Google & Yahoo's entrance into China and the Singapore & Hong Kong Press
How did the press in Singapore and Hong Kong SAR cover Google and Yahoo's entrance into China?
In January, 2010, search giant Google threatened to pull out of China after a cyber attack targeted Chinese human-rights activists' Gmail accounts. The company alleged that the Chinese government orchestrated the ‘synchronised attack'. This paper studied the roots of how Google and its rival Yahoo! began their operations in China. As this paper does, one way to explore those roots is through media framing in territories with cultural links to China but with different media systems. In particular, this study answers the following research question: How did the press in Singapore and Hong Kong SAR cover Google and Yahoo!'s entrance into China? The results of this study show that there is a variation in terms of the coverage of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China in both Singapore and Hong Kong.
According to Google's 2006 projections, Internet users in China was expected to more than double from 105 million users in 2006 to 250 million users by 2010. Furthermore, in early 2006 there were already 350 million mobile phones in use in China, a number that was projected to grow by about 57 million each year (Schrage, 2006 as quoted in Wilson et al. 2007).
Yahoo! entered the Chinese market in 1999. Six years later, in 2005, it invested $1billion in Alibaba, a Chinese Internet company. Following this deal, the ownership of Yahoo! China was transferred to Alibaba. The American search firm is not a majority shareholder (40 per cent) in Alibaba. As such, Yahoo says that Alibaba takes all decisions pertaining to the day-to-day operations of the company. Yahoo's continued to distance itself from any responsibility for its role in mainland China. In its testimony to the US House of Representatives in February 2006, it urged the U.S. government to step in and take up the issue with their Chinese counterparts. (Callahan, 2006, as quoted in Amnesty International, 2006)
In 2002 Yahoo became signatory to the ‘Public Pledge on Self-discipline for the Chinese Internet Industry' (Reporters Without Borders as quoted in Amnesty International, 2006). The Pledge states that Yahoo must “keep away from producing, posting or circulating information that is harmful” to state security, that could upset social stability, disregard laws and regulations and propogate obscenity and superstition.” The search firm was not legally bound to sign this particular pledge. By taking this step, the company, according to Amnesty International, has given into the Chinese government's demands to suppressing dissent. Such a move damages Yahoo's credibility in the process, Amnesty International said.
In January 2006, Google launched Google.cn - a self-censoring version for mainland China and an alternative to Google.com, the search Website based outside China. The un-censored Google search Website is still available to Chinese Internet users, but any search will need to pass through a ‘firewall' setup by the Chinese Internet authorities, which censor a lot of information slowing down the process of search (Amnesty International, 2006). The censored content includes political subjects such as “Tibet” and “democracy”, religious subjects such as “Falun Gong” (a spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government) and “the Dalai Lama” (Tibetian spiritual leader) and social subjects like “pornography” (Wilson et al. 2007).
Google claimed it was unhappy with the decision to introduce a self-censored version of the Google search engine in mainland China. According to Google's Elliot Schrage, “the requirements of doing business in China include self-censorship..” Schrage acknowledged that the move towards self-censorship in China contradicted Google's “most basic values and commitments as a company,” (Schrage, 2006 as quoted in Amnesty International, 2006).
From a financial perspective, Google clearly saw fast growth in the Chinese Internet market, which was getting competitive with each passing year. With more than 105 million Internet users in early 2006, China's Internet market was second in size to that of the United States. Surprisingly though, only about eight per cent of the Chinese population was online. Though Google's U.S.-based Web site, Google.com had been available in China since it was launched in 1999, service was slow and unreliable due to extensive Chinese government censoring of international content, as mentioned in the earlier paragraph. Google's major U.S. competitors, Yahoo! and Microsoft MSN both had operations in the Chinese Internet market, having entered as ISPs years earlier after agreeing to self-censor. In addition, escalating competition from Chinese search engine Baidu.com was quickly eroding Google.com's Chinese market share: between 2002 and 2007, Baidu.com's market share increased from a insignificant three per cent (Thopmpson, 2006) to a dominant 58 per cent (Liu, 2007).
In January, 2010, search giant Google threatened to pull out of China, one of the world's largest Internet markets, after a cyber attack targeted Chinese human-rights activists' Gmail accounts. The company alleged that the Chinese government orchestrated the ‘synchronised attack'. In the light of the ongoing war of words between Google and Internet control authorities in China, it would be interesting to study the roots of how Google and its rival Yahoo! began their operations in China. As this paper does, one way to explore those roots is through media framing in territories with cultural links to China but with different media systems. In particular, this study answers the following research question: How did the press in Singapore and Hong Kong SAR cover Google and Yahoo!'s entrance into China?
