Show Less
Open access

E-Political Socialization, the Press and Politics

The Media and Government in the USA, Europe and China

Series:

Edited By Christ´l De Landtsheer, Russell Farnen and Daniel B. German

This book examines the state of print and electronic media in the United States of America, Europe, and China. The latest mass communication advances demonstrate that we live in an increasingly media-centric world. The chapters include theoretical and empirical studies that shed light on the meaning of this development. The trajectory of people’s move to electronic communication is a global phenomenon affecting their daily life. Does this trend aid or impede democracy? Is there an emerging digital divide contributing to an increasing gap between the rich and poor people and nations? The four parts of this book explore various aspects of political socialization and its relationship with different media, including print, broadcasting, and the Internet.
Show Summary Details
Open access

10 Press Reporting on the Euro

| 203 →

Chapter 10

Press Reporting on the Euro

Marianne Law and Jerry Palmer

London Metropolitan University, London, UK

David Middleton

Open University, London, UK

Abstract

The current study aims to analyze certain trends in reporting about the European Monetary Union (EMU) in the press of four EU countries: France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It examines the profile that the new currency has acquired when it was launched and particularly, the extent to which the currency is profiled in press reporting as a matter of national versus transnational as well as economic versus political significance. The purpose of this type of analysis is to examine the “framing” of the EMU. This study follows a well-established tradition in which media output is analyzed to examine how cumulative reporting of an issue (or a series of linked issues) results in a more or less coherent profile of the issue in question.

Introduction

As is well known, the European single currency was launched on January 1, 1999. On the night of March 15-16, the entire European Commission resigned in the wake of allegations of fraud and financial mismanagement. This followed the resignation of Germany’s Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine on March 11, 1999. The exchange rate of the new currency scarcely faltered during March 16: it fell rapidly in the morning, but equally rapidly regained its strength in the afternoon (Die Welt, Guardian, Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, Le Monde, March 17, 1999). In early January, it traded at approximately $1.16 (US) and £0.7. During January and February, it fell gradually against these and other major currencies. In the days following Lafontaine’s resignation, it rose against the pound sterling but fell against the dollar. During the week of March 10-17, 1999, it fell to $1.07, but rose again to $1.09 before the Commission’s resignation (Die Welt, March 17, 1999). On the morning of March 16, it fell to $1.0814, but regained its value during the afternoon. It also fell from yen 127.37 to 128.62 (Le Monde, March 17, 1999) or 127.85 to 128.7 (Die Welt, March 17, 1999), but later regained its value. Its sterling value rose somewhat after the Commission resigned. Table 1 records its trading record against the pound sterling during these few days. ← 203 | 204 →

Table l: The Euro versus the pound sterling (March 10-17, 1999). 1 Euro = £ sterling. Trading information on the Euro taken from Dutch national bank statistics at www.dnb.nl

DateSterling exchange rateEvent
March 100.6746 
March 110.6694Lafontaine resigns
March 120.6686 
March 150.6739 
March 160.6703Commission resigns
March 170.6744 

It is legitimate to speculate what would have happened to a single nation’s currency if its government had been forced to resign under such circumstances. No doubt, the currency would have suffered a very different fate. Of course, the European Commission is not a government, but neither is its relationship to the Euro entirely a matter of indifference. Also, had the crisis arisen closer to the launch of the Euro, things might have been different. Strasbourg could have provoked the crisis in January, but chose to appoint the commission of “wise men” instead; no doubt, the fate of the Euro was a major factor in the Parliament’s deliberations (Le Monde, March 18, 1999). Searches of the newspapers (Le Monde, Liberation, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Bild, Sueddeutsche Zeitung) in January 1999 produced no mentions of possible links between the conflicts that led to the Commission resignation and the value of the Euro. Indeed, the rapid fall of the Euro in the few hours following the resignation announcement indicates the possibility that things might have developed entirely differently. According to Die Welt, the slide of the Euro on March 16 was halted by a briefing from the European Central Bank (ECB) that stressed its constitutional independence from both the Commission and other political authorities. According to the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian (March 17, 1999), the briefing also hinted that interest rates would not be altered.

