The day after the elections in Israel on January 22nd 2013, a no less important (and some would say, much more consequential) election was held in the country next door – Jordan. Comparing the BBC’s coverage of the two elections we see some very interesting trends and phenomena.
The Jordanian elections were the subject of a total of five reports on the BBC News website. Two of those articles were published the day before the election: a Q&A item and an article entitled “Jordan election: Risks of not changing“. On the day of the election itself – January 23rd – two items appeared on the BBC News website: one filmed report and one written item. The day after the election, one report was published.
In none of those reports do any of the following words or phrases appear: Right-wing, far-right, ultra-nationalist, hardline. The main opposition movement in Jordan – the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘Islamic Action Front’ – is described as having a “moderate tone”. One adjective used to describe some candidates in the election is “socially-conservative”.
“As in previous elections, most of the 1,500 candidates are nominally independent but tend to be socially-conservative government loyalists. Their campaign material is long on family heritage – important in a traditional society like Jordan – and short on campaign pledges.”
By comparison, the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli elections began long before the day prior to the vote. In the days and weeks before the elections, the BBC News website published eight articles – see here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. The BBC World programme ‘Hardtalk‘ also addressed the subject of the elections.
On the day of the elections themselves (January 22nd) six new articles appeared on the BBC News website – see here, here, here, here, here and here. One additional report by Jon Donnison was published and then later scrapped. The BBC also created and promoted a designated Twitter list of its correspondents Tweeting about the Israeli elections.
So – to compare the numbers – in the days and weeks before both elections, the BBC News website produced no articles on Jordan and nine on Israel. On the respective days prior to the elections, the BBC News website produced two articles about Jordan and six about Israel. On the respective days of elections themselves, the BBC News website produced two articles about Jordan and seven about Israel, with a designated Twitter list created only for the latter. On the respective days following the elections, the BBC News website produced one article about Jordan and twelve about Israel.
The total number of articles about the Jordanian election was five, whilst the total number of articles about the Israeli election was thirty-four, along with a dedicated Twitter list.
Can routine elections in a vibrant democracy really be said to justify seven times more coverage than elections held in a monarchy as part of efforts to contain local manifestations of a region-wide wave of public dissent?