Singapore and Hong Kong are predominantly Chinese societies that were once British colonies (Cherian, 2007; Painter & Wong, 2007). Strategically located and well administered investment friendly destinations, the two are now prosperous economies owing to their strongly capitalistic economic systems. Their dominant newspapers, however, are different to some extent from each other. Singapore's Straits Times has operated form its very beginning “in an environment that is highly structured by the state,” (Sim, 2006). Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, in comparison, transitioned from an organization that is relatively independent of the mainland government into what is now widely seen as ‘pro-Beijing'.
Yahoo!'s China website made its debut in 1999. Google set up operations in mainland China in late 2005 and followed this up with the launch of Google China in January 2006.
This study examined news articles published between January, 1998 and December 2000, to analyse how Yahoo!'s entrance into China was framed in the Singapore and Hong Kong Press and it examined articles published between January, 2005 and December 2007, to analyse how Google's entrance into China was framed in the two Asian societies. The results show that there is a variation in terms of the coverage of Google and Yahoo in both societies.
Related Literature & Study Framework
Media Framing and Framing Theory
The past few decades has seen many noteworthy additions to our understanding of how the media - the Press as well as the broadcast media - frames issues and the effects of framing (e.g., Edelman, 1993; Entman, 1991,1993, Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Gamson, 1992, Goffman, 1974, Graber, 1988, 1993; Iyengar, 1991; Iyengar & Simon, 1993; McLeod, Kosicki, & McLeod, 1994; Tuchman, 1978; Zaller, 1992).
Framing as a concept has been pivotal to the analysis of media coverage of technological hazards (e.g., Gamson & Modigliani, 1989), and media coverage of controversial scientific issues, from biotechnology (e.g., Nisbet & Huge, 2006), to global warming (e.g., McComas & Shanahan, 1999), and to stem cell research (e.g., Nisbet, Brossard & Kroepsch, 2003), and of political issues (e.g., Cappella & Jamieson, 1996, 1997; Iyengar, 1991; Scheufele, 2000)?!
There are many definitions of news frames or framing and most of them “point up similar characteristics” (Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000). Goffman (1974), an early advocate of the concept of media framing, defined it as the ‘principles of organization which govern events - at least social ones - and our subjective involvement in them' (Goffman, 1974, p. 10). He calls frames the ‘schemata of interpretation,' a framework that helps in interpreting events into something meaningful. Tuchman (1978) and Gitlin (1980) were among the earliest scholars to introduce framing to media studies in America (Zhou, 2008). A frame then, according to Gitlin (1980) has been defined as a tool that helps journalists organize and package massive amounts of information in an effective manner and they set the parameters “in which citizens discuss public events” (Tuchman, 1978, p. IV). Entman's (1993) influential work in this direction give emphasis to salience in framing research. Framing is the act of “selecting some aspects of perceived reality and making them more prominent in a communicating text, in a way that promotes a specific moral evaluation, a causal interpretation, a problem definition and/or recommends treatment for the item described” (p. 52). Prominence or salience, he says, is “making a piece of information more noticeable, meaningful, or memorable to audiences” (Entman, 1993, p. 53).
Scheufele (1999, 2000) identified four discrete processes that researchers may examine while conducting framing research. They are frame-building, frame-setting, individual-level outcomes [of framing] and a feedback loop from audiences to journalists. The second and the third processes, wherein media frames are commonly labelled as independent variables, are related to the effects of media frames on audience frames. Researchers have shown intense interest in investigating framing from an audience effects point of view (e.g. Iyengar, 1991; Iyengar and Simon, 1991; McLeod and Detenber, 1999; Price et al., 1997; Valkenburg et al,1999; Zillmann et al., 2004).
In order to understand framing, we look at Singapore and Hong Kong and compare the Press in both societies to examine the variations in coverage of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China in the two societies.
Singapore and Hong Kong
Singapore and Hong Kong are a lot like each other in some ways. Both former British colonies are busy seaports and major commercial centres. A majority of the population of both societies are of Chinese origin, and they use English as their official and business language. Both are small in land size and heavily involved in international business. Foreign direct investment has played an important role in the two economies (Low et al. 1995).
Politically, the two islands are comparable. They both operate through executive-led regimes backed by a trusted and efficient public service. Centralization of control and use of bureaucratic authority tend to come naturally to the governments of the two city-states (Cheung 2005). Painter & Wong (2007) state that like Hong Kong, Singapore possesses a highly competent and much-admired civil service. A mixed strategy of suppressing prominent political dissenters, coupled with the wooing of political consent through generous social provision, has been a hallmark of the regime (Painter & Wong, 2007). But Singapore's statist modes of economic policy stand out against Hong Kong's ‘positive non-interventionism' and strident free-market ideology, argue Painter & Wong (2007).