An online search through the archives of major newspapers in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK using the terms “Commission,” “resignation,” “Santer,” and “single currency” in varying combinations (plus relevant cognate terms and in translation as appropriate; dates searched were March 12-18, 1999, inclusive) produced few articles. Of course, searches using these terms separately produced many articles. The reason for the massive reduction of mentions in combination was soon apparent: the number of articles which actually analyzed the possibility of a link between the Commission’s resignation and the exchange rate was very small. There was one article each in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, Die Welt, Le Monde (quoted above), the Daily Mail, and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung; two appeared in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung. All these articles followed the event (i.e., were dated March 17, 1999 or later). Searches of de Telegraaf and V’olkskrant found no articles analyzing (or even mentioning) the possibility of a link between the two. While the online searches ← 204 | 205 → may have been fallible, it seems certain that the volume of reporting of the possibility of a link was extremely feeble and entirely retrospective. The consensus of all reports which did mention it was that currency markets were largely indifferent to the resignation; mentions of the resignations’ possible impact on the stock market were even fewer.

In other words, in advance of the mass resignation, the possibility of a flight from the Euro was not part of any mass media agenda. In retrospect, the issue scarcely seemed worth mentioning. Media silences are difficult to account for unless alternative formation sources reveal that a silence was deliberately organized and .maintained by some mechanism or other (Palmer, 2000). Silence can always be dismissed as simple absence: nothing happened; therefore, there was silence. In a sense, this is what happened in this instance; however, the reason why “nothing happened” is clearly that there was sufficient confidence in the insulation of the new currency from Brussels politics to ensure that nothing happened. Such a position (and its public acceptance) has to be created and maintained as much in public opinion as in any other forum. While it is possible that sudden events .may have a rapid and dramatic impact on public opinion, in the circurnstances in question, it would appear that trust in the ECB was a long-term matter, linked to its perceived independence from political pressure and its role as the trustee of a transnational currency. The relative silence about the link between the Commission resignation and the exchange rate is a mark of that trust and of the perceived independence of the currency from political pressures.

At first sight, this indicates that press agendas did not see EMU as primarily a political matter during the period in question. An earlier comparative analysis (Palmer, 1998) found that previous attention was primarily focused on the political dimension of EMU; the study referred mainly to Autumn 1995 (i.e., the period leading to the Madrid summit, where the name “Euro” was chosen and the nature of convergence criteria was high on public agendas). Studies analyzing the German press of the same period indicate that the political dimension of currency union was high on agendas (Settekorn, 1998; Loenneker, 1998). A study of the francophone Belgian press during the same period finds that, although political aspects of the currency union were indeed mentioned with some frequency, the matter had a low level of prominence and was not regarded as a controversial matter, except in one left-wing regional daily (Lits, 1999). A recent comparative study of television news coverage of EMU in Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK finds that the introduction of the new currency was overwhelmingly reported in terms of its economic consequences at the moment when it was introduced (De Vreese, 1999). In combination, these studies may indicate that the profile of the new currency has shifted away from the political, toward the economic. However, an analysis of UK broadcast news coverage of European economic issues highlights the many ways in which the issue is presented in terms which emphasize opposition (Britain-and-Europe), rather than unity (Britain-in-Europe). The same study points to a dearth of ← 205 | 206 → analysis focusing on the relationship between media coverage and attitude formation in pan-European matters (Gavin, 2000).

The analysis of “frames” derives from the study of agenda-setting. In the words often quoted as the starting point of this tradition:

The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about (Cohen, 1963, p. 13).

This perception was confirmed by the original (1972) Chapel Hill agenda-setting study (McCombs and Bell, 1996). The agenda-setting function is operationalized as the parallel rank ordering of a set of nominated issues, both in the mass media and in public opinion, as shown by content analysis and opinion polling. Thus, what is measured in the two parallel survey instruments is comparative issue salience in a given body of media output and in a body of public opinion. Reviews of the now substantial body of research literature in this tradition point out that the majority of studies support the central hypothesis of a substantial correlation between the two agendas; reviewing 375 such studies, Dearing and Rogers (1996, pp. 10, 49-50) state that 65% support the central contention. Although correlation, alone, does not prove any causal link, further studies in this tradition demonstrated that the inference of causality (explicit in Cohen’s statement) is legitimate (Dearing and Rogers, 1996, p. 92; McCombs and Bell, 1996, pp. 99-100). However, in later studies, the place of the agenda in the communication process as a whole has been foregrounded in a way that makes the simple attribution of linear causality dubious. The central question here is: Where does the media agenda come from? Dearing and Rogers’ review of the concept of agenda-setting shows that agendas cannot realistically be analyzed without reference to some external agency. In particular, they stress the role of two entities: policy elites whose actions lead them to seek to dominate public agendas via the mass media and so-called “spectacular news events” (Dearing and Rogers, 1996, pp. 25-28, 34-35). The emphasis on the role of policy-making elites is broadly in line with a well-established research tradition into news sources which, in general, concludes that “Sources Make the News” (according to Sigal, 1973 and 1986; Gandy, 1982 and 1992). However, the central role of spectacular news events (also called “trigger events”) is not entirely compatible with the stress on policy elites since it is unclear whether such events acquire their public profile as the result of initiatives by such news sources; indeed, the example they choose (the striking profile of the Ethiopian famine) is usually attributed to journalistic initiative (Philo, 1993). Some analysts conclude that a linear explanatory model is not useful and that a “multi-polar” model of meaning production, involving “multiple systems of meaning production” with multiple fora and interacting feedback processes is more useful (Hansen, 1991; Palmer, 2000).

