International happens not in the balance between solidarity complex and interest complex, but rather through details found within the two.

6.1 Theoretical Implications

To find out about the appropriateness of the social semiotic approach used to analyse conflict coverage promos of 24-hour news networks, two aspects of it have to be taken into consideration: multimodal transcription and linking analysis. As discussed in previous chapters, social semiotics is multimodal, as meaning-making happens in different modes. While the claim was based on academic discussion, it can now be backed by numbers.

Figure 18˖Overall claims by mode

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The aural mode makes up only 24% of all claims. The strongest mode in terms of claims-making is at 67% by far the visual. The findings prove that claims-making happens in all modes and that it is mostly implicit. Though the pattern exists for both, AJE and CNNi, there is a statistically relevant difference between the two.

The same can be said for the way claims are linked. The visual mode holds the majority, while verbal links make up only 15%. Linking across modes is, at 35%, a very common feature of conflict coverage promos.

Figure 19˖Overall linking by mode

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The patterns discussed in the analysis show that claims are represented in multiple modes and linked in a particular way. The trends are valid for both claims and both channels. And while there are differences in the ratios, the same patterns remain throughout. The quantitative and descending order of claims per mode is: visual, voice, sound and music. Linking is most common in the visual mode followed by visualverbal links and lastly verbal linking. Overall, claims are equally or almost equally divided between journalistic quality and high concept. Finding these trends across claims and networks is interesting, as it poses a step towards understanding how claims are made in audio-visual content and how they are linked.

Finding these patterns and having empirical data to back the claim is especially interesting when looking back at a key study discussed earlier. Maier (2009) claims to have found patterns in the semantic relationships of movie trailers’ evaluative devices across modes. There is however neither a clear description of what these patterns are, nor the presentation of strong evidence to support the claim. The analysis of conflict promo spots presented in this paper, I would argue, does provide not only a clearer description of patterns of meaning-making, but also empirical evidence to support the claim of their existence. The empirical data is the result of an innovative multimodal framework created for this study that enabled me to quantify a social semiotic analysis. As discussed in the literature, television studies are, at this point, mostly qualitative in nature. It might be time to rethink quantitative elements.

Considering the results and insights gained, the study’s social semiotic approach including the rather unorthodox decision to quantify data was appropriate and useful for the specified research focus. Furthermore, the social semiotic concept of ideological complexes has proven to be useful in analysing news coverage promos, a phenomenon at the crossroads of news and advertisement. In quantitative terms, the balance between solidarity complex and interest complex at both, Al Jazeera English and CNN International was made visible. Within these, however, differences between CNNi and AJE have been pointed out.

Based on the findings, I would argue that a multimodal framework is vital not only in analysing conflict coverage promos, but for conducting qualitative audio-visual research in general. Even though this study provides the empirical evidence to prove this only for a specific kind of media text, I would suggest that the findings relate to a wider selection of audio-visual formats.

The adaptation of Baldry and Thibault’s multimodal transcription model (2006) turned out to be useful and appropriate. It could, however, be further streamlined to produce less excessive data. To achieve this, the multimodal approach needs further development in regards to standardized tools and practises.

The research, however, also shows that the framework does work. No matter how modest the findings or limited the scope, it has become apparent that social semiotics can be used to analyse claims-making, not just meaning-making as it is claims that are at the heart of this study, not content. The same can be said for the linking analysis adapted from Van Heeuwen (2005). Claims are linked just as other information is.

So both, the theoretical framework as a creation of different tools and theories, as well as the methodological framework using Baldry and Thibault’s multimodal transcription model, which was not only adjusted to the research focus, but also adapted to enable quantification of qualitative, social semiotic data, have proven to be useful and produced innovative and relevant findings.

6.2 Methodological reflections

As both, previous literature and the results of this study show, meaning-making in television is multimodal. It is enormously important to consider this when conducting television studies or researching any other audio-visual medium for that matter. As a consequence, I needed a suitable multimodal framework to analyse claims in conflict coverage promo spots of 24-hour news channels. The other main prerequisite was the possibility to analyse the representation and promotion of social values. Social semiotics and the concept of ideological complexes provided me with both. Ideological complexes furthermore added to the framework the possibility to analyse quality in relation to high concept, which stands exemplary for the commercialization of broadcast news. Two additional requirements for the framework were the chance to describe information linking and the ability to make conclusions about Al Jazeera English and CNN International’s ideological complexes.

