What is Hostile Media Effect?

One concept which is prominently visible in communication studies, especially political communication and public opinion studies is the hostile media effect. This was originally referred to as the hostile media phenomenon and sometimes called hostile media perception. The hostile media effect is a perceptual theory of mass communication that explains the tendency for individuals with a strong preexisting attitude on an issue to perceive media coverage as biased against their side and in favor of their antagonists’ point of view. This phenomenon occurs when opposing partisans or members of opposing ideological blocs perceive identical news coverage of a controversial issue as biased against their own side.

Hostile media effect is a robust phenomenon, which has been empirically demonstrated in numerous experimental and observational studies across a variety of issue contexts and has been shown to have important consequences for democratic society. It has broad implications for perceived public opinion, news consumption patterns, attitudes toward democratic institutions, and political discourse and participation. The hostile media phenomenon also explains the public’s eroding trust in the news media and the recent polarization among news audiences.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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