The previous discussion is based on the presupposition that the focal point of any discussion of agenda-setting is issue salience. However, it has become central ← 206 | 207 → to debates about agenda-setting that “salience” may not be an adequate concept for the task it is allotted in two respects: l) “salience” lacks any evaluative dimension and 2) perhaps as a result of the first, it is only a cognitive concept, entirely lacking a persuasive dimension.

The lack of an evaluative dimension clearly reduces its usefulness. For example, it would be easy to demonstrate that abortion is an issue with a high degree of salience in public agendas in the US in recent years; it would probably turn out that there was a high correlation with media agendas in this instance. However, there is a big difference between abortion having a high salience in the context of the pro-life argument and salience in the pro-choice argument. The traditional agenda-setting thesis explicitly rejects this distinction. However, if issue salience derives from the activities of policy elites, then we can be sure that (in this instance) media content will not be entirely separate from the attempts of the two (opposed) elites in question to define the issue. In this instance, we can clearly see the link to the second criticism, based on the absence of a persuasive dimension: attention to abortion considered as a question of issue salience tells us nothing about how this issue is publicly understood and the extent to which elite domination of news agendas is successful in producing shifts in public opinion.

Recognizing that this is a problem in agenda-setting studies, it is manifest in the argument by McCombs and Bell that there is now a “second generation” of agenda-setting studies. Here, it is no longer the salience of an “object” which is studied though correlations between two rank orderings of issues, but the salience of some “attribute” of that object (McCombs and Bell, 1996, pp. 101-102). In other words, it is no longer what is talked about that is the focus of analysis, but what is said about it. It is this “second generation” of agenda-setting studies to which the term “framing” is commonly applied.

Frames consist of patterns of “persistent selection, emphasis and exclusion” in reporting (Gitlin, 1980, p. 7). Entman defines them as a combination of four factors: selection and salience of issues; definitions of problems; diagnosis of the cause of the problem; and judgment about their nature. He finds that consistency of framing over a long period may amount to establishing an “agenda” in the public domain or something even more stable and fundamental: “culture is the stock of commonly invoked frames” (Entman, 1993, pp. 52-53). If an issue is analyzed not in terms simply of its most general outline (e.g., “abortion”), but in terms of how it is framed, then its capacity to dominate public understanding may be clearer. For example, Jasperson, et al. (1998, pp. 207-208) analyzed the role of the framing of the federal budget deficit in US news media during Winter 1995-1996. During this period, the salience of this long-running policy issue changed dramatically once it was publicly linked with the President’s decision to shut down all federal offices because of political disagreements between the executive and the legislative branches of the government about the budget. Before the link was publicly made, the budget deficit was not a salient issue; once the link was made, it became salient. ← 207 | 208 → In other words, the “framing” of the issue was responsible for its increased salience.

However, the status of framing, itself, is uncertain (Scheufele, 1999). The origin of the concept is in the “social construction of reality” tradition (Scheufele, 1999, p. 106; Pan and Kosicki, 1993, pp. 55-56); therefore, it refers as much to how audiences “decode” messages about the world as to how the messages are “encoded” in the moment preceding emission. Scheufele demonstrates that analyses using the concept of framing move between conceiving of the “frame” as a construct of the individual mind and a construct of media representations, as well as between conceiving of the frame as determined by some outside force or determining public understandings. He presents this as a 2 x 2 matrix (see Table 2).

Table 2: Framing variables

Frames seen as:Dependent variablesIndependent variables
MediaAB
IndividualCD

When frames are analyzed in the variety of ways that this schema suggests, we find that some studies present “frames” not as caused by media agendas, but as a resource used by audiences in their efforts to decode media messages and/or understand the world around them. Indeed, this resource may not even be the dominant one in this undertaking (Gamson, 1989). Thus, the move from “agenda-setting” in the original sense to its “second generation” version involve a reduced capacity to produce an attribution of causality.