Baldry and Thibault’s transcription model (2006) was used, as it fulfilled the requirements for the research undertaking: it presented a systematic approach to transcription, was suitable for linking analysis and easily adaptable. But the approach would produce a lot of excess parameters. Some of these were eliminated in the adaptation, but others remained and presented a transcription effort with no contribution to the study. ‘Visual focus’ or ‘camera position’, were, for example, not directly relevant for the analysis. Information linking, or linking analysis, on the other hand provided the tools to analyse how information is linked and contextualized in a systematic way. Also here, some (though minor) adjustments were made for the specialized research focus. In the analysis, however, the linking parameters presented by the analysis were simplified to an extent where no linking sub-categories remained. This simplified the analytical process, but might have resulted in some possible findings to be lost. In addition, the linking analysis did not consider links between claims of journalistic quality and high concept, as these were analysed in separate transcriptions. Though it was not at the core of this research project, looking into the linking of the opposing complexes could have potentially added some interesting findings. Another minor issue is to be found in the coding sheet, where difficulties in terms of clearly separating the labels ‘analysis, background’, ‘context’, ‘explanation’ and ‘in depth’ might arise. These should be reconsidered for follow-up research projects.

The framework and methods used here certainly have both, strengths and minor weaknesses, but have proven useful overall. The biggest uncertainty of the entire project is to be found in the interpretation of journalistic quality and high concept as opposing ideological complexes. This certainly poses the biggest interpretational element, even when it is based on a sound theoretical foundation. In practise it is difficult to distinguish the two occasionally, especially in terms of defining which action is taken to pursue institutional interests and which is taken to promote solidarity. The theoretical debate of journalistic quality and the definition of high concept as well as the coding sheet, however, narrows down the interpretational freedom to an, I would claim, acceptable level.

Overall, I want to point out the innovative and possibly even experimental nature of this study again. The rather complex framework was created as a combination of adaptations of different pre-existing tools and included the breaking of a semiotic taboo - to count. Having stated the core findings and some concerns, it is appropriate to take a look at the wider methodological implications the analysis of conflict coverage spots of the two 24-hour news networks presents.

As mentioned earlier, the findings strongly support the need for multimodal analysis of a multimodal medium. More specific to the specialized research focus are the patterns found both in claims-making and claims linking. There is a stronger difference between the two channels in terms of claims-linking, but overall trends remain visible and to a certain extent also statistically significant. The relatively small sample, which is a result of the technical and time-consuming multimodal transcription, certainly makes a generalization of the findings beyond the genre of television promos difficult. Since television promos are, however, similar to movie trailers, advertisements and other compact multimodal promotional texts, I would expect similar research findings should the study be extended to these genres. The sample, though limited in size, does allow generalizing the found patterns to other conflict coverage promotional spots of 24-hour news networks. While the claims would likely differ, the patterns in claims-making and claims-linking would be expected to show strong similarities. Another methodological finding is the possibility to use both, the multimodal transcription framework as well as linking analysis to analyse claims-making. Both models were developed in regards to meaning-making.

The very unconventional decision to quantify data for analysis allowed me to collect empirical data through a research method that usually does not work with numbers. This approach provided insights into what would otherwise remain hidden, the patterns mentioned earlier for example, and allowed me to move away from an approach usually heavily reliant on interpretational elements alone. None of the key studies consulted for the project, and to my knowledge no other social semiotic research before, has quantified the data from a social semiotic, multimodal analysis. It is a taboo in semiotics as a whole. But apart from showing patterns that would otherwise remain invisible, the decision to quantify findings allowed me to test the results statistically. This test for statistical relevance, I would argue, increases the reliability of findings and allows me to generalize the findings to a wider population. The quantification furthermore reduces the interpretative element of social semiotic television studies to an, I claim, acceptable level. On the other hand, the analysis has certainly lost some detail and nuance which could have been gained through a stronger focus on interpretation. The decision to quantify was taken consciously, has proven to be useful within a certain research focus and might bring about inspiration or a point of discussion for future research. It should certainly not be dismissed right away, just because it is breaking a rather fundamental rule of the semiotic research tradition. After all it did provide new insights into meaning-making or claims-making in multimodal texts.

