Saudi Arabia, Iran restore relations in a deal brokered by China on March 10th. Now 3 days have passed, but I only saw MSNBC and BBC briefly reported it on their TV programs once. All the other news programs seem to be silent about it.

But shouldn't this be reported/discussed heavily as it is such a big deal? Just because China plays a significant role so they do not want to report it? That does not make sense, but I guess that is probably the reason (sour grapes).

If I remember correctly, the murder of a Saudi dissident journalist or the story of Iranian morality police was reported extensively on TV, so to me it is not that they don't like to report the story from Saudi or Iran.

--- Update ---

From the answers and comments I got, I think I need to emphasize two things. First, my question is specially about TV coverage, not about digital print coverage. Before I asked the question I already read some articles mentioned in one of the answers. Second, I am reluctant to (and I don't) use the term 'western media', because I don't think such things exist or it is too broad term to conveying any meaningful discussion. Can you image to put Fox news and CNN or The New York Times together to talk about Middle East peace or ...?

PS, this is CNN world news on YouTube today (3.14), so you can see it covers a lot, two reports about China, not no Iran and Saudi deal. I am hesitated to use CNN as an example because I have seen that sidetracked my question. As someone grew up in 80s, I am more interested in using Big Three (NBC,CBS,ABC) as an example, but it is easies to get CNN news link on youtube.

--- update 2 ---

My question is about US new programs but let me talk about BBC here as a supplement to my question. I probably would agree with one comment that "BBC is the best international news service in the world" but I came across this tweet,

BBC newsroom staff are super-transparent about their drive to downplay or totally delete any positive news about China. It's actually quite funny!

I never heard this guy Nury Vittachi or Fridayeveryday.com before. From this website it said "Nury Vittachi is one of Asia’s most widely published authors, and emeritus chairman of Asia-Pacific’s biggest association of writers." I don't know whether all these claims are true or not, and that is why I update my question again.

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    Why do you think CNN viewers care about this deal? Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 4:33
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    "it is such a big deal" Is it? Nobody really knows. Maybe compare the US news coverage of the topic to other nations coverage (for example take some random country from each continent). Maybe you would find that most news organizations didn't cover the deal a lot. I myself am not sure how significant the deal is. I guess the future will tell. But I definitely saw one or two articles about it in the NYTimes. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 7:44
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    Does it have any immediate impact on the west? Stories from Iran or Saudi Arabia are normally only reported if they are particularly sensationalistic (the dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi was an exciting story, but lots of other Saudi atrocities go completely unreported - e.g. the war in Yemen, or many other human rights abuses. Likewise a lot of Iranian news is unreported, and the women's protests are arguably under-reported despite a lot of sensationalistic detail.) Likewise, Chinese trade deals or diplomacy are seldom reported.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 13:02
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    U.S. news media is notorious for being very poor on reporting on international stories unless it involves U.S. interests or major tragedies. Americans as a whole do receive a stereotype of being rather ignorant of most of the international community with terrible geography skills and larger portion of the population who have never traveled abroad. That said, it's not entirely deserved, but it's not wholly undeserved.
    – hszmv
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 14:46
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    @hszmv how often does German media reports on events in South America / how often does Australian media report on events in Central Asia? There's only so much space on the front page of a newspaper. Every country reports primarily on domestic events, then about China/US, then a bit about everyone else. The US isn't any worse in this regard. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 20:22

6 Answers 6


I think this gets a bit more oversold in China, relative to the US, that's why you're so surprised. Coverage does exist, at least in [digital] "print", sometimes actually quite laudatory of China, in fact

Mutual re-opening of embassies is not that big of deal IMHO given that the two are still backing opposite sides in the Yemen war, which only has a ceasefire... which was established many months ago (and somewhat holds, despite officially expiring). Also asked here why it matters.

Besides, recall that Saudis broke ties with Qatar too (a year after some Iranians invaded the Saudi embassy.) And the Saudis restored them with Qatar in 2021, but I don't recall any big TV news coverage in the West about that either. So it's not like they are shunning China in particular on this.

Also consider for actual TV coverage length the telegenicity of the event. There's not a lot to show besides a 3-way handshake. Even al-Jazeera's coverage in English is like 1-minute long, AFAICT. Yeah, al-J does have a 30-minute analysis with panelists etc. Western media hardly ever has something like that for anything Middle East. (DW has like 5-min coverage.)

BTW, the Khashoggi story was incredibly well managed by... Erdogan. Leaks after leaks, after teasers fed to the press kept the attention up etc.