Studies showing the existence of news frames are numerous. For example, the reporting of HIVIAIDS in the UK in the early 1980s eventually produced a “frame” in which this matter was defined as a public health issue, rather than an issue of personal morality (Miller and Williams, 1993); here (arguably), a long-term frame of reference was established. A more short-term example is the reporting of the confrontation between Shell and Greenpeace over the Brent Spar oil storage facility in 1995, which framed the issue as one of protest about environmental damage, rather than routine oil industry engineering procedures (Palmer, 2000). As Scheufele’s schema implied, such studies may focus on “upstream” communications strategies by news sources as is the case in the last two mentioned plus many others (Weaver, 1994; Gandy, 1982 and 1992; Deacon and Golding, 1994). They may also focus on the downstream “impact” on the public or some defined segment of it (Capella and Jamieson 1996; Newman, 1986; Bruce, 1992, pp. 137-140). In the interest of terminological consistency in this chapter, “issues” refers to particular events or a linked series of events; “agenda” refers to some ranking of issues in a hierarchy of media attention; and “frame” refers to the way in which combining these two leads to establishing an overall profile of the entity or entities in question. Our analysis concentrates on the “persistent selection, emphasis and ← 208 | 209 → exclusion” that Gitlin uses as his definition of a frame; we make no inferences about the behavior of news sources nor of the frame’s impact on public opinion. Establishing what the “frame” constitutes is a necessary preliminary to the analysis of either “upstream” strategies or “downstream” impacts. This approach is akin to the “tracking” studies used to evaluate the impact of communications strategies (Hampton, 1997).

While different studies use many different approaches to analyze news content, quantitative content analysis is frequently used on the grounds both of reliability and its capacity to handle large volumes of material. This is the method chosen for the current analysis. The choice of method was dictated partly by the sheer volume of potentially relevant material and partly by the need to develop a method that would be capable of handling material in different languages and referring to numerous discrete real-world referents. For example, any analysis of real-world individuals and institutions referred to in press reporting across national boundaries must deal with the fact that the empirical entities are individuated, yet functionally equivalent (e.g., heads of state, national banks, political decisions, economic reports, exchange rates, etc.). This requires creating an analytic device that is capable of recording the presence or absence of these entities in several national media spaces and allowing strict comparability. Content analysis is well suited to such a task.

Sample

The analysis is based on a sample of the national press systems (i.e., nationally circulating newspapers) of the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Regrettably, resources did not allow any analysis of broadcast coverage. The number and selection of nations was dictated by resources and the availability of relevant language skills. All coding was done by native speakers of the languages in question, with the exception of French; two of the researchers have adequate bilingual skills in this respect. It is important that the nation sample includes one “out” country. The basis of the equivalence is that the sample is approximately equally representative of the four national systems. It is partly dictated by the availability of online archive access. Table 3 shows the titles chosen to represent each national system. Horizontal alignment indicates approximate equivalence among titles based on a series of indicators: market sector, political allegiance, and level of business reporting.

The time frame of the sample was October 1, 1998 to March 31, 1999. All analysis of this sample is based on percentage distributions of the units of analysis within each national press system. This allows for the fact that each national system has very different quantities of coverage. The total number of articles located by online searches for “single currency,” “economic and monetary union,” and various cognate terms in relevant languages was approximately 10,000. The sample analyzed covers between 5% and 10% of articles in each national sample devoted ← 209 | 210 → to the single currency. It follows the levels of journalistic interest by taking every l0th or 20th article in the chronological sequence of articles. Therefore, the sample is not random and its stratification follows the logic of news agendas insofar as the agendas are indicated by numbers of reports.

Table 3: Nationally circulating newspapers of countries included in the sample

The Design of the Analysis

All sampled text was divided into units of meaning. All units of meaning are either agents or events. “Agents” are the persons, organizations, or institutions whose activities are reported. “Events” are all the sets of circumstances, actions, and contexts which are mentioned. Each “unit” is a mention (i.e., a piece of text of indeterminate length but with a single focus); typically, it is a word or phrase.

Both agents and events are assigned to one of the following categories: political, economic, or civil. The first two categories are used in their commonsense meaning, although the coding scheme has rules for their application to ensure consistency. For example, a minister of finance is considered a political agent, a central bank is an economic one; this usage reflects constitutional arrangements. “Civil” means everything that is not political or economic; basically, it refers to everything to do with public opinion, except actual elections. Thus, trade unions are economic agents when they take action (e.g., strike), but individual trades unionists or officials expressing an opinion count as civil agents.

In addition, both agents and events are categorized according to their location. If they are located inside the nation whose press system is being analyzed, they count as “national home.” If they are located in one another country in the European Union, they count as “national foreign.” If they are located in more than one EU country or belong to the EU as a whole, they count as “transnational.” If they are located outside the EU, they count as “international.”

