Earlier this year, I had a little free time on my hands, so I decided to investigate the state of global journalism.
Some of you may remember that I did something similar back in 2014 when I investigated the state of Romanian news media, but this time, I wanted to look at the entire planet.
As there are literally thousands and thousands of news sources available online (to say nothing of those which are still print-only), I had to set a few parameters.
First, I decided that I wouldn’t analyze any media from the United States. For one thing, there are already hundreds of people who are doing that for a living. Furthermore, there are only six news companies in America anyway.
Second, I decided to only analyze English-language media. Since everyone reading this article can read English, it’s important to point out that, quite literally, billions of people around the world turn to news media that is NOT in English, so let’s not forget that, going forward.
Of course, English-language media is quite influential and has spillover effects in non-English media. For instance, in Romania (but not Moldova, significantly), quite literally 100% of all global news comes from English-language sources which is then translated into Romanian.
I also decided to focus on “television” (video) news media rather than print or radio or other sources. For one, just figuring out which online “print” news sources are real and which are just reprinting (or using software to automatically “rewrite” articles with synonyms to avoid algorithmic punishment for copying) news is friggin’ impossible.
I also reasoned that it takes more time, money, and effort to put together a video news broadcast than it does to dash some text pixels onto a website. That, and the fact that many people still consider television news more authoritative and “official” was my reasoning for focusing on video news.
That being said, I did set up a parallel analysis using print media that won’t be discussed in much detail here, but a short summary of what I confirmed is that the print media generally is just amplifying what’s being shown on the television news.
An American Eclipse
Another important decision that I made was to automatically exclude any news broadcasts about the United States.
Frankly, unless you consume news from a lot of different countries, it’s hard to appreciate the scale of global news coverage given to events in the United States.
As strange as it might sound to some, even local broadcasters in places like Kenya, for instance, will report on seemingly inconsequential stories such as a tornado in America, but only if it happens in America. A cyclone on the other side of Africa that kills 50 people the same week simply will not be discussed.
Not counting a few closed societies such as Turkmenistan (🇹🇲), the vast majority of all newscasts everywhere across the globe all spend an extraordinary amount of time discussing the events happening inside the United States.
In other words, the subject of the United States is the bright, overpowering sun of global news (in all languages), so I simply had to block it out in order to be able to see the dimmer stars of other news topics behind it.
The #1 Neighbor
In terms of news media, once you filter out USA news and domestic coverage, what you’ll find, weirdly enough, is that pretty much every country spends most of its time talking about just one of its neighbors.
To give you an example, Romania is bordered by five countries (Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, and Bulgaria), only one of which where the official language of governance is Romanian (Republic of Moldova).
Logically, you might think that Moldova would get the lion’s share of Romania’s foreign coverage, but that isn’t the case. In fact, the majority of Romania’s foreign coverage is about Hungary.
Likewise, Namibia almost always talks about Botswana, South Africa always focuses on Zimbabwe, Trinidad almost always talks about Venezuela, Zambia talks about the DR Congo, and Britain almost always talks about Ireland as opposed to their other neighbors.
Why most country’s news organizations primarily fixate on one neighbor above the others is beyond my capability to understand.
Giants and Dwarves
Once we filter out USA-based news media, we see a landscape in which a handful of companies dominate global news.
- 🇬🇧 BBC (Britain)
- 🇶🇦 Al-Jazeera (Qatar)
- 🇷🇺 RT (Russia)
- 🇩🇪 DW (Germany)
- 🇫🇷 France 24 (France)
- 🇹🇷 TRT (Turkey)
- 🇨🇳 CGTN (formerly CCTV – China)
Chances are, nearly every “big” video news story that you’ll ever see comes from the seven organizations listed above.
Notable mention goes to both “EuroNews” and “AfricaNews” which are consortium networks (financed by multiple governments) as well as Telesur English, which is financed by Cuba (🇨🇺), Venezuela (🇻🇪), and Nicaragua (🇳🇮).
Quite a number of countries around the world put out daily television news broadcasts in English.
Here’s the list that I assembled for my project:
- 🇨🇦 Canada
Central America & Caribbean
- 🇧🇿 Belize
- 🇯🇲 Jamaica
- 🇧🇲 Bermuda
- 🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago
- 🇱🇨 St. Lucia
- 🇩🇲 Dominica
- 🇬🇩 Grenada
- 🇻🇨 St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- 🇧🇸 The Bahamas
- 🇰🇾 Cayman Islands
- 🇧🇧 Barbados
- 🇦🇬 Antigua
- 🇰🇳 St. Kitts
- 🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands
Apparently, Turks and Caicos (🇹🇨) is just too poor to have its own television news channel.
