Television News and Human Rights in the US & UK: The Violations Will Not Be Televised, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Television News and Human Rights in the US & UK

The Violations Will Not Be Televised, 1st Edition

By Shawna M. Brandle


182 pages | 29 B/W Illus.

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Does the CNN Effect exist? Political communications scholars have debated the influence of television news coverage on international affairs since television news began, especially in relation to the coverage of massive human rights violations. These debates have only intensified in the last 20 years, as new technologies have changed the nature of news and the news cycle. But despite frequent assertion, little research into the CNN Effect, or whether television coverage of human rights violations causes state action, exists. Bridging across the disciplines of human right studies, comparative politics, and communication studies in a way that has not been done, this book looks at television news coverage of human rights in the US and UK to answer the question of whether the CNN Effect actually exists.

Examining the human rights content in television news in the US and UK yields insights to what television news producers and policy makers consider to be human rights, and what, if anything, audiences can learn about human rights from watching television news. After reviewing 20 years of footage using three different types of content analyses of American television news broadcasts and two different types of British news broadcasts, and comparing those results with human rights rankings and print news coverage of human rights, Shawns M. Brandle concludes that despite rhetoric from both countries in support of human rights, there is not enough coverage of human rights in either country to argue that television media can spur state action on human rights issues. More simply, the violations will not be televised.

A welcome and timely book presenting an important examination of human rights coverage on television news.


'Shawna M. Brandle’s innovative and meticulous content analysis of U.S. and British TV news documents the shockingly sparse coverage of human rights issues around the world that leaves the general public clueless about the frequency and severity of human rights violations and decision-makers free of pressure to do more than pay lip service to these problems. While crime and terrorism in the West tend to be over-covered, human rights violations are rarely televised according to the research presented here. This is an important book that is especially recommended for the fields of communication, journalism, political science, and human rights studies.' Brigitte Nacos, Columbia University

'In this timely new work, Professor Brandle reminds us there are few things more important than human rights. By short-changing news coverage of human rights, media organizations fail to discourage the violence and also limit public outrage over under-covered atrocities. This book is a crucial study of how little we are told about a recurring global danger.'Stephen Farnsworth, Professor of Political Science and Director of the University of Mary Washington's Center for Leadership and Media Studies

'Brandle’s quantitative study analyzed 20 years of film footage using several different types of content analyses. Her results reveal a sparse coverage of human rights by the media of these two countries. Thus, she argues, viewers in these two industrialized nations are provided with very limited knowledge of actual situations, particularly in Third World countries. This study on international communication is extremely focused, and should appeal to a very specific audience. It should especially interest scholars of international studies, political science, and journalism… Summing Up: Recommended.' - R. Ray, CHOICE

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Human Rights and the Media in the US & UK 3. Content Analysis I: US Phrase Search 4. Content Analysis II: US & UK Transcript Analysis 5. Content Analysis III: Comparing Twenty Years of American and British Television News Coverage 6. Case Studies: China, Somalia, and Sudan 7. Conclusion Appendix I: Methodology Appendix II: Coding Instruments Appendix III: All Countries Featured in Human Rights Stories, 1990-2009

About the Author

Shawna M. Brandle is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kingsborough Community College, New York. Her interests include media and international relations.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Global Information, Politics and Society

International communication encompasses everything from one-to-one cross-cultural interactions to the global reach of the internet. The Routledge Studies in Global Information, Politics and Society celebrates – and embraces – this depth and breadth. To completely understand communication, it must be studied in concert with many factors, since, most often, it is the foundational principle on which other subjects rest. This series provides a publishing space for scholarship in the expansive, yet intersecting, categories of communication and information processes and other disciplines.

Routledge Studies in Global Information, Politics and Society would like to publish work that educates readers about the complexities of international communication. We are especially interested in three areas: 1) research that focuses on empirical support for theoretical and conceptual development in communication and information processes, 2) research that is historically grounded and temporally expansive, and 3) research that is comparative and explores the world in both geopolitical and non-geopolitical categories. We welcome individual and co-authored manuscripts, as well as edited volumes.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Human Rights
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies