Two PhD candidates in the University of Michigan’s Communication Studies program recently published a paper exploring the effect of brand identity on viewers’ perceptions of bias in the news. Curious about the resistance with which Al Jazeera English was faced as it tried to gain carriage by Comcast and Time Warner, William Youmans and Katie Brown designed an experimental study on 177 participants to gauge how viewers’ opinions of identical news content might change if the logos were altered:
The first group watched the original clip with AJE’s branding…
…The second group saw the same news piece re-edited to carry CNN International’s (CNNI) logo…
…The third group, the control, viewed no clip. We then asked participants in each group to rate, in general, how biased they thought AJE and CNNI were.
Watching the AJE clip — branded as AJE — did not seem to have an impact on perceptions of bias; bias ratings were equal between those in the AJE-clip-watching group and the control group.
But in the group that had just watched the clip with fake CNNI branding,participants rated CNNI as less biased than those in the control group.
This suggests that many Americans may be unwilling to change their perceptions of AJE — despite the fact that the same clip, when attributed to CNNI, boosted their impressions of the American network.