- 🇬🇾 Guyana
- 🇫🇰 Falkland Islands
- 🇸🇷 Suriname
- TeleSur English (pan-Latin America)
It’s worth mentioning that few people in Suriname speak English. Dutch is the national language, although many folks speak Spanish as well. As far as I can tell, the English news is partly due to tourism and partly because its “#1 neighbor” is Guyana.
- 🇬🇧 Britain
- 🇮🇲 Isle of Man
- 🇮🇪 Ireland
- 🇬🇮 Gibraltar
- 🇪🇺 EuroNews (pan-EU)
- 🇻🇦 The Vatican
- 🇨🇾 Cyprus
- 🇵🇱 Poland
- 🇺🇦 Ukraine
Interestingly, the last two countries (Poland and Ukraine) do not have any historical ties to the English language.
Ukraine’s English-language media is entirely funded by the United States, but I’m not quite sure why Poland is spending so much money to inform the world about itself, in English, but it is.
Notably, Malta (🇲🇹), where a lot of people do speak English, has been really pushing to keep all of its news coverage in Maltese only.
And while Russia’s government-run RT agency (as well as its sister video agency Ruptly) cover global news, there is no English-language news channel out of Russia that focuses purely on domestic affairs.
- 🇿🇦 South Africa
- 🇲🇼 Malawi
- 🇿🇼 Zimbabwe
- 🇿🇲 Zambia
- 🇳🇦 Namibia
- 🇬🇲 The Gambia
- 🇸🇿 eSwatini
Oddly, Botswana (🇧🇼), where most people do speak English, has almost no television news presence online and has grown extremely secretive and reclusive in past years even in its print media.
It’s worth mentioning here that Namibia has the greatest press freedom in Africa, so Namibian news is truly a cool and diverse thing to check out.
- 🇰🇪 Kenya
- 🇺🇬 Uganda
Many people in Tanzania (🇹🇿) speak English, but the government there is making a hard push to exclusively use Kiswahili instead.
Likewise, Madagascar (🇲🇬) is pushing hard to remove English from public discourse, for a variety of complex reasons.
- 🇬🇭 Ghana
- 🇳🇬 Nigeria
- 🇨🇲 Cameroon
- 🇱🇷 Liberia
- 🇸🇱 Sierra Leone
I will say that the news out of Liberia is very, very enthusiastic and high-energy :)
- 🇷🇼 Rwanda
- 🇪🇹 Ethiopia
- 🇸🇨 Seychelles
- AfricaNews (pan-Africa)
Ethiopia and Rwanda are the outliers in Africa when it comes to English-language news. Rwanda used to be (and still mostly is) a Francophone country, but its dictator has been pushing the English language really hard lately, probably mostly to attract foreign investors and prevent the imposition of sanctions.
As for what Ethiopia is thinking by doing a daily broadcast in English, only the Ethiopian government can answer that. My feeling is that it is a prestige thing related to President Abiy winning the Nobel Prize a few years ago.
North Africa and Middle East
- 🇪🇬 Egypt
- 🇯🇴 Jordan
- 🇮🇱 Israel
- 🇧🇭 Bahrain
- 🇴🇲 Oman
- 🇰🇼 Kuwait
- 🇮🇷 Iran
- 🇶🇦 Qatar
- 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia
- 🇦🇪 UAE
It’s worth noting here that while Al-Jazeera is a Qatari news agency, it never, ever covers news in Qatar itself. However, a different (government) television news organization in Qatar does cover domestic news.
- 🇹🇷 Turkey
- 🇲🇳 Mongolia
- 🇦🇫 Afghanistan
- 🇰🇿 Kazakhstan
Again, Turkey’s global agency (TRT) rarely covers Turkey itself, but Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency does provide English-language news about domestic events in Turkey.
Kazakhstan, frankly, is run by a crazy person (who literally renamed the capital after himself) trying to convince foreigners to invest in his country, which probably explains why they have an English news channel. That being said, the Kazakh news channel is pretty cool because they do a lot of in-depth tourism videos as well as programs on Kazakh culture and history.
Few people speak English in Mongolia, but Mongolia is easily number one in the entire world in terms of news diversity.
I believe that there are something like sixteen different television news channels just in the capital Ulan Bataar, broadcasting in Mongolian, as well as others broadcasting in languages like Chinese and Russian (and English).
As for Afghanistan, my project was done, of course, before the Taliban took over.