The Press in both city-states function differently though. Singapore's Straits Times “operates in an environment that is highly structured by the state,” (Sim, 2006)--a statethat Diamond (2002) described as “a classic case” of hegemonic authoritarianism, whereby one political party dominates the political discourse. Sim (2006) argues that in the absence of alternative frames, “media discourse is de-politicized by the focus on moral (rather than political) controversy.” Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister and his political party which is the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), led the government for thirty-one long years since Singapore became and independent republic in 1965 (Cherian, 2007). His successor, Goh Chok Tong, led the government for fourteen years and subsequent political successions, including to current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2004, according to Cherian (2007) “have been carefully planned and always on the PAP's own terms.” According to Lee Kuan Yew (2000: 218), the architect of Singapore's press system, “Freedom of the press, freedom of the news media, must be subordinated to the overriding needs of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government,” (Lee Kuan Yew as quoted in Cherian, 2007).
On the other hand, in post-handover Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post operates in an environment characterised by fear of the Chinese regime, with media owners turning pro-Beijing in their stance and therefore resorting to self-censorship (Cheung, 2003). A 2006 survey of Hong Kong journalists concluded that 26.6 per cent of journalists interviewed believed that that self-censorship existed and that it was ‘very serious', 47.2 per cent of those interviewed reported that self-censorship existed ‘but is not very serious' (Lee, 2007). A meager 3.2 per cent, according to Lee (2007), believed that there was no self-censorship. Cheung (2003) argues that, owing to their vested business interests in mainland China, Hong Kong's media owners “can ill afford to offend the ruling regime. Receiving the political signals to “behave”, and be “patriotic”, they may prefer to stay on the safe side.” The South China Morning Post was seen practicing self-censorship by firing its “high risk” contributors, such as Nury Vittachi, Larry Feign, and Willy Lam. “When the paper's ownership was transferred from media mogul Rupert Murdoch to Robert Kuok in 1993,the Postmade an effort to foster better relations with mainland China. Mr. Kuok, once known as the ‘Sugar King' of South East Asia, is one of the largest sugar traders with China” (Cheung, 2003).
The Straits Times and the Post operate in diverse political and media systems. It would be interesting to examine their coverage of the beginning of Google and Yahoo's operations in mainland China -- as this paper does, one way to explore those roots is through media framing in territories with cultural links to China but with different media systems.
Frames in this study
Several past studies have highlighted the significance of certain specifc frames in the news. While some provide information about the occurrence of frames, others provide information about the effects of frames.
In their study of frames and framing, Semetko & Valkenburg (2000) conducted a comparison of the use of frames in television news and the press in Europe, to discern whether there are significant differences between and within media. One of their conclusions was that television news used the ‘human interest' and ‘morality' frames more than what the press did. In this seminal study deductive study, Semetko and Valkenburg postulate five generic frames: responsibility, human interest, conflict, morality, and economic consequences. The unit of analysis was the news story, analyzed through a series of questions to which the coder had to answer ‘‘yes'' or ‘‘no'' (Matthes & Kohring, 2008). For example, the attribution of responsibility frame was measured with questions such as ‘‘Does the story suggest that some level of government has the ability to alleviate the problem?'' (Semetko & Valkenburg, 2000, p. 100).
This study is based on the methodology adopted by Semetko & Valkenburg (2000). This study will identify and analyse frames such as ‘economic benefits', ‘morality', ‘human interest', ‘conflict' and ‘attribution of reponsiblity' in the content analysis of the following two newspapers, The Straits Times and the South China Morning Post. A content analysis of frames in the news, according to Semetko & Valkenburg (2000), can be carried out either through the inductive approach or the deductive approach this study adopts the deductive approach, in accordance with the study by Semetko & Valkenburg (2000).
This study examines the prevalence of five news frames that have been identified in earlier studies of media frames:
A news report that, while presenting an issue or problem, points at an individual, a group of people in a society or to the government as responsible for the said issue or event, fits into the responsibility frame. Iyengar (1987) noted that while the existence of a responsibility frame in the news has not been measured explicitly, the U.S news media have been credited with (or blamed for) using the ‘responsibility' frame to shape American public understanding of who is responsible for, or causing or solving key social problems, such as poverty (Iyengar, 1987). Iyengar (1991) further argues that television news - by covering a particular problem or issue as an event, instance, or individual (episodically) rather than in terms of the larger historical social context (thematically) - encourages people to offer individual-level explanations for social problems. Thus, the poor woman on welfare is held responsible for her fate, rather than the government or the system. In his study, Iyengar (1991)was interested in determining how the use of the “episodic...formats” of television news, which refers to the fact that the vast majority of television news stories are about “specific events or particular cases” (Iyengar 1991, p.2) are related to an explicitly measured responsibility frame in the news. For instance, this frame asks, among others, the following question - Does the story suggest that some level of the government is responsible for the problem?