Social semiotics and the multimodal tools used in this research project are relatively new, and they certainly need further developing. The research framework created for this study as a whole, however, could be worth considering for future research. Admittedly, there is need for a clearly defined, customizable toolset with understandable rules and guidelines to facilitate multimodal research across genres. An interpretational element will always remain, but could be minimized by such a kit. It would furthermore facilitate replication, increase inter-coder reliability and therefore enable comparison between different pieces of research, something rather problematic at the current stage of social semiotic methodologies. A more standardized research toolkit for multimodal texts would also enable the creation of simple software solutions, templates and macros and enable less tech-savvy researchers the access to this highly relevant methodology. Hopefully, the framework presented and tested in this study can make a small contribution in the creation of what would be so important in an increasingly audio-visual media environment - a tool for analysing it.

6.3 Personal Reflections

With previous exposure to the world of entertainment television and the wish to break into non-fictional programme production, this research project is a very personal exploration of a phenomenon at the cross-roads of both. CNN International and Al Jazeera English are certainly news icons of our times and the phenomenon of news commercialization that mainly CNN stands symbolic of is seen with scepticism by many. At the same time, elements of high concept are necessary to attract a spoiled, over-saturated and entertainment-driven audience in a highly competitive and fast- paced media landscape.

Beyond my personal interest I see image and promotional spots of war and conflict coverage as a relevant and underexplored research field that can potentially provide insight into many aspects of war and conflict reporting as well as into the ideological complexes of 24-hour news networks. Even today, long after Ryszard Kapuscinski’s time, many war and conflict reporters are still trying to achieve what they know they can never achieve. The dream has remained unchanged. The media environment, in which they report, however, is not the same. The promotional spots of war and conflict reporting analysed in this study, therefore, are also symbolic of a reality war reporters have to face in the 21st century.

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Appendices

Appendix 1: Multimodal transcription sample including linking of quality claims

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Appendix 2: List of videos including links

- CNN International - Libya Uprising Image Spot #2A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUtujrmxM84

alternative: http://www.chrisveits.com/dissertation/cnnlibya.mp4

- CNN International - Egypt Image Spot #1A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJK-Rzssf2s

alternative: http://www.chrisveits.com/dissertation/cnnegypt.mp4

-CNN International - Arab Unrest Image Spot #1A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayCr_LwL7z0

alternative: http://www.chrisveits.com/dissertation/cnnarab.mp4

- Al Jazeera English - ‘Battle for Libya’ Promo #1A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWxHyXGtF2g

alternative : http://www.chrisveits.com/dissertation/ajelibya.mp4

- Al Jazeera English - Egypt Unrest Coverage Promo #7A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKLyMMv8mRM

alternative: http://www.chrisveits.com/dissertation/ajeegypt.mp4

- Al Jazeera English - Arab Awakening Coverage Promo #1A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkGZ4YliJs4

alternative: http://www.chrisveits.com/dissertation/ajearab.mp4

Appendix 3: Data Sheet

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Appendix 4: Supervision Sheet

illustration not visible in this excerpt

[...]


1 Ryszard Kapuscinski ‘A Warsaw Diary’, published in Granta no. 15 (1985)

2 http://edition.cnn.com/services/opk/cnn25/cnn_newsgroup.htm

3 http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/twx/institutional-holdings

4 Press Release: Al Jazeera to start new U.S.-based news channel http://www.aljazeera.com/America/Al-Jazeera-Purchase-of-Current-TV.pdf

5 The first CNN spot in the online television museum ‘TVARK’ is from 1991. I am not aware of any spots predating that. http://www2.tv-ark.org.uk/news/cnni/promos.html

6 According to: http://www.aljazeera.com/aboutus/2010/11/20101110131438787482.html and http://www.turner.com/brands/cnn-international

7 http://www.randomizer.org/

8 http://keepvid.com/

Details

Seiten
98
Jahr
2013
ISBN (Buch)
9783656544982
Dateigröße
3.8 MB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v264926
Institution / Hochschule
Swansea University
Note
Distinction
Schlagworte
journalism war reporting social semiotics multimodal analysis promotional spots self-promotion ideological complexes high concept conflict coverage TV news promotion CNNi al jazeera AJE

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Titel: High Concept or High Quality