Doha, Qatar – Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar) hosted the first in a series of faculty seminars by its International Economics (IECO) major faculty for the new academic year of 2011-2012.
The seminar was titled ‘Media Branding, Background, and Perception’, as presenter, visiting assistant professor Alexis Antoniades, shared his astonishing findings as a result of a study his team carried out in Qatar on whether one’s background or branding affect perception.
The experiment asked individuals in Qatar to provide background information such as age, gender, income levels, religion etc. They were then invited to comment on a nearly 3-minute Al Jazeera clip from 2006 on the Danish Cartoons Controversy.
“However, an element of deception was added when for half the participants we swapped the Al Jazeera logo for CNN’s in the beginning of the video and referred to the survey as the CNN Survey,” said Professor Antoniades.
“What we found out was that religion does not change our perception on information whether from Al Jazeera versus CNN purely as the result of branding. Surprisingly, when we turn to the branding effect we find that faculty's perception changes when the group thinks that the information comes from CNN instead of Al Jazeera,” added Professor Antoniades. Branding also seemed to affect Qataris and individuals who attended a segregated university, he said.
“Using the data, we can also build the profile of Al Jazeera and CNN viewers, and find that more than 60% of the survey participants do not consider Al Jazeera or CNN as their main source of information. This result points to the importance of social media as an alternative source of information in Qatar, and more general in the Middle East,” he added.
The methodology used for the survey, which was taken by a sample of 600 participants, used five modules: background (e.g. gender, religion, and education), perception on controversy, evaluation of clip, and views on Al Jazeera as well as on CNN.
Data was collected from community boards, through networking, at shopping malls and random cafés in Qatar. Mean responses were then quantitatively analyzed from Strongly Disagree (score 1), Disagree (2), Indifferent (3), Agree (4), and Strongly Agree (5). On the question of “I support the 2006 calls for boycotts against Danish products” for example, the average response was 3.1 (close to indifferent). On the question of being unbiased, the average response for Al Jazeera was 2.9, while it was 2.5 for CNN.
When asked ‘The reporter tried to give an unbiased response’ the average answer for faculty who took the Al Jazeera survey was much higher, and statistically different, from the average answer given by the faculty who took the CNN survey, even though the clip was identical.
Similarly, the response to the question ‘The reporter tried to give an unbiased response’ showed that again the faculty who took the Al Jazeera clip agreed more with this statement than those who took the CNN clip.
“Consequently, in this setting, branding does affect the perception of faculty. However, the study failed to find that branding affects the perception of people based on their religion,” Professor Antoniades said.
The Georgetown study has already been presented at the 9th International Conference of Communication & Mass Media held
in May, 2011 in Athens, Greece. It was undertaken as part of the Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) project funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), with participation by student Tarah Makarem. Ms. Makarem contributed to the development of the proposal, the design of the survey, survey administration, and the analysis of the results. In addition, she presented the findings at the International Conference in Athens.
The IECO Seminars at SFS-Qatar provide a forum for a 75-minute, in-depth academic discussion on research in the field of economics.