Human interest frame:
A news report that brings out an emotional angle or puts a human face to the presentation of a problem an issue or an event constitutes the human interest frame. Neuman et all (1992) described this as the “human impact” frame, and found it to be a common frame in the news, next to conflict. As the market for news everywhere becomes more competitive, journalists and editors are at pains to produce a product that captures and retains audience interest (Bennett, 1995). Framing news that appeals to people in society is one way of overcoming this hurdle. Such a frame refers to an effort to personalize the news, framatize or “emotionalize” the news, in order to capture and retain audience interest. This frame asks, among others, the following question - Does the story emphasize how individuals or groups are affected by the issue at hand?
A news report that highlights a potential conflict or ongoing conflict between individuals, between two or more groups, or between institutions as a way of capturing audience interest constitutes the conflict frame. In their study, Neuman et al. (1992, pp. 61-61) found that the media draw on a few central frames for reporting a range of issues and that conflict was the most common in the handful of frames in U.S. news they identified. Other research has also observed that discussion in the news between political elites often reduces complex substantive political debate to overly simplistic conflict. Presidential election campaign news, for example, is framed largely in terms of conflict (Patterson, 1993). Because of the emphasis on conflict, the news media have been criticized for inducing public cynicism and mistrust of political leaders (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997). We are interested in establishing how visible a conflict frame is relative to other common frames in the news. This frame asks, among others, the following question - Does the story highlight disagreement between individuals, or groups, or institutions or countries?
A news report that puts a particular event, problem, or issue in the religions context i.e. in the context of (religious) tenets or moral prescriptions fits in to the morality frame. Journalism demands objectivity and a journalists often make reference to moral frames indirectly - through quotation or inference, for instance - by having someone else raise the question (Neuman et al, 1992). A newspaper could, for example, use the views of an interest group to raise questions about working long hours in front of a personal computer. Such a story may contain moral messages or offer specific social prescriptions about how to behave. Although Newman et all. (1992, p.75) found this frame to be more common in the minds of audiences that in the content of news, they nevertheless identified this frame as among the several used in reporting. This frame asks, among others, the following question - Does the story contain any moral message?
Economic consequences frame:
A news report that reports a specific problem, a specific issue or an event in terms of the economic consequences it will have on a person, a group of people, an institution, a particular region or a country fits in to the economic consequences frame. In their study, Neuman et al. (1992) identified the economic consequences frame as a common frame in the news. The wide impact of an event is an important news value, and economic consequences are often considerable (Graber, 1993). This frame asks, among others, the following question - Is there a mention of financial loses or gains now or in the future?
Comparing media narratives
This study compares Google and Yahoo!'s coverage in the Singapore Press with coverage in the Hong Kong Press, particularly between the Straits Times and the Post, but during different time periods because the two Internet companies entered China in different periods - Google in 2006 and Yahoo in 1999. Comparing media narratives of events, that could have been reported similarly, “helps divulge the key textual choices that framed the story but would otherwise remain submerged in an undifferentiated text” (Entman, 1991).
It is difficult to “fully and reliably” detect frames until and unless narratives are compared because “many of the framing devices can appear as “natural,” unremarkable choices of words or images, argues Entman (1991), adding that a comparison of narratives divulges that such choices are not “inevitable or unproblematic but rather are central to the way the news frame helps establish the literally “common sense” (i.e. widespread) interpretation of events.” In his study, Entman (1991) compared narratives in two issues of Time and Newsweek after the KAL incident of September, 1983 and the Iran Air incident of July, 1988, along with the ‘CBS Evening News' during the similar period. The dates on the magazines analysed were September 12 and 19, 1983 and July 18 and 25, 1998. The study concluded that news stories about the former U.S.S.R. downing a Korean passenger jet “were portrayed as a moral outrage,” while news stories about the U.S. downing an Iranian passenger jet “were portrayed as a technical problem” (Entman, 1991).
Therefore, this study puts forward the following hypotheses:
H1: There is significant variation in Singapore and Hong Kong's coverage of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China
This hypothesis is subdivided for better understanding of the variation.
H1a: The Singapore Press' coverage of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China emphasizes the human interest theme more than the Hong Kong Press.
H1b: The Hong Kong Press' coverage of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China emphasizes the economic theme more than the Singapore Press.
The Issue-Attention Cycle
The articles have also be arrayed according to the issue attention cycle of McComas and Shanahan (1999): waxing phase, maintenance period and waning phase. This helped in understanding the evolution of coverage prior to and after Google and Yahoo's respective entries into China.