Reliability was achieved iteratively. A significant percentage of the articles sampled were double-coded after preliminary individual coding; the resolution of any discrepancies that were revealed was then applied to the rest of the sample. For example, this sentence would be coded in the following manner:

Europe’s most powerful banker yesterday cast a shadow over the launch of the euro by delivering a humiliating snub to the French (Daily Mail, December 31, 1998). ← 210 | 211 →

 Agents: a) “Europe’s most powerful banker” (identified in the following sentence as Wim Duisenberg, President-designate of the European Central Bank): Agent = Economic, Transnational; b) “the French” (French government, in this context): Agent = Political, National, Foreign.

 Events: a) “cast a shadow”: Event = Economic, Transnational (this refers to his refusal to accept an abbreviated appointment); b) “over the launch of the Euro”: Event = Economic, Transnational; c) “by delivering a humiliating snub to” (the French): Event = Economic, Transnational (because it involves a transnational entity, the ECB, in addition to a European country).

Each of these entities would be recorded as one mention of the appropriate category. Additionally, all agents are given an “authority” score that indicates how much objectivity and partisanship is involved in the reporting of their actions. Analysis of this feature of the study is not included in this chapter. However, at this point, it is important to realize that the relationship between “active” and “passive” mentions of agents as well as “positive/negative” reporting of their actions is encoded with authority scores, not mentions. One crucial element of the authority score is a numerical indicator of the fact that an agent is presented as responsible for the event being reported; in the previous example, Duisenberg would be the responsible agent.

The purpose of these devices is to let us see whether the EMU is presented as primarily a matter of politics, economics, or public opinion; and whether it is a matter of primarily internal/domestic or transnational concern. Therefore, these devices are the operationalization of our focus on the “framing” of the EMU issue. They are intended to locate elements of meaning that are relatively independent of the details of the ebb and flow of everyday events, in the sense that their presence/absence is unlikely to be directly event-sensitive. The size and stratification of the sample were dictated by this factor.

Given the nature of the subject under discussion, it is obvious that the distinction between “political” and “economic” is not always easy to establish with certainty. Two issues arise: validity and reliability. Where validity is concerned, we followed the constitutional separation between government and central banks in EU countries and the Union institutions, themselves. Where reliability is concerned, the iterative double coding (the basis of the reliability of the coding in general) produced consistent agreement about the assignation of agents and events across these two categories.

The Results

Agents by Domain of Activity

Table 4 shows the extent to which the national press systems give different levels of attention to political, economic, or civil agents. The differences in tables 4 and 5 ← 211 | 212 → are statistically significant at p<0.001, using chi square on the original Ns. This only records the fact that these agents were mentioned and the distribution of these mentions; it says nothing about what the agents said. It gives a preliminary indication of whether the EMU is considered primarily as an economic, political, or civil matter. The UK press is dominated by reporting the activities of political agents; the Dutch press gives approximately equal attention to political and economic agents. While it appears that the French and German press are similar in their emphasis on economic agents, in both cases, there is only a 12% to 13% difference in the reporting of economic and political agents. Although it is true that the reporting of the EMU is seen as primarily economic (in terms of agents), it is also viewed as having a large political dimension in these two countries. This is probably not to be explained by variations in the amount of business reporting in the press title sample because the UK and German press are close to equivalent in this respect. The same is true of the French and Dutch press; however, the French/Dutch press sample is different from the UK/German press in this respect since it is likely to reflect genuine differences in agendas.

Table 4: Percentages of all mentions of agents by domains of activity and nation

In all four countries, attention to civil agents is relatively marginal. In general, public opinion on this matter is not much reported in any of these countries. No doubt, this is partly because events which are directly the product of civil activity (such as conferences and opinion polls) are relatively less frequent than the activities that figure here under “economic” and “political” headings. However, it also reflects the categories of people whose activities are seen as relevant; in other words, it is a clear indicator of framing. Lits (1999, pp. 123-124) also finds that in the Belgian press, civil sources (such as unions or associations of citizens) are rarely quoted. The marginalization of the representation of civil agents is a significant silence in the framing of the EMU in the international press. Further analysis is needed to establish what political or communication strategy was responsible for this marginalization.

Events by Domain of Activity

Table 5 shows the extent to which national press systems give different levels of attention to political, economic, or civil events. Here, we are looking no longer at ← 212 | 213 → the identity of the agents whose actions are being reported, but at what those actions are and the contexts in which journalists think they are being carried out. This is when agents’ actions start to be interpreted since journalists exercise editorial choice over the actions or the context that they portray as significant in respect of any individual or organization. The UK press gives equal attention to economic and political events, whereas the other press systems are heavily dominated by the reporting of economic events where the EMU is concerned and, to a degree, that is relatively consistent across “Euroland” countries.

