Evaluating the Significance of Framing in Public Diplomacy: A Case Study of American, Chinese and Vietnamese News Frames
Thesis DisciplineMedia and Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
News frames represent the way an issue is processed and presented by the media. As such, news frames have great influence over public opinion and could therefore be useful in controlling a country’s image abroad. This study builds upon existing literature and theories in an attempt to bring scholarship closer to an understanding of what frames are most likely to be effective for use in public diplomacy by identifying what frames and frame types currently influence audiences internationally. Specifically, The study examines what structures are commonly used to frame international issues, what frame content may not be accepted by a foreign audience and the extent to which elites control the local framing competition. This thesis uses both a framing discourse analysis and a content analysis to evaluate news stories from American, Chinese and Vietnamese outlets as well as American elites. The results found that while elites appear to control the general direction of framing in a country, American journalists are willing to suggest other frames as long as they enhance the drama of the narrative. However, this storytelling imperative is not likely to cross a line into questioning the legitimacy of the media’s home country, indicating that such challenging messages should be avoided in public diplomacy. Frequency of frame structure (conflict, responsibility and consequence) use was also identified, and a positive correlation found between privately owned media and use of consequence frame types. Given the less antagonistic nature of these frame structures, they may be extremely effective in public diplomacy communications - as long as the right consequence is emphasised. It is hoped that these findings will aid scholars and practitioners of public diplomacy in identifying effective ways to communicate messages across countries, and that it will strengthen the argument for the role of ‘listening’ in public diplomacy.