The issue-attention cycle elaborated by Downs (1972) postulates that certain issues--he highlighted environmental ones--can be characterized by five stages of audience effects ranging from a general lack of awareness to alarm and, eventually, “boredom.” First is the pre-problem stage in which an issue is not in the public eye and only a relatively smaller proportion of people, such as industry experts or interest groups, are aware of it.The issue then proceeds to the second stage in which public awareness is raised. Public discovery of the issue, however, is often accompanied by optimism that the problem will be solved by adopting certain measures. When people begin to realize that the cost (i.e., money, social benefits, etc.) to solve the problem is beyond their estimation or the extent to which they are willing to tolerate, the issue will find itself in the third stage. The fourth stage is characterised by a gradual decline in public interest in the issue. The final stage, the post-problem stage, the issue is replaced by other concerns and is subject to “spasmodic recurrences of interest” (Downs, 1972, pp. 39-40).
Downs's reasoning for the causes of the media issue attention cycle has been challenged by some scholars (see Hansen, 1991; Hilgartner & Bosk, 1988; Ungar, 1992, 1995), the cyclical nature of media attention to a variety of issues has been clearly demonstrated, at least in the United States. Previous studies have attempted to look at this cyclical pattern from different theoretical perspectives. Nisbet and colleagues (Nisbet et al., 2003; Nisbet & Huge, 2007) examined the issues of biotechnology and stem cell research in terms of its variation in the prominence of frames across different stages of issue development. They found that when the issue remained within the administrative context, frames such as new scientific research and scientific background dominated the media discourse. Stories underscoring ethics/morality and the policy background took over when the issue attracted more media attention. When the issue reached its peak of news coverage, the strategy/conflict frame surged. Their findings suggest that the cyclical pattern of media attention is due to reporting strategies rather than the intrinsic characteristics of the issue covered, as put forward by Downs.
The influence of journalistic values and reporting strategies in shaping cyclical patterns of media coverage has been explored by cross-cultural studies. Brossard, Shanahan, and McComas (2004) compared media coverage of global climate change in France and in the United States. U.S. news coverage revealed a cyclical pattern, but French news coverage did not. Their results point out that journalistic practices, which were different within each cultural context, were the major determinant of the cyclical nature of the coverage.
McComas & Shanahan (1999) examined the cyclical pattern of the issue of global climate change with the idea of narrative considerations. Global climate change did not receive much media attention until the late 1980s. Media attention to the issue peaked in 1989 and declined afterward. Based on the amount of newspaper coverage as measured by story frequencies, McComas and Shanahan categorized this issue attention cycle into three stages— the waxing phase, the maintenance phase, and the waning phase. Their study found that narratives such as “consequences” and “implied danger” related to global climate change were most prominent in the waxing phase (the phase in which media attention increases). On the other hand, stories in the maintenance phase (for which media attention remained relatively stable) focused more on controversy among scientists.
This study also examines the patterns of media attention to technology companies Google and Yahoo to identify potential similarities and differences in coverage in Singapore and Hong Kong. The amount of attention the media paid to the two companies can be measured by story frequencies, in that it can be measured in terms of a month-by-month comparison of the number of news reports that appeared in the Singapore and Hong Kong press.
Therefore, this study is interested in the following hypotheses:
H2: The timing of major peaks of coverage of Yahoo will match closely in the Straits Times and the South China Morning Post: pre-entry, in the year it entered and post-entry?
H3: The timing of major peaks of coverage of Google will match closely in the Straits Times and the South China Morning Post: pre-entry, in the year it entered and post-entry?
This study employed a content analysis to examine Google and Yahoo's entrance into mainland China were framed in the Singapore and Hong Kong press. A content analysis, according to Wimmer & Dominick (1994), allows researchers to identify what exists in the text as well as the trends occurring over long periods.
This study followed the pattern established by Semetko and Valkenburg (2000), focusing on articles in Singapore's Straits Timesand one other newspaper — Hong Kong's South China Morning Post— both considered to be newspapers of record in their respective countries.
The unit of analysis was articles. Using the same procedure as prior studies, we searched the LexisNexis database for all articles appearing in each of the newspapers using the following parameters: "google" or "yahoo" or "google.com" or “yahoo.com” in the headline in the lead paragraphs (body text) of both newspapers between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2000 for Yahoo! and between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2007 for Google.
We obtained a final sample of 66 articles for Google in SCMP out of 110 articles and 46 articles for Yahoo! in SCMP out of 100 after removing repeated articles and ones that were unrelated to either company's entrance into China (articles that asked Internet users to ‘Google' Wikipedia, for example).
We obtained a final sample of 70 articles for Google in ST out of 108 and 22 articles for Yahoo! in ST out of 42 after removing repeated articles and ones that were unrelated to either company's entrance into China (articles that spoke of a businessman buying ‘Google' or ‘Yahoo' shares for his children, for example).