Table 5: Percentages of all mentions of events by domains of activity and nation

Comparison of These Two Indicators

In Euroland countries, the two indicators tell roughly the same story. In France and Germany, both agents and events are markedly more economic than political, if by a different margin. Throughout Euroland, the difference between mentions of agents and events shows that many of the political agents are portrayed as acting in a context defined as economic, not political; this is scarcely surprising given the subject matter. In the Netherlands, the difference between the two indicators (agents/events) is striking. It is probably accounted for by the nature of the sample. A high percentage of the Dutch coverage comes from the tabloid De Telegraaf; in general, tabloid reporting features less description and analysis of the actions of each agent whose actions are reported than is usual in broadsheets. As the analysis of the German and French media (not to mention common sense) suggest, if political agents are acting in an economic context, then the pattern of tabloid reporting would produce a relative increase in the number of political agents and a relative decline in the number of economic events.

It is not possible to give a clear interpretation of this without reference to material from outside this analysis. In other words, it is only by looking at other details of the articles in question that it would be possible to see any further pattern of ascription of political agents’ activities to one or the other domain of activity (e.g., any pattern of individual agents’ ascription to a particular domain, a pattern of positive or negative mentions of such activity). If this pattern were visible, it would theoretically be possible to analyze the communication strategies of the various political actors to see if they were attempting to define events as either political or economic. To date, this analysis has not been done. ← 213 | 214 →

In the UK, the discrepancy between the two indicators also suggests that a significant percentage of politicians are seen as acting in a primarily economic context when their actions are related to the EMU. The difference between mentions of political and economic agents is both wider than in Euroland and shows the opposite emphasis (more political, rather than less), yet the margin between political and economic events is narrower (in fact, nonexistent). This suggests that a significant percentage of the UK political actors are being portrayed as dealing in economic matters and that this percentage is far greater than in Euroland. The implication is that everything is more politicized in the UK press than in the Euroland press. However, background knowledge of UK politics in this respect suggests that the Conservative Party (and the Conservative press) constantly seeks to make potential UK membership of the EMU into a directly political issue by bringing the question of sovereignty and national identity to the foreground. The Labour government seeks to define it as a pragmatic and economic matter. The figures in Tables 4 and 5 suggest that the Conservative Party is not succeeding in persuading journalists to see the EMU as primarily a political matter, but also that the Labour government has not succeeded in defining it in an entirely economic and pragmatic fashion. This point only holds good for the period analyzed, up to March 31, 1999; no evidence is available for the subsequent period. Also, these distributions include business page reporting. If the sample included only general news pages, the distributions might be very different. At a seminar at London Guildhall University in 1999, Bob Worcester (head of MORI opinion polls) pointed out that one difficulty for the English Conservative Party’s policy of increasing opposition to the UK’s membership in the EMU was the volume of favorable reporting of EMU in the business pages.

If we amalgamate the two indicators, Table 6 shows that for the UK press, monetary union is primarily political (subject to what was previously mentioned), whereas for the Euroland press, it is primarily an economic matter. The divergences between the three Euroland countries do not seem to indicate any significant difference. In other words, the lack of divergence may be taken to indicate a high degree of transnational press consensus on this matter.

Table 6: Percentages of all mentions of events and agents by domains of activity and nation

We can also amalgamate the indicators to express the contrast between Euroland and the UK more directly in Table 7. ← 214 | 215 →

Table 7: Percentages of mentions of domains (events and agents): ins/outs

 United KingdomIns
Political50.529
Economic40.564
Civil97
Total %100100

Here, the “Ins” column shows the averages of the three Euroland press systems; the divergence between the UK and Euroland is striking. This table confirms what could have been deduced from the earlier evidence: the UK press is operating to a different set of news values than the Euroland press where the EMU is concerned. As a result, the framing of the issue is significantly different in the two cases. To avoid confusion, we are using news values in one of two possible senses. Possibility l is “universal” news values (such as timeliness, proximity, human interest, etc.); possibility 2 (used here) is the “local” features of particular events which are timely, proximate, interesting, etc. (Palmer, 2000).

Analysis of the Distribution of Meaning by Domain of Activity

Although it appears obvious that in Euroland, the single currency will be seen primarily as an economic matter (since the single currency now exists in Euroland), in reality, it is far from obvious. It means that those in Euroland who want to define national participation in the single currency as primarily an economic matter have succeeded in gaining the initiative where press agendas are concerned.

