Is Seeing Believing?: The Relationship Between TV Consumption and Islamophobia in German Majority Society

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Abstract

Islamophobia is a severe issue in Germany and other Western societies. To advance our understanding and contribute to possible solutions, the present two-wave field study investigated the role of TV consumption in the emergence and maintenance of Islamophobia in a weighted sample of non-Muslim Germans (N = 97; aged 14–33 years). Past research has indicated a negative bias in Islam-related news coverage, which is especially extreme on German private TV channels. The present study investigated the relationship between TV consumption and Islamophobia using Slater’s theory of reinforcing spirals of media selectivity and effects (Slater, 2007, Communication Theory, 17, 281–303). It sought to investigate the validity of and to refine Slater’s theory. Thus, TV consumption was differentiated between quantity and quality (divided between preference for public channels ARD/ZDF and private channels RTL/Sat.1). We hypothesized (a) a significant cross-sectional relationship of quantity and quality of TV consumption (preference for public/private channels) to the Islamophobia level, and (b) a mutual reinforcement of quantity/quality of TV consumption and Islamophobia over time. Results of step-wise linear regressions showed significant relations of private channel preference to levels of Islamophobia (cross-sectional) and a mutually reinforcing spiral process between the private channel preference and Islamophobia over time. The results emphasize (a) the importance of a specification of the construct of media use central to Slater's theory and (b) the need for an improvement of the Islam-related news coverage to decrease Islamophobia in Germany.

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