The search results included stories by the respective newspapers' correspondents, newswire stories, and articles from columnists. The sample included spot stories, features, columns, sidebars (short reports providing background), briefs (short summaries of wire content), editorials, and other opinion pieces.
Two coders content-analysed the newspaper articles based on the methodology adopted by Semetko & Valkenburg's (2000); their study employed a set of 20 questions to measure the extent to which a particular news article fits into one of the five frames, elaborated in the literature review. This study used the same set of 20 questions to measure the prevalence of frames in articles in the Straits Times and the Post, but instead of coding the articles as yes (1) or no (2) as done in the previous study, coding for this study was done on a scale of 1-5, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Table 1.1 (in the following page) lists the set of twenty questions. For the vast majority of articles, the coders stopped reading after the third paragraph.
Further, the Mean for each frame for each coded article was computed. The frame with the highest Mean dictated the article's frame. The inter-coder reliability, conducted on a subsample of 20 newspaper articles for each of the 20 framing questions, was between 92% and 95%.
Next, for the frequency analysis, the two coders counted the number of articles satisfying the LexisNexis query from January 1, 1998 to December 31, 2000 for Yahoo! and from January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2007 for Google for each of the newspapers. The researcher plotted the results on a graph and visually identified peaks, as has been done in previous studies.
Does the story suggest that some level of government has the ability to alleviate the problem?
Does the story suggest that some level of the government is responsible for the issue/problem?
Does the story suggest solution(s) to the problem/issue?
Does the story suggest that an individual (or group of people in society) is responsible for the issue-problem?
Does the story suggest the problem requires urgent action?
Human interest frame
Does the story provide a human example or a “human face” on the issue?
Does the story employ adjectives or personal vignettes that generate feelings of outrage, empathy-caring, sympathy, or compassion?
Does the story emphasize how individuals and groups are affected by the issue/problem?
Does the story go into the private or personal lives of the actors?
Does the story contain visual information that might generate feelings of outrage, empathy-caring, sympathy or compassion?
Does the story reflect disagreement between parties-individuals-groups-countries?
Does one party-individual-group-country reproach another?
Does the story refer to two sides or to more than two sides of the problem or issue?
Does the story refer to winners and losers?
Does the story contain any moral message?
Does the story make reference to morality, God, and other religious tenets?
Does the story offer specific spcial prescriptions about how to behave?
Is there a mention of financial losses or gains now or in the future?
Is there a mention of the costs/degree of expense involved?
Is there a reference to economic consequences of pursuing or not pursuing a course of action?
Table 1.1: Framing Items
ST and Yahoo!:
Of the 22 articles coded, 45.45 per cent or 10 articles fit into the human interest frame. A similar number of articles, i.e. 45.45 per cent or 10 articles, fit into the economic frame. One article (4.5 per cent) fits into the responsibility frame and one other article fits (4.5 per cent) into the conflict frame. There were zero articles in the morality frame.
ST and Google:
Of the 70 articles coded, 32 articles (45.71 per cent) fit into the human interest frame. 16 articles (22.85 per cent) fit into the conflict frame. 15 articles (21.42 per cent) fit into the economic frame. Four articles (5.71 per cent) fit into the responsibility frame. Three articles (4.28 per cent) fit into mixed frames i.e. there existed two framing items in each of the three articles that had equal Means. Here again, there were zero articles in the morality frame.
SCMP and Yahoo!:
Of the 46 articles coded, 21 articles (45.65 per cent) fit into the economic frame. 11 articles (23.91 per cent) fit into the human interest frame. Eight articles (17.39 per cent) fit into the conflict frame. Four articles (8.69 per cent) fit into the responsibility frame. One article (8.69 per cent) fits into the morality frame. One other article (2.17 per cent) fits into the mixed frame i.e. there existed two framing items in the article that had equal Means.
SCMP and Google: Of the 66 articles coded, 19 articles (28.78 per cent) fit into the economic frame. 17 articles (25.75 per cent) fit into the conflict frame. 16 articles (24.24 per cent) fit into the human interest frame. 12 articles (18.18 per cent) fit into the responsibility frame. Two articles (3.03 per cent) fit into the morality frame.
This study aimed to conduct a comparative analysis of print media coverage of two companies to propose an integrated theory of media coverage that took into account media framing and the media issue-attention cycle. As we discuss, the findings showed that the coverage of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China by the Singapore and Hong Kong Press, have variations owing to the differing political systems and media systems of the two societies.
In response to the first hypothesis, the data convincingly confirmed the first hypothesis. There is significant variation in Singapore and Hong Kong's coverage of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China.
