ITAN in brief n. 5, An Analysis of Media Data: Do European Mind about their Neighbourhoods?, October 2014
The choice of ITAN corpus of European newspapers
From Factiva the ITAN report constructed a database translating the spatial vision of a part of the European press. We chose one generalist newspaper and one business newspaper in five major European countries, under the assumption that French, Italian and Spanish media would rather report on Mediterranean Neighbourhood events, while German and Czech media would rather focus on East Neighbourhood ones. Not least than 2.4 million international (i.e. excluding the articles on the newspaper country) press articles were analysed, over two periods: 1998-2000 so as to cover in particular the on-going change in the Eastern Neighbourhood in transition, and 2010-2012 so as to cover in particular the Arab spring.
European newspapers pay a small and declining attention to ENCs
Over the two periods 1998-2000 and 2010-2012, 15% of the 2.4 million analysed international articles focussed on at least one ENC. 17% of the articles in general newspapers include a reference to these countries, whilst the percentage is only 13.5% for economic newspapers. This confirms that the European business milieu pays rather scant attention to Neighbourhoods.
French newspapers make a relatively important effort to report information from ENCs: on average, in our sample, 21% of French international articles addressed this area; then come British newspapers with 19%. A striking difference is that the French generalist newspaper reports many events whereas the French business newspaper reports on ENCs in only 11% of its articles. The British business newspaper shows much more interest in the Neighbourhoods; even the German business newspaper reports more on the ENCs than its French or Spanish counterparts. But as a whole, barely 11% of the articles in the two German newspapers pay attention to these Neighbour countries.
Another concern comes from the evolution, since media attention to ENCs has rather declined between the two periods: 18.4% in 1998-2000 but 15.7% in 2010-2012. Figures differ according to the type of newspaper: for general newspapers they went from 25% to 15%, for economic newspapers from 13 to 14%. This suggests a progressive awareness of European business milieu vis-à-vis the Neighbourhoods.
It also differs according to the reported countries. From the first period (1998-2000) to the second (2010-2012), the spatial breakdown shows the decline of media coverage of Western Balkans, for the benefit of two Arab countries in transition: Tunisia and Libya. There is a –relatively– growing interest of the Mediterranean for the selected European newspapers.
Importance of the Mediterranean, in particularly Turkey; in the East importance of Russia
Figure 2 displays the high coverage of countries of the Mediterranean Neighbourhood, which is logical given the number of considered countries (11) and media events that took place in those countries since 2011. French newspapers appear to pay more attention than others to events in the Mediterranean.
The second area of media coverage are Eastern Neighbourhood countries, which prove particularly attractive to the French and British press and not, surprisingly, to the German. Western Balkans rank third, primarily featured in British, French and Spanish newspapers, and not very much, once