Location of Agents and Events

Is the EMU mainly a domestic or a transnational matter? Agents and events are coded according to their location as well as their domain of activity. Table 8 examines the distribution of agents according to whether they are located in the country whose press system is being analyzed or elsewhere in the world.

Table 8: Percentages of mentions of agents by nation: domestic/non-domestic

This indicator suggests that the UK press is preoccupied with internal UK agendas, whereas the Euroland press is dominated by transnational matters if by significantly different margins. If we turn to how the analysis of events informs the same question, we see essentially the same thing. Table 9 also shows that the UK is dominated by internal concerns, Euroland by transnational ones. Amalgamation of the two indicators in Table 10 tells the same story. ← 215 | 216 →

Table 9: Percentages of mentions of events by nation: domestic/non-domestic

Table l0: Percentages of events and agents by domestic/non-domestic

Inferences from these tables is subject to caution because the amalgamation of meaning objects into the categories “domestic” and “non-domestic” is likely to give more of the latter, since there are three ways of being non-domestic (refer to Possibility 2). However, this restriction does not invalidate inferences based on the differences of priority that separate the UK from the Euroland countries, nor those based on the differences between the margins of difference in the various countries. As can be seen from Table 10, the UK press is dominated by domestic matters (albeit by a relatively small margin), whereas the Euroland press systems are clearly dominated by non-domestic matters (albeit by different margins). The extraordinary imbalance between Dutch attention to domestic and non-domestic matters is no doubt due to geographical and cultural factors deriving from the size of the nation and the extent of its now-traditional orientation to the outside world; but the margin of difference in the French and German presses is also clearly significant.

Analysis of Distribution of Meaning by Location

In the UK press, the distribution between domestic/non-domestic agents and events is similar (Tables 8 and 9), suggesting that agents are dealing with matters that are dictated by their location. In the French and German press, there are more domestic agents than domestic events (and conversely for non-domestic), which implies that domestic agents are dealing with non-domestic matters in some greater proportion than in the UK. This is a further indicator of a difference in framing between the UK and Euroland. In the Dutch press, the balance between national and transnational matters is unequivocal in every respect.

Again, it may appear obvious that inside Euroland, the EMU will be seen as a transnational matter. But it has been successfully defined as such and, at least during the period surveyed, domestic concerns are not above transnational ones in the press agendas in these Euroland countries. ← 216 | 217 →

Conclusions

News reporting is event-centered. Each event is presented in terms based on a judgment about which aspect or dimension of the event is considered significant, according to news criteria (Palmer, 2000). To use the terms discussed earlier in this chapter, each news story is about an “issue.” In the case of “human interest” stories, the issue base may be less than obvious. (For a discussion of an example of sexual scandal, see Palmer, 2000.) Journalists’ choices of which issues to report collectively constitute an agenda (which may or may not result in the “setting” of a wider public agenda). The combination of the two results in a “frame,” in terms of which the issue(s) in question acquire a more or less defined profile. This profile may be the result of “upstream” activities by news sources, autonomous journalist decisions, or some mixture of the two. It may have some “downstream” impact on public opinion. Certainly, news sources make well-documented efforts to ensure the compatibility of event-profiling with their strategic intentions (Weaver, 1994; Miller and Williams, 1993; Palmer, 2000; Gandy, 1982; Sigal, 1986). The study reported here aims to show how two significant dimensions of the reporting on the EMU underlie the mass of reporting of individual events and issues in the press. These dimensions are the questions about the national/transnational and the political/economic/civil. A propos each of these dimensions, it is clear that the UK press “frames” the EMU distinctively differently from that adopted in the Euroland press systems studied. Whether this is the result of conscious “upstream” communications strategies cannot be established on the basis of this analysis; an analysis of the range of sources used would go some way to achieving this. Nor does this study allow any analysis of the actual impact on public opinion. However, it seems likely that the framing in question corresponds to some significant element of public opinion (upstream or downstream) in the countries in question.

References

Bruce, B. (1992). Images of Power. London, UK: Kogan Page.

Capella, J. and K. Jamieson (July 1996). “News Frames, Political Cynicism and Media Cynicism,” pp. 71-84 in Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 546.

Cohen, B. (1963). The Press and Foreign Policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Deacon, D. and P. Golding (1994). Taxation and Representation. London, UK: John Libbey.

De Vreese, C. (July 1999). “Framing the Euro in the News and in Public Opinion.” Paper given at the meeting of the International Association for Mass Communication Research (IAMCR), Leipzig, Germany.