The core of the strategy was a daily series of leaks by unnamed officials to correspondents based in Istanbul, especially U.S. journalists, to ensure that the issue remained in headlines

Also Khashoggi wasn't just some Saudi dissident. He also had Western journalist credentials, so he was much relatable on the level of "shock, horror, Saudi regime kills an [almost] Westerner". Even though this happened in Turkey, coverage was [thus] about par with what I saw for novichok assassinations etc.

Finally, you are partly mistaken with respect to CNN's TV coverage of the event. They do have it on "Connect with Becky Anderson", albeit uploaded on CNN.com belatedly on March 13, but the show's FB page has it posted on March 10, which was probably the air date.

enter image description here

This show seems to air only on CNN International though, but I think not on CNN US. That it wasn't uploaded (at all) to their YouTube channel is a different matter. BTW, the show's FB also has a follow-up commentary segment on March 13.

So possibly CNN did intentionally minimize coverage to their US TV viewers. I don't see much attempt to minimize coverage on their web site though, it was among the top stories today in the "world" section and the top story in the Middle East section, even today:

enter image description here enter image description here

By the way, Fox News didn't miss the opportunity to cover it, and criticized Biden in the process as well, with at least 2 TV segments, a couple of days ago (and possibly even before, but I didn't check further back).

enter image description here enter image description here

One interesting point in a discussion like this, how many Americans are still getting their news from TV:

enter image description here

  • I already read the articles you mentioned except the time article (which is today's article) before I asked. But my question was about the TV coverage. In my original question, I used CNN as an example but found people then focused on CNN so I delete that.
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 14:52
  • I live in Beijing but I am not sure if it is oversold here. I try to be as objective as I could. But to me, that is sour grapes.
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 14:54
  • I'm not sure how coverage on domestic Chinese TV was, but on CGTN it was like one (Iranian) commentator blaming the US for everything that's wrong in the Middle East for the better part of those 5 minutes of coverage they had youtube.com/watch?v=iyJwTgZ-_Ig The Turkish TV coverage was more interesting. They also got an Iranian, but mostly took a dig at the Saudi press for not covering this at more length youtu.be/fEZD6-xOIF8?t=87 Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 16:29
  • FTWT, CNN now has a written piece. I think they posted it much later than other outlets edition.cnn.com/2023/03/13/middleeast/… OTOH they also had coverage of the UAE doing the same, which few other Western outlets bothered to report edition.cnn.com/2022/08/22/middleeast/… It looks like usually they post their ME newsletter around 11:30 EDT. Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 16:52
  • 1
    There not being a lot to show was never an excuse for 24/7 news media to drone on about something. Had the deal been brokered by the US, it would be dominating the news. I like how your CNN screenshot illustrates the terrible state of journalism.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 8:17

In addition to my comments that suggest part of this is American News Media has a historically poor record for covering international stories unless it is a tragedy OR involves U.S. interests in some way. Additionally, it wouldn't be seen as a terrible blow to U.S. Diplomacy because the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with Iran, so it wouldn't be in a position to broker a peace agreement to reopen embassies when they don't have an embassy with one of the major players in the deal.

Additionally, it likely fell victim to "Friday News" curse. This isn't just an American News Media unique problem, but typically news stories that occur on Fridays tend to get disproportionally low coverage because people tend to not watch the news on the weekend, meaning that a story which might live for a day and a half on the regular news cycle will have to survive 2-days with little attention until Monday Morning. It's not uncommon for governments around the world to release bad news on a Friday in order for the bad news to be ignored for two days so that they don't have people who bothered to read and report on the bad news to have a public interest in following the story (They also do this during other major distractions. The U.K. government had a minor scandal when government memos were advising departments to release any "bad news" they had during the 9/11 attacks and days following, since those reports would not be a priority for the press for the obvious reasons.).

In all likelihood the fact that the deal was made on a Friday diminished any interest it would have gotten had it happened earlier in the week from other western media.

While it's likely that politics of various news media outlets played a part in the downplayed coverage, it's more likely that the above marketing and time factors contributed more than anything else.

  • Some of answers try to "defend", your actually explains. Thanks! I am not pro-Beijing per se. Just what to find out why.
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 2:07

It seems that CNN finds movies more important than Chinese foreign policy. Look what they talk about:

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    But that is not just Chinese foreign policy.
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 5:43
  • 3
    @Qiulang, CNN still believes that their readers (and advertising customers) prefer to read about the Oscars more. Or even surfing in China, apparently.
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 6:06
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    My question is not just about CNN. My friend in US told me he didn't see any report on TV (which I can't verify because I live in Beijing.)
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 6:45
  • 2
    @Qiulang Most US news has no attention for any event that does not directly involve the US. Had the US brokered this deal, it would be dominating the news. To the US viewers, anything that does not involve the US might as well not exist.
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 8:22

Your premise is flawed.

Cable news is not the be-all and end-all of western news.