In response to hypothesis H1a, the dominant frame in The Straits Times' coverage of Google and Yahoo's respective entrances into China was the human interest frame, suggesting that the dominant theme in the Singapore Press is the human interest theme and therefore confirming hypothesis H1a.
A detailed explanation of the data confirming hypothesis H1a follows: Taking the Straits Times data into consideration, of the 22 Yahoo articles coded, 45.45 per cent or 10 articles fit into the human interest frame. Of the 70 Google articles coded, 45.71 per cent or 32 articles fit into the human interest frame. On the other hand, taking the South China Morning Post data into consideration, of the 46 Yahoo articles coded, 23.91 per cent or 11 articles fit into the human interest frame. Of 66 Google articles coded, 24.24 per cent or 16 articles fit into the human interest frame.
In effect, 45.65 per cent of the total articles coded for the Straits Times fit into the human interest frame as opposed to 24.10 per cent in the Post. Therefore it can be concluded that the emphasis on the human interest theme is more in the case of the Singapore than the Hong Kong Press.
The dominance of the human interest frame also suggests that the Singapore Press concentrate their attention on substantive aspects of human interest-related ‘soft' stories. In this context it must be noted that Sim (2006) referred to the de-politicization of the Straits Times.
Furthermore, a significant number of articles focused on the economic theme, for both companies, in the Singapore Press. The cause for this result could be the government using the Straits Times to promote Singapore as an ‘investment and investor' friendly country. Singapore is also strategically located, “at the intersection of major regional and international trade routes,” giving it an “economic significance that is disproportionate to its geographic size” (Williams, 2009). However, there were no articles that fit the morality theme in the Singapore Press. The only inference to the cause(s) of this result, which also points to agenda setting--particularly to government using the Straits Times to set an agenda that appears to exclude religious or political discourse and critical commentary on issues such as the Internet firms' willingness to self-censor in a bid to appease Chinese Internet authorities.
As a result of this unlooked-for “zero”result, this study recommends that researchers who conduct similar studies of newspapers where there is evidence of extensive government media control preview data for target categories at least to the extent that the categories'presence is confirmed. If no such presence is found, the category should not be included in the typology.
In response to the hypothesis H1b, the data convincingly confirmed hypothesis H1b. The dominant frame in the South China Morning Post's coverage of Google and Yahoo's respective entrances into China was the economic frame, suggesting that the dominant theme in the Hong Kong Press is the economic theme.
A detailed explanation of the data confirming hypothesis H1b follows: Taking the Post data into consideration, of the 46 Yahoo! articles coded, 45.65 per cent or 21 articles fit into the economic frame. Of the 66 Google articles coded, 28.78 per cent or 19 articles fit into the economic frame. On the other hand, taking the Straits Times data into consideration, of the 22 Yahoo! articles coded 45.45 per cent or 10 articles, fit into the economic frame. Of the 70 Google articles coded, 21.42 per cent or 15 articles fit into the economic frame.
In effect, 35.71 per cent of the total articles coded for the Post fit into the economic frame as opposed to 27.17 per cent in the Straits Times. Therefore, it can be concluded that the emphasis on the economic theme is more in the case of the Hong Kong Press than the Singapore press.
The dominance of the economic theme also suggests that the Hong Kong Press concentrate their attention on substantive aspects of economic and finance-related ‘hard' news. In this context it must be noted that while Hong Kong is promoted by its media as the ‘must-have' business-base in Asia given its competitive-advantages, it continues to remain in constant competition with Singapore for praise and compliments “acknowledging business and economic freedom” (Williams, 2009).
Furthermore, a significant number of articles that focused on the conflict theme, for both companies, in the Hong Kong Pres The cause of this result could be the relatively greater degree of press freedom that the Hong Kong Press enjoys over the Singapore Press, in that newspaper ownership is under private hands. A relatively higher percentage of news stories fit the responsibility theme when compared to the Singapore Press. The Hong Kong Press enjoyed relatively greater freedom in reporting Google's and Yahoo's move towards self-censorship when they entered China.
Many newspaper publishers in Hong Kong run parallel business that requires them to maintain good relationships with the Chief Executive and the Executive Council of Hong Kong, ultimately controlled by central authorities in Beijing. While newspaper narratives refrain from criticizing mainland policies, they do take the liberty to criticize local legal and regional commercial affairs. Reportage of the commercial affairs of the region by the local Press is seen as aiding the city-state's projection of itself as a business base that enjoys ‘economic freedom.' The fact that some frames appeared consistently across companies' coverage resounds with the argument that journalists tend to use the same themes for stories of similar nature (Bennett, 2001).
