Mainstream South African Newspapers’ Coverage of National Elections in Post-apartheid South Africa 1994–2014
Keywords:ANC, South African national elections, mainstream newspapers, media reporting on politics, media bias, media ownership and editorial control
During each of the five elections held in post-apartheid South Africa, from 1994 to 2014, the African National Congress (ANC) accused the mainstream media of being racially biased against the predominantly black political party. The newspapers and the other media were condemned for being privately owned and monopolised by white capital and dominated by white editorial staff, who allegedly reported negatively and critically on the party’s electoral policies—thus alienating it from the voters. Despite such criticism, the ANC gained a majority of votes at each election. This article examines: i) the presumed powerful influence of the press on electoral support for the ANC; ii) the extent that newspaper reporting on elections were racially biased against, and hostile to the ANC; and iii) the racial composition of the editorial staff. Five influential South African newspapers were analysed: three daily newspapers, Beeld, The Star, and Sowetan; and two weekly publications, The City Press and The Sunday Times. A total of 111 170 newspaper articles and editorial pieces relating to the elections were content-analysed to establish their manifest positive, negative, or neutral tonality. It was found that mainstream newspapers’ reporting did not negatively influence voters’ support for the ANC, that reports on elections were predominantly objective with a slight positive bias in favour of the ANC, and that the racial composition of editorial staff changed from being predominantly white to more representative of black personnel, which in turn introduced more visible anti-white bias.
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