This has been receiving enough exposure to be a top news item in Google News continually since the moment it dropped. It is getting plenty of exposure.

The coverage has actually shifted into the second wave of analysis instead of reporting by now.

Here's CNN

The Slate

The Guardian

And an editorial from the Wall Street Journal

  • 1
    Please improve your answer by citing some sources, links to resources to support your assertions.
    – sfxedit
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 17:45
  • My question is specifically about TV coverage. Also I don't use the term "western news." because I don't believe such thing exists or it is a term too board to meaning anything.
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 1:17
  • 2
    +1 I barely follow the news in the US and I heard this story. I think on NPR, which you could add to your list. @Qiulang If you zero in on TV only, then it’s not much of a question. Most news doesn’t make it to TV because there’s not enough time in the broadcast day to fit all the stories and producing TV is expensive. Therefore, only the most popular items get on TV. Also, I don’t know any Americans personally who get their news from TV. Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 4:33
  • Television news tends to avoid any topic that can't be explained as a tiny segment of a 5-minute cycle.
    – davolfman
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 16:27

See also: Why is the media concerned about the sharia and the treatment of women in Afghanistan, but not in Saudi Arabia?

The reason is the same - ultimately the news agency needs to focus on what their viewers want to know about and/or are interested in. This is measured in terms of clicks. Every time you click on a link about X topic, you tell the website that you are interested in that topic. If for example the website gets:

  • Articles on topic A gets 50,000 views
  • Articles on topic B gets 5,000 views

Then it will quite sensibly focus on topic A. It will assign more journalists to cover topic A than B. It may or may not neglect topic B entirely (that depends on whether it counts 5000 as significant enough to bother), but it will cover B less than A.

When faced with new stories, the news agency will also use their judgment to decide whether the new topic is likely to generate more clicks.

That's what you're seeing. People who watch US news aren't very interested in the Iran/Saudi/China deal, so they don't report on it.

  • 1
    Man, now I see I asked my question in a bad way! I don't want the answer to focus on CNN but the answers and the comment I got so far all focus on CNN. My bad.
    – Qiulang
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 7:29
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    @Qiulang it's the same logic, however (since most news agencies do similar kinds of analysis).
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 7:32
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    While this may seem like a sensible answer, it is far from being accurate enough to be a complete answer and in its current state can be easily interpreted as disingenuous. There are quite a few examples of news stories in which people are interested in and get buried and plenty of stories that people aren't interested in that get overexposure. The news organizations have more than clicks in mind when deciding what story to publish or not.
    – David S
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 16:43
  • @DavidS do you have any evidence for that claim?
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 22:34
  • @Allure Yes, politically motivated news stories. Its that simple. Honestly, your claim that they only follow the clicks is by far more absurd and requires far more evidence. There are executives from agencies on record stating motivations for certain stories getting more or less coverage other than click counts.
    – David S
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 23:15

My guess is that the Western community is pretty perplexed about this new development. So while this is certainly an important piece of information, it cannot be celebrated, since a China-Iran-Saudi relationship is potentially a huge risk to world order—from a Western perspective.

It would help Iran evade Western sanctions and develop its military and weapons production, and China would be less afraid of sanctions—if it chooses to attack Taiwan, and the Saudis can just agree to a nuclear Iran or even buy an arsenal of their own—making the whole region more dangerous.

On the other hand, how can you denounce "Peace"? And what would the West achieve from denouncing it—as it is still trying to get the Saudis to stick with the US while absorbing rebuke on civil rights matters.

So downplaying the whole event, hoping that it won't develop into warmer ties and security cooperation, is in the best interest of the West.

In regards to internal US politics, this can be seen as another severe foreign policy failure of the Biden administration, and of the whole ideology that a weaker America is better for the World (if Ukraine and Afghanistan are not enough)—as we all know, some news outlets don't like reporting such types of information.

See https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/19492/biden-pushing-arabs-towards-iran

  • 3
    Answer could be improved by demonstrating that this is not just your personal impression. E.g. by linking to relevant news sites, official declarations etc.
    – Jan
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 17:27
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    @Jan, you can see all the references in the answer of Fizz. But as long as it's only journalistic explanation of solid news, I don't see reason to honor them more than I honor myself. They are not so smart and I'm not so dumb.
    – Jacob3
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 18:15
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    Limit your opinions and provide evidence
    – Up-In-Air
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 21:24
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    @Up-In-Air, seems like you didn't read my previous comment. The answer of Fizz includes all the references for my answer as well.
    – Jacob3
    Commented Mar 13, 2023 at 21:36
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    @Jacob3 Still not seeing how any part of Fizz's answer, be it points made or references provided, support yours in any way Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 9:17

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