Zurich, June 4, 2009: Today the Netherlands and the UK are the first two countries to go to the polls for the 4-7 June European Parliament Elections, with most of the 27 member states following on Sunday. Although there are more than 375 million people eligible to vote, the turnout is expected to be low, in line with the 45% registered in the last elections in 2004, which worryingly, also failed to interest the population of the newest states of central and Eastern Europe.
This is not a new trend, over the years, there seems to be less and less people casting their votes in European elections, as pan-European issues are overshadowed by national concerns.
“Throughout the years, Media Tenor analyses show the role that broadcasters have in pushing the agenda for certain issues while ignoring others; this is especially true when it comes to the European Union as the coverage is persistently low, even when important topics such as monetary or economic policies are tackled”, explicates Montserrat Vine, senior analyst at Media Tenor International. “In addition the reports on EU protagonists is significantly generalised with its major institutions, such as the Parliament or the European Court playing a minor role, and thus reinforcing the negative images which are often associated regarding it being an over-bureaucratic and almost useless body”, concludes Vine.
Europe is neither a major topic when reporting on politics, with the exception of France´s TF1 Le journal, bulletins have given it very little attention during the run out of the elections in the past two months. Besides focusing on Sarkozy´s controversial “protectionist” measures over the financial difficulties of French car makers and growing social unrest, journalists put the European Election and European policies, notably the Common Agricultural Policy, at the top of the country´s political agenda.
By contrast, Europe was almost a non-existent topic in Germany despite the fact that being the member state with the biggest population gets 99 seats of the 736 up for grabs; German TV news were highly focused on the current economic climate and the future of its car industry following rumours of Fiat and Magna bidding for Opel.
Italian broadcasts gave prominence to home affairs, especially regarding immigration policies which has become a major issue for the Italian government from the summer onwards; If Berlusconi´s policies to crackdown on illegal immigration, such as fingerprinting the Roma people , were openly criticised in the European Parliament , Italy now seeks answers from the EU on how to handle illegal immigration.
The European election in Spain was quite a significant topic on TV news; after months of neglecting to report on the country´s grim economic situation, despite the publication of several European studies which outlined Spain as ill-prepared to overcome the economic downturn and with an unemployment rate at its worst for 50 years (17,4% the highest in the EU), media attention in Europe increased together with the reporting on the economy.
Broadcasters in the UK gave little attention to the EU as the present scandal on MP´s expenses, Parliamentary reform and the survival of Gordon Brown´s government made most of the country´s headlines in the past six weeks. With fears that extremist parties such as the BNP, will do well in the European election (seen also as a test or means for punishing parties before the general election) following the public anger and lost of trust in the British political system the reporting on Europe is mainly positive and focus on everyday issues such as mobile phone charges abroad and immigration.
For this study Media Tenor International has analyzed 4,675 news stories with 21,240 political statements in 10 international TV news shows from the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain in the period from April 1st to May 31st 2009. For the long-term studies overall 128,557 statements in these media were coded and analyzed on a continuous level from January 2008 to May 2009.
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