Dearing, J. and E. Rogers (1996). Agenda-Setting. London, UK: Sage, Communications Concepts series.

Entman, R. (1993). “Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm,” pp. 51-58 in Journal of Communication, Vol. 43.

Gamson, W. (1996). “Media Discourse as a Framing Resource,” pp. 111-132 in A. Crigler (ed.) The Psychology of Political Communication. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. ← 217 | 218 →

Gandy, O. (1982). Beyond Agenda Setting. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Gandy, O. (1992). “Public Relations and Public Policy: The Structuration of Dominance in the Information Age,” pp. 131-163 in E. Toth and R. Heath (eds.) Rhetorical and Critical Approaches to Public Relations. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gavin, N. (2000) “Imagining Europe: Opinion Formation, Political Controversy and Media Coverage of Europe and the Economy,” pp. 352-373 in British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Vol. 2, No. 3.

Gitlin, T. (1980). The Whole World is Watching. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Hampton, F. (1997). “Integrating PR Monitoring into the Overall Corporate/Product Marketing Function,” pp. 280-288 in Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 1, No. 3.

Hansen, A. (1991). “The Media and the Social Construction of the Environment,” p. 4 in Media. Culture and Society, Vol. 13.

Jasperson, A., D. Shah, M. Watts, R. Faber, and D. Fan (1998). “Framing and the Public Agenda: Media Effects on the Importance of the Federal Budget Deficit, pp. 205-224 in Political Communication, Vol. 15, No. 2.

Lits, M. (1999). “Contes et décomptes de l’euro” (Calculations and Miscalculations About the Euro), pp. 121-130 in P. Marion (ed.) L ’Année des Medias 1998 (Year of the Media 1998). Louvain-la Neuve, Belgium: Academic Brylant.

Loenneker, B. (1998). “L’Euro, l’Europe, les nations - et les stereotypes” (Euro, Europe, and Nations: The Stereotypes) in M. Lits, J. Palmer, and W. Settekorn (eds.) L’Euro Médiatisé. La construction de la monnaie unique dans les médias européens (The Construction of the Single Currency in the European Media). Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Les Dossiers de L’ORM/COMU, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve.

McCombs, M. and T. Bell (1996). “The Agenda-setting Role of Mass Communications,” pp. 93-110 in M. Salwen and D. Stacks (eds.) An Integrated Approach to Communications Theory and Research. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Miller, D. and K. Williams (1993). “Negotiating HIV/AIDS Information. Agendas, Media Strategies and the News,” pp. 126-142 in Glasgow University Media Group Getting the Message: News, Truth and Power. London, UK: Routledge.

Newman, K. (1986). The Selling of British Telecom. New York, NY and London, UK: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Palmer, J. (1998). “L’Union monétaire dans la presse de cinq pays européens: quelques com-paraisons quantitatives” (The Monetary Union in the Press of Five European Countries: Some Quantitative Comparisons), pp. 43-62 in M. Lits, J. Palmer, and W. Settekorn (eds.) L’Euro Médiatisé. La construction de la monnaie unique dans les médias européens (The Construction of the Single Currency in the European Media). Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Les Dossiers de L’ORM/COMU, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve.

Palmer, J. (2000). Spinning into Control. News Values and Source Strategies. London, UK: Leicester University Press/Continuum.

Pan, Z. and G. Kosicki (1993). “Framing Analysis: An Approach to News Discourse,” pp. 55-15 in Political Communications, Vol. 10, No. 1.

Philo, G. (1993). “From Buerk to Band Aid: the Media and the Ethiopian Famine,” pp. 104-125 in D. Eldridge (ed.) Getting the Message: News and Power. London, UK: Routledge.

Scheufele, D. (1999). “Framing as a Theory of Media Effects,” pp.103-118 in Journal of Communication, Vol. 49.

Settekorn, W. (1998). “L’Euro en Images ou l’Imagination de l’Imaginaire” (Images of the Enro or Imagining the Imagined), pp. 7-16 in M. Lits, J. Palmer, and W. Settekom (eds.) L’ Euro Médiatisé. La construction de la monnaie unique dans les médias européens (The Construction ← 218 | 219 → of the Single Currency in the European Media). Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: Les Dossiers de L’ORM/COMU, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve.

Sigal, L. (1973). Reporters and Officials. Lexington, MA: D.C Heath.

Sigal, L. (1986) “Sources Make the News,” pp. 9-37in R. Manoff and M. Schudson (eds.) Reading the News. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Weaver, P. (1994). News and the Culture of Lying. New York, NY: Free Press.