Thesis

A fair yet limited perspective : a comparative analysis of the 1978-79 coverage of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Business week, The Economist and The Financial post

During the last decade, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries caused the largest transfer of wealth in history by taking control of the pricing and production of its vast oil resources away from Western nations. This thesis is a qualitative content analysis of OPEC's image in the periodical press. It was inspired by charges that OPEC has not been given fair treatment by Western journalists. It compares press coverage of OPEC in three periodicals: the Financial Post, published in Canada; the Economist from Great Britain; and Business week from the United States. In their respective markets, these publications are important among business executives and influentials. The latter two also have significant worldwide audiences. The study covers 1978 and 1979 articles, editorials, commentaries and cartoons about OPEC and the business and economic interests of its members. The 116 articles published in the June through December period of 1978 and 1979 were given a detailed qualitative and quantitative analysis, while the remaining 64 articles were included in the quantitative analysis only. In terms of attitudes, the Financial Post was found to have provided the most positive coverage of OPEC, although its articles narrowly focused on Canadian interests such as non-oil trade and contracting with OPEC countries. In contrast, the Economist and Business week often reported on broader issues and more negative elements, such as how OPEC damaged Western economies, OPEC's failure to satisfy Western oil demand and the internal discord within OPEC. Overall, the articles were not as biased as charged and little stereotyping was found. Nevertheless, the coverage was not as thorough nor as balanced as it could have been. The study suggests that the press did not pay much attention to the economic rationale behind decisions in OPEC and its member countries, making them seem arbitrary and reckless. The coverage also lacked historical background, information about conditions in the oil-exporting countries and the "OPEC" perspective.

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