- 🇨🇳 China
- 🇭🇰 Hong Kong
- 🇸🇬 Singapore
- 🇲🇾 Malaysia
- 🇮🇩 Indonesia
- 🇵🇭 Philippines
- 🇻🇳 Vietnam
- 🇱🇦 Laos
- 🇲🇲 Myanmar
- 🇯🇵 Japan
- 🇰🇷 South Korea
- 🇮🇳 India
- 🇵🇰 Pakistan
- 🇧🇩 Bangladesh
- 🇳🇵 Nepal
- 🇲🇻 Maldives
- 🇱🇰 Sri Lanka
It’s also worth mentioning that tiny Bhutan (🇧🇹) also puts out a weekly English-language television news broadcast.
At the time I was doing my analysis, the coup or takeover in Myanmar hadn’t happened yet. These days, the English-language MITV channel doesn’t broadcast anymore aside from an occasional (translated) press conference from the government.
Vietnam is the outlier on this list, but Vietnam has been growing wealthy lately and is attracting foreign investment. Furthermore, Vietnam is kind of going through a “proudly patriotic” phase at the moment, which probably explains why they’re funding an English-language channel.
And I have no idea why Laos has English television news but Cambodia does not.
Pacific and Oceania
- 🇬🇺 Guam
- 🇳🇺 Niue
- 🇫🇯 Fiji
- 🇵🇬 Papua-New Guinea (and Bougainville)
- 🇦🇺 Australia
Oddly enough, New Zealand (🇳🇿) is missing from this list even though English is, of course, the national language. New Zealand highly restricts its television media, so unless you have a New Zealand ISP address and a registered account, it is very difficult to get access to broadcast NZ television news.
Meanwhile, the various US colonies and dependencies in the Pacific such as Samoa, American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Micronesia all use English domestically but are seemingly too poor to put any of their news broadcasts online.
The same goes for the smaller British and Australian territories such as the Cook Islands, the Pitcairn Islands, Christmas Island, Tristan da Cunha, Diego Garcia, and Norfolk Island, which also do not have much in the way of television news of their own.
- 🌐 The United Nations
The UN always uses British spelling, so their News “Centre” broadcasts a daily press briefing as well as other globally relevant news in English.
About 99% of the time, the news media around the world completes ignores all news out of the United Nations, which is more than a bit odd.
Nonetheless, if you want a single source of interesting news, I highly recommend watching their daily press briefing. If nothing else, you’ll hear about stories that aren’t covered almost anywhere else.
Every single day, I would download and then upload the television news broadcasts from all of the sources listed above onto a Telegram channel that I set up explicitly for that purpose. The news there is now long out of date, of course, but you can at least see what I was up to.
Some countries have an “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to television news, particularly South Africa, Namibia, Australia, India, Uganda, and Kenya, while other countries just have one or two (English-language) news channels, or none at all available to the outside world (such as Botswana and New Zealand), so for the “richer media” countries, I’d go through multiple broadcasters to find which stories were “dominating the headlines” in that particular country.
I’d then go through about 150 different print sources to see which stories they were amplifying that were also covered by the television news. I’d then make a curated list of what I felt were the most important ones and compile it into a single text document, complete with links.
Once that was done, I’d plug the text from that document into a program that creates a “word” or “tag” cloud so that you could, in an instant, see exactly what the dominant news topics and themes were for that day.
What I Discovered
First of all, let’s keep in mind that I was doing this entirely by myself, at home, using a regular old computer with no special software.
Also, despite the somewhat tedious nature of this project, it took me less than eight hours to put together my “World News Summary” every day.
Therefore, a small group of people with just a modicum of funding could easily do a far, far better job. But the fact that no one else is doing this is rather disturbing.
Because the global news focus is so heavily skewed towards coverage of events in the United States, there is a hell of a lot of accessible news content out there that just isn’t being seen.
Secondly, I (obviously) wasn’t doing any reporting or investigating myself, merely curating and collating news from other sources. Nonetheless, within about a week of starting this project, I regularly found myself “scooping” other news media. Sometimes, it would be as much as three or four days before an important story that I’d noted would get covered by other news agencies, including, yes, the much-vaunted BBC.
And while nothing about my project can be construed as “objective” or “scientific,” it seems abundantly clear to me that the world is not being informed of some rather critical information.
For instance, Nigeria is badly underserved in the global news field. As the largest country in Africa (population at least 201 million), Nigeria plays an important role not just in Africa but on the world stage. Nigeria is a major oil producer, a major food producer, and a major producer of culture as well (Nigeria releases more movies every year than Hollywood does) And yet it is consistently ignored.
Nigeria is home to a lot of conflicts and fault lines, including between religions (Christianity, Islam, and pagan), between civilizations (farming versus nomadic herdsmen), and issues like cybersecurity, terrorism, migrants, refugees, and environmental damage. It is nearly inconceivable that the events ongoing in Nigeria receive such little outside attention.
Even more astoundingly, an entire fucking WAR has been ongoing in Ethiopia since November 2020, with nearly a hundred thousand people displaced, killed, or injured. And yet you’d never know it by perusing most news sources.