In response to the second hypothesis, the frequencies refuted the second hypothesis. The timing of the major peaks of coverage of Yahoo! in the Straits Times does not match that of the Post. A comparison of the Yahoo frequencies, in Figure 1.1 and Figure 1.2, in the Singapore Press v/s the Hong Kong Press shows significant variance. Furthermore, the frequencies are dissimilar to the extent that a comparison of Yahoo coverage in the two newspapers in 1998 alone shows how the Straits Times had zero coverage of the company a year prior to its entry into China, while the Post does have relatively more coverage of the company a year prior to its entry into China.
In effect, it can be concluded Yahoo did not receive any media attention in the Singapore Press year before its entry into China. The cause(s) for this could be the fact that Yahoo's entrance into China was not considered important in Singapore in 1998 because Internet and Internet-search companies were not a ‘major' issue in late 90s as much as they became post 2000, after the dot.com bust and subsequent revial. Taking into consideration the Issue-Attention Cycle proposed by McComas and Shanahan (1999), the coverage of Yahoo! in the Singapore and Hong Kong Press (refer Figure 1.1 and Figure 1.2) does not confirm to their definition of media attention cycles.
In response to the third hypothesis, the frequencies refuted the third hypothesis. The timing of the major peaks of coverage of Google in the Straits Times does not match that of the Post. A comparison of the Google frequencies, in Figure 1.3 and Figure 1.4, in the Singapore Press v/s the Hong Kong Press shows significant variance. Furthermore, the frequencies are dissimilar to the extent that comparison of Google coverage in the two newspapers in 2006, the year Google launched Google.cn, shows how the Straits Times had zero coverage in January, the month of the launch, while the Post did have relatively more coverage of the company in the month it launched its Chinese version Website.
In effect, it can be concluded Google did not received any media attention in the Singapore Press in the month (January, 2006) that it launched its Google.cn. The cause(s) for this could be the fact that Google's launch of a Chinese version website was mirrored in controversy about ‘self-censorship', in-directly referring tothe politics of China. Straits Times is published by Singapore Press Holdings, which is government-controlled has de-politicised the newspaper (Sim, 2006). Taking into consideration the Issue-Attention Cycle proposed by McComas and Shanahan (1999), the coverage of Google in the Singapore and Hong Kong Press (refer Figure 1.3 and Figure 1.4) does not confirm to their definition of media attention cycles.
The results of this study reinforce Brossard et al.'s conclusion that journalistic culture has a major effect on coverage of issues of global importance; they studied climate change. In particular, the authoritarian government in Singapore appears to have a strong influence on how the Straits Times frames Google and Yahoo, while in Hong Kong, private ownership of newspaper gives newspapers more leeway for commentary.
The content analysis in this study showed how the Singapore Press focused more on the human interest theme, while the Hong Kong Press focused on the economic theme. Therefore this study reinforces Wimmer & Dominick (1994) theory that content analyses allow researchers to identify what exists in the text as well as the trends occurring over long periods.
The issue that this study addresses is that of public awareness. This study throws light on what to expect in the Singapore Press especially with the government peddling news day in and day out. On the other hand, content in the Hong Kong Press is increasingly being subjected to self-censorship owing to their ‘privatised' ownership structure. In the long run, it is the two societies that suffer from such controls being built into Press systems.
Both Yahoo and Google were projected in positive light by the Press in the two city-states. There appeared to be very little room for criticism of the Internet search giants' moves towards self-censorship when they each entered China. This is alarming because the Press in both Singapore and Hong Kong, in the years of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China, was clearly seen serving the government and not the citizens of both societies. The lack of objectivity and truth-seeking in the Singapore and Hong Kong Press forces us to ask the question: who might suffer from such reportage?
From a macro perspective, this study helps researchers understand the burden of bi-lateral relationships, between China and Singapore and between China and Hong Kong. Painting Google and Yahoo's entrance into China more in the positive than negative is indicative of the fact that the Press in both city-states were pro-China in their handling of Google and Yahoo's entrance into China.
Further studies could analyse Google's coverage pre-January, 2010, when Google first threatened to pull out of China and post its decision to do so. A comparison with this study's results would throw light on the changes, if any, in the way the Press frames Google in the two city-states.
Further studies on agenda setting would be useful to delve into whether government agenda setting is a factor in this area, and on whether readers' attitudes conform with the target attitudes implied by coverage patterns. Further studies could explore agenda-setting in a number of ways. Of primary interest is the question of whether perceived agenda setting is real. Field and/or case studies could be conducted, including interviews with staff at the Straits Times and its publisher, Singapore Press Holdings and at the South China Morning Post. If agenda setting is established as plausible, its efficacy in terms of reader attitudes could be tested through surveys and focus groups to compare readers of similar socio-economic status who read the Straits Times and the Post with those who do not.