The propaganda multiplier

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Languages: EN , ES , FR , IT , NL , NO , PL , PT , RU

It is one of the most important aspects of our media system – and yet almost unknown to the public: Most of the international news in all of our media comes from just three global news agencies in New York, London and Paris.

The key role of these agencies means that our media mostly cover the same topics and often use the same wording. In addition, governments, the military and secret services use the global agencies as multipliers for the worldwide dissemination of their messages. The transatlantic networking of the established media ensures that the desired point of view is hardly questioned.

A study of the Syria reporting by three leading daily newspapers each from Germany, Austria and Switzerland clearly illustrates these effects: 78% of all articles are based entirely or partially on agency reports, but 0% on investigative research. In addition, 82% of all comments and interviews are USA / NATO-friendly, while propaganda is only located on the other side.

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The propaganda multiplier

(Note: If you are interested in the study, please link to this page. The above summary and individual extracts can be used. No full-text copy.)

The propaganda multiplier:

How global news agencies and
western media report on geopolitics

A study by Swiss Propaganda Research

June 2016

“So you always have to ask yourself: Why is
this information coming to me in this form?
Ultimately, there are always questions of power behind it. «( * )
Dr. Konrad Hummler, former NZZ President

Contents overview

  1. Part 1: The Propaganda Multiplier
  2. Part 2: Case Study on Syria Reporting
  3. Notes and Literature

Introduction: “Something strange”

“How does the newspaper know what it knows?” The answer to this question may surprise some newspaper readers: “It mainly gets its knowledge from news agencies. The almost anonymously working news agencies are in a sense the key to what is happening in the world. So who are the news agencies, how do they work and who finances these companies? You should know all of this in order to be able to get an idea of ​​whether you are really being properly informed about the events in East and West. “(Höhne 1977, p. 11)

A Swiss media researcher therefore points out: “The news agencies are the“ real perpetrators ”, they are the most important suppliers of material to the mass media. No daily media can do without them. () This is how news agencies influence our view of the world; above all, we learn what they have chosen. “(Blum 1995, p. 9)

In view of their essential importance, it is all the more surprising that these agencies are hardly known to the public: »A large part of society is not aware that there are news agencies at all … Yet they actually play an extremely important role in the media market. But despite their great importance, little attention was paid to them in the past. “(Schulten-Jaspers 2013, p. 13)

Even the head of a news agency wondered: “There’s something strange about news agencies. They are little known to the general public. In contrast to a newspaper, for example, their work is not carried out as strongly in the spotlight, although they can always be found at the source of the news. “(Segbers 2007, p. 9)

“The invisible nerve center of the media system”

So who are these agencies that are “always at the source of the news”? There are now only three global agencies:

  1. The American Associated Press ( AP ) with over 4000 employees worldwide. The AP is owned by US media companies and has its main editorial office in New York. AP messages are used by about 12,000 media and achieved by day , more than half the world’s population .
  2. The quasi-state French Agence France-Presse ( AFP ) based in Paris and also around 4,000 employees. The AFP sends over 3000 reports and 2500 photos to media around the world every day.
  3. The British Reuters in London, which is privately organized and employs a little over 3000 people. Reuters was bought in 2008 by the Canadian media entrepreneur Thomson – one of the 25 richest people in the world – and merged to become Thomson-Reuters , based in New York.

There are also various smaller, national news agencies. In the German-speaking countries these are in particular:

  • The German Press Agency ( DPA ), which as a semi-global agency has around 1000 journalistic employees in around a hundred countries. The DPA is owned by German media publishers and broadcasters and has had its main editorial office in the Axel Springer House in Berlin since 2010 .
  • The Austria Press Agency ( APA ) with around 165 editors. The APA is owned by Austrian daily newspapers and the ORF.
  • The Swiss Dispatch Agency ( SDA ) with around 150 employees, which is owned by Swiss media publishers, including the Tamedia and NZZ groups and SRG.

The SDA and APA do not have their own network of correspondents abroad. Instead, they cooperate with the DPA and the global agencies to gain access to the international news and thus inform their national media about world events. For its part, the DPA cooperates closely with the American AP and has the license to market the AP services in German-speaking countries.

logos_ agencies

The logos of the three world agencies Reuters, AFP and AP, as well as the three national agencies in Austria (APA), Germany (DPA) and Switzerland (SDA).

Wolfang Vyslozil, the former managing director of APA, described the key role of news agencies in 2005 with these words: »News agencies are rarely in the focus of public interest. Yet they are one of the most influential and at the same time one of the least known media genres. They are key institutions of substantial importance for every media system. They are the invisible nerve center that connects all parts of this system. «(Segbers 2007, p.10)

Small abbreviation, big effect

However, there is a simple reason why the global agencies, despite their importance, are virtually unknown to the general public, because: “Radio and television generally do not mention their sources, and the references in magazines are only deciphered by specialists” (Blum 1995 , P. 9)

The motive for this reluctance should, however, be clear: Our media are not particularly proud of the fact that they have not actually researched many of their contributions themselves, but rather obtain them from the same sources.


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