Over and over again during this project, I would see that coverage of news events in the United States simply sucks out “all of the air in the room,” leaving little time or energy for discussions of anything else.
When a kid in Romania is more likely to know the name of the President of the United States than the President of Moldova, and a kid in America is more likely to know the name of the President of Russia than the Prime Minister of Canada, this is a clear sign that the entire news ecosystem is badly out of balance.
We are longer living in the dark ages, ffs.
Anyone who speaks English (and/or Russian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese) has free and easy access to the news and information from dozens of different countries, and yet almost no one is taking advantage of that.
I could, for instance, write several interesting and informative articles about the recent presidential elections in Uganda, which were so crazy and dramatic that the plot almost sounds like it came out of a Los Angeles television studio’s writers’ room.
But the main reason why I am not doing it is that almost no one even knows where Uganda is, Uganda’s role in the region and the world, who the various players were, and what was at stake.
Depending upon whom you ask, there are only 200 countries or fewer on the planet. And yet more than half of them never get mentioned on the news, ever. Quite literally, the lives of billions of people are treated as though they exist in an alien universe, unknown and unknowable.
What kind of world are we living in when most folks are completely unaware of even the names of these countries, much less any news concerning them? Why do only a tiny, tiny fraction of people (even ones who regularly follow the news) know the difference between Tonga (🇹🇴) and Togo (🇹🇬)?
Ouagadougou is a bigger city than Bucharest, and yet most people in Bucharest are completely unaware of its existence. And god knows, if they did hear about it, they’d probably imagine it’s a city of a few dirt streets and cheap metal shacks instead of a fabulous modern metropolis.
Cable television news has been around for fifty years, the internet for thirty, and wireless radio and trans-oceanic media for far longer than that. We often think we live in a “connected world,” but we really don’t. And without that basic foundation of who lives where, it is simply impossible to comprehend the news coming out of those places or make an informed decision about foreign policy.
None of this is meant to be a condemnation or criticism of people’s education levels. Frankly, almost all of us are misinformed sheerly due to the lack of available information. The fact that a pedestrian like me could put together a daily curation of global news items shows just how accessible this information could be, if there was any interest or motive to do so.
Even more strangely, I bet some folks out there really would love to get a curated video feed showing just the first (top) story from the 35+ English-speaking countries that I listed earlier. But there’s almost no place to host or distribute such a “product.”
That is because most mainstream information channels are deliberately in the business of censoring the activities of three-fifths of the planet.
For instance, my Android phone has a swipe screen that I cannot delete or alter, and all of the “news” on the screen is from a handful of entirely American sources, even though I do not live in the United States and my phone was made in China.
One of the tools I initially set up to conduct this project is called “Flipboard.” And while I like the format, I found that the app simply would not let me delete sources such as CNN and the BBC. How the fuck is anyone supposed to understand the big picture of global news that way? And don’t even get me started on the monstrosity that is Facebook.
Pundits and bloggers often (rightly) discuss acts of censorship concerning specific people and topics. But in the larger scheme of things, there is also an ongoing blanket censorship founded on the logic of a) Since you don’t know where this country is b) We won’t bother to give you any basic education about it, and so c) There’s no need to bring you any news from there.
It’s a completely unnecessary tragedy, in my opinion.
What You Can Do
My advice, as I said earlier, is to just watch the United Nation’s daily press briefing. It isn’t “exciting” and full of cool graphics and scary death counts like CNN or the BBC, but it does cover things ongoing around the world that you will probably never hear from anywhere else. And I’m saying that as a person who thinks Stéphane Dujarric is a bit of an idiot LOL
In addition, set up a study plan or download an app so that you can learn the names of the countries and where they are in the world. Even if that’s all you do, you’ll be way ahead of most folks.
If English is your native language, pick a country that you know little about and start reading one of its newspapers or watching a local news broadcast every day. My recommendations for English speakers are: Namibia, Papua-New Guinea, Singapore, or Guyana.
If you’re Romanian, check out a Moldovan newspaper. If you speak Spanish, check out the news from a place like Nicaragua or Equitorial Guinea. If you speak French, check out what’s going on in Madagascar or Wallis & Futuna.
If you’re a reader, check out the print media. If you’re more a visual or audio learner, check out news channels on YouTube or their home websites.
Give yourself a week or two to adjust to the unfamiliar names and the political parties and the places and the faces, and you’ll be surprised at just how interesting and engaging the news from these countries is. You’ll learn about exciting political races, natural disasters, cultural events, and amazing acts of bravery.
We are all global citizens now, so educate yourself as one. Facebook sure as hell isn’t going to do it for you.