CSJCC – EU Referendum Analysis 2016

Articles suggesting that coverage of the media has been Eurosceptic for years:


‘They don’t understand us’: UK journalists’ challenges of reporting the EU – Anna Wambach (page 53)

  • In summary — the mistrust and misunderstanding between UK journalists/EU officials, alongside the British adversarial style of journalism, has encouraged a Eurosceptic sentiment over the years, perhaps unintentionally
  • Argues that we can’t blame the media for fuelling the toxic tone of the referendum campaign 
  • ‘we need to take into account the organisational structures they are embedded in, the newsroom routines and practices they have been socialised into and their personal relationship with EU officials and sources’
  • In interviews with Wambach, journalists complained that the complex nature of the EU does not lend itself to engaging reporting, particularly when there is little time for explanation
    • In order to keep the audience interested, they have to tell a human story, more emotional than factual, to avoid viewers switching off
    • They have to address their audiences’ preferences which leads to a focus on the domestic realm and topics they are more interested in, such as immigration
  • Media organisations are businesses which need to secure their share in the market which will always result in tensions between the commercial and public purpose of news 
    • Even the BBC (although not directly dependent on viewer numbers) has to fulfil its duties of providing information from both sides — acutely aware of accusations of pro-EU bias 
  • Also, the relationship between EU officials and UK journalists has been mentioned as an obstacle to reporting
    • EU officials were frustrated about UK journalists’ ‘EU-bashing’, whilst UK journalists feel at a disadvantage compared to their colleagues from other member states
  • UK journalists mentioned repeatedly in interviews that they strongly advocate a British tradition of adversarial journalism – although they see their role as informers, they also emphasised their duty to scrutinise the EU, a duty which they feel is in conflict with a more consensual EU system
    • As a result, the EU officials mistake their tradition of journalism as ‘EU bsahing’ and are less likely to provide them with useful, up-to-date information 
  • EU officials emphasised the journalists’ duty to create surpanational debate and bring the EU closer to citizens 
    • UK journalists saw this as the EU’s reponsibility 
  • Case study: the FT
    • Regarded by UK journalists as the EU’s pet, with access to privilege information
    • Indeed, one official admitted he worked with the FT more freely as they have established good contacts and represent the EU ‘more fairly’
  • Since UK citizens have very little direct exposure to the EU, these persistent patterns have reinforced distrust and Euroscepticism over the years 
  • Also see page 12 – Sebastian Payne of the FT: ‘the role of the media in this campaign must also be taken into account. For almost a quarter of a century, Fleet Street has been formenting Eurosceptic sentiment. The media operation from Stronger In was unable to compete with the populist message orchestrated by tabloid newspapers such as The Sun’.


Understanding the role of the mass media in the EU referendum – Dr Mike Berry (Page 14)

  • The Guardian‘s assistant editor Michael White described Brexit as ‘the greatest political crisis’ since the Second World War
  • He argues that there is a different between the short term role of the media in the campaign and the long-term cumulative influence of the media 
    • The impact of the media in the referendum is a product of the interaction of these two effects 
  • ‘although most commentary tends to focus on the impact of the campaign the more powerful effects of the media are actually via long term process of political socialisation, where voters are exposed to messages many times. Here it is important to consider how both the EU and the key issues linked to evaluations of the EU – particularly immigration – have been reported over many years’
  • ‘outside the Independent, Guardian and Mirrorpress reporting has been relentlessly hostile to the EU
  • Research shows that broadcast media has failed to offer a counterpoint
    • Broadcast reporting has tended to be dominated by summits, disputes between the EU and UK or domestic political conflict – this has meant that when the EU is reported it tends to be framed as being in a conflictual rather than collaborative relationship with the UK
    • Furthermore, since most broadcast reporting is dominated by the main two parties, and Eurosceptic Tories have been more vocal than Europhile Labour MPs, audiences have been more exposed to arguments against the EU than those in favour 
  • So essentially – ‘it is important to recognise that before the campaign even began the large parts of the public had been primed by the media to be Eurosceptic

Leave a Reply