Public Diplomacy and Global Communication 2014b

The Real Impact of the CNN effect

People laughed and sneared at the same time when CNN became the first network to do 24/7 news. Little that people knew or expected that this change could have so much impact on the world stage and in 1990 the golf war revolutionized everything in the media. When the Gulf War was at its peak CNN were the only network which were able to give live updates on the situation on the ground which was broadcast across America. Even the President George H Bush was getting most of his information through the CNN coverage. The impact was incredible as it gave ordinary Americans a chance to get a feel of what looked like live and just like the Vietnam War shifted public opinion, which in turn this forced Americans policy makers to react to the live situation. This is known as the CNN effect.

Though the CNN effect goes much future than this. There are two major impacts of the CNN effect a first media revolution occurred and a political revolution. Looking at the media first what we saw throughout the 90s was this growth of 24 hour news across the Western world from the Fox to BBC to France 24. The appetite for news and reporting real life events became the norm. Iconic events such as the 9/11 attacks or the 7/7 attacks in London where the pictures were enough to tell the story. What it does domestically the images play on the public’s mind and forces governments to act in a way that it might not have if there wasn’t 24/7 news channel. It helps shape public opinion. What it has also done is forces governments to react to situations quicker which in some ways could be seen as a bad thing especially if the situation requires a more longer term solution.

But also politically these news channels were very important as it could be used as a tool of soft power. There has been a big increase of these channels becoming global such as CNN international, BBC World News. It allowed to spin situations and give a Western Point of view. Many would argue this is an effective tool of propaganda. What this does is reach a global audience and try and influence indirectly the opinions of millions across the world. We have seen rapid growth in this area as governments use fund the networks to portray there nation. A BBC World Service Report quoted once saying “an ambassador of Britain’s values and an agent of soft power in the world” (

To Counter this we have seen a rise of Eastern 24/7 international news channels over the last decade. We have seen Russia Today (RT), al-Jazeera, (Middle Eastern Qatar Royal Family funded) China Central Television (CCTV), New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) a real explosion of new networks growing to counterbalance the Western World. Politically very important as it’s a way to showcase the best of their country and the ability to keep the political equilibrium. Also it allows to reach a vast international audience and it’s seen as an great symbol of power. As we run in austere times there is a interesting change is coming as a lot of the Western Powers look to cut funding for there national broadcasts but a lot of the developing world are investing more money and trying to fill the gap. So we have seen big expansions in RT having a British channel, Al-Jazeera and CCTV having a English speaking channel while the BBC and France 24 and other Western channels are cutting back. Some see this as the political spectrum swinging towards Eastern Nations.

The real impact of the CNN effect was one of visual impact. It shaped public opinion it allowed for national debate and allowed news to be up to date and current. But it also had this hidden impact which it served a important purpose of power and symbol. On the international stage people watched and politically it was used as soft power across the world. It allowed to have that American point of view on each situation. This was very encouraging for governments and across the Western world this expansion happened. It was seen as a symbol of power and in the last decade the growth of the Eastern Markets with the shift of power moving more towards the East.


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