Television and Conflict
By Tanya Glaser
This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Botes, Jannie. "Television and Conflict." Conflict Resolution Notes. V. 11, No. 2. September 1993. Pp. 26-27.
Television news programs sometimes directly influence the dynamics and resolution of a social conflict. This article examines the relationships between television news and conflict.
It has been acknowledged that news is basically about conflict. Journalists reporting on news intervene into the conflict. They analyze the conflict, attempt to clarify misinformation and inform the parties about the opposite side's position on the issues. The question is whether or not journalists can avoid this role.
Technological inventions in television such as satellite communication make it possible to bring together conflicting parties in a much faster way than was previously possible. For example, during the Gulf War President Bush and President Saddam Hussein used CNN to monitor and respond to each other's statements.
Comparing the role of the media and a mediator in conflict reveals similarities and differences between them. What is similar is that they both bring the parties together to discuss their relationships, which allows the parties to hear the opponent's perspective and to be heard themselves. But there are important differences: journalists do not have a goal of helping the parties to resolve their disagreement; rather they focus on the parties' differences. However, the media can encourage communication between conflicting sides. For example, Palestinian spokesperson Ms. Hanan Ashrawi was able to gain respect and importance during television debates between Israelis and Palestinians in 1988 on ABC Nightline's "town hall meetings." Those debates were facilitated by a journalist, Ted Koppel, and paved the way for official talks.
The media performs the role of quasi-mediators, which means that without formal appointment it intervenes as a third party in conflicts. It is important for conflict resolution professionals to share their knowledge and skills with journalists to avoid the damage of bad third-party intervention.