Coverage of EU politics vs. coverage of national politics
June 12, 2010 9:30 PM   Subscribe

Fellow EU Mefites, how would you compare the coverage of EU politics to the coverage of domestic politics in your national media?

Considering that the lives of the citizens of EU countries are influenced roughly as much by the decisions of the EU as they are by the decisions of their national political institutions, I'm puzzled by how limited and irregular the coverage of EU politics in the Finnish press is compared to the coverage of Finnish domestic politics. The press not only gives a lot more time to domestic issues, but the coverage is entirely different in nature as well: every day we get interviews of and statements from representatives and officials who a) are directly or indirectly accountable to voters and b) have power over the issue in question. These are contrasted to statements from an opposition of some kind.

You know, basic daily political coverage? Except that we get essentially none of that for daily EU politics, and I'm not sure I understand why. The local member of the Council of the EU goes unchallenged, as do the MEPs and the leaders of the parties who nominate them. I suppose it's possible that reporters here simply do not understand who has which means to affect decisions in the EU and what are the channels through which voters (i.e. most of the audience) might have influence over those people (and thus an interest in paying attention). I understand that the structure of responsibility is more complicated than on the national level, but I don't see how it's qualitatively different in a way that prevents asking the same sorts of questions and pitting the politicians against each other like the press is supposed to.

As much as American press gets bashed these days, their coverage of their own federal-level issues seems to be, uh, miles ahead of our EU coverage. Not speaking languages other than Finnish and English, my only comparison within the EU is the British press, but I haven't followed it very much.

What I want to know is whether EU journalism is weak across the EU or just here in Finland. Any other observations on EU vs. domestic coverage are very much welcome as well.
posted by Anything to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, and a clarification: I don't just mean purely domestic issues, but national foreign policy issues as well.
posted by Anything at 9:34 PM on June 12, 2010

Italy: weak. Definitely weak. The newscast I watch has more or less 1 piece every two days from the correspondent in Brussels, usually with reference to matters related to local politics (this or that big wig here meeting other big wigs there, or how some EU legislation is going to affect things here) or important decisions (the economic crisis, etc.). Usually no mention is made of the MEPs. I believe very few people know who their MEPs actually are. The same (a wee bit better actually) goes for newspapers.

I work in close contact with Brussels, I might be more EU-oriented and aware than most here.
posted by _dario at 9:59 PM on June 12, 2010

first thing is EU doesn't work closely enough like the national chambers so journos struggle to make certain things relevant and much of the legislation is genuinely incredibly complex.
Even when this is not the case, we can't pronounce the names of the different party spokespersons. Also, many UK people I speak to now would be horrified to know their local Tory candidate is actually in bed (in a political sense) with the hard right in EU and so the polos don't brief journos in the same way they would do in their national chamber.

In Ireland there was a little more coverage than -dario mentions probably because the whole Celtic Tiger emergence was dependant to a large extent on Euro seedcorn, and the fact that the CAP basically turned quiet a few farmers in Ireland into quite wealthy people.

However the character was still, "look at what the (insert big name politician) is doing in the Parliament", "what impact this new regulation is having here....", "look at what might threaten the gravy train for Ireland."

My primary degree was in European Studies and if you knew what to look for there were quite sophisticated organs of information, news-sheets, debates, e-updates, mainly funded by the EU.

A lot of this changed with the various NO to the Treaty movements, when a section of the Irish population rejected the accepted wisdom that EU knows best and since then I have detected (please correct me as these days I am only a visitor to Ireland) a bit more bite in the coverage.

as for the UK...... well, dare I answer?

I was frankly appalled at the lack of coverage when I moved here 10 years ago considering how much UK funding is given (despite Thatcher's renegotiation) and how legislation affects the daily lives of the people here. It tended to be derisory comments on the new bit of "straight bananas" legislation, or the gravy train of Euro MEPs. My perception was that most of the coverage was Daily Mail variety (Europe wants us to boil our babies now before we breastfeed them!!!) sort of headlines.

More recently due to my job I see a huge amount about the coverage of the Working Time Regulation. Basically because I have a specific interest I tend to join the e-links, blogs, tweets, newspapers, academic journals where this is discussed. (Although I note with some amusement the fact that it is still called the European Working Time Directive, despite the fact it became UK regulation in 2002)

So long story short, if you have a specific interest you will find more as opposed to General Interest.
posted by Wilder at 12:32 AM on June 13, 2010

For Italy, _dario has it.

I've worked in TV news here, and one thing was painfully obvious: when everyone gathers around the terminal after the show to watch the minute-by-minute audience figures as they come through from Auditel, you watch them take a nosedive as soon as any EU coverage comes up on the screen. (That's true for foreign news as opposed to domestic news anyway, but even more so with EU news.) People don't understand it, don't want it, and don't watch it. Brussels assignments for correspondents are considered punishment postings, or maybe a safe parking place until some spat fades away or the editor you offended moves on.

Pretty much the same for newspapers, too, with the unsurprising exception of Il Sole-24 Ore, the Italian FT-equivalent.
posted by aqsakal at 12:50 AM on June 13, 2010

I am a UK citizen currently living in France, often travelling in Germany and working for a European perhaps I am well placed to talk about this. Overall, EU politics is pretty complex and hard to understand even for those working in it, and a lot of it seems too distant for national publications to follow, report on to the same depth as national politics. I don't think you can (yet) make a direct comparison with US federal politics, because currently a lot of issues are still decided at the national level that affect media consumers directly eg. taxation, social security entitlement, education, healthcare. EU policies affect these, but usually need ratification at the national level to take effect, and that is when national papers etc get a bit more excited.

German press covers the EU better than most I think, perhaps because Germany puts in more money than the other countries, but also particularly recently the whole Greece/Euro/Merkel debacle has really hit the headlines. Obviously they cover news from a German perspective but I find Der Spiegel's international edition pretty good.

France covers more EU stuff than the UK, but tends to be along the lines of when France feels/thinks it's leading the rest of Europe (classic Sarkozy positioning)

Spain is covering it a lot more at the moment as they have the presidency

UK, I love my alma mater but the island mentality and general 'not part of Europe' attitude tends to mean the EU coverage is very low, media consumers just aren't that interested

Eastern Europe - harder to say as I don't speak the languages, again though when the Presidency was Czech that meant Czech papers followed it a lot more.

The main English language publications that really do EU things to any great degree are the FT and (ironically, given that it's US owned) the International Herald Tribune. The Economist has a sister publication called European Voice which does it all in a lot more depth if you really want more detail. There is also Euractiv, which is good for keeping track of policy news but not terribly pretty to look at.
posted by Skaramoosh at 9:54 AM on June 13, 2010

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