Media coverage overwhelmingly reflected the Blair government’s spin about a “moral” case for war. Over 80 percent of press and TV stories about the war’s justification reflected the official line, with less than 12 percent challenging it.
Most reports did not mention weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—the purported reason for the invasion. Of those that did, 54 percent of TV reports and 61 percent of newspaper reports reported the coalition line on WMD uncritically.
Issues such as civilian casualties or anti-war protests accounted for less that 10 percent of stories. Anti-war activists were responsible for only 6 percent of newspaper quotes—less on TV news.
Some 50 percent of direct quotations on TV news came direct from coalition sources, and 45 percent of newspaper quotes. Only 8 percent of newspaper quotes came from Iraqi civilians.
Sky News and ITV News were the most likely to report good news for the coalition troops, with Channel Four News the least likely.
Among newspapers, the Sun was the most gung-ho in favour of the invading troops, but even anti-war papers such as the Independent and the Mirror were broadly supportive of the coalition.
Coverage of the coalition’s “humanitarian operations”, in contrast, was typically critical. Only 20 percent of TV coverage and 25 percent of press coverage gave upbeat assessments. Coverage of law and order issues and coalition military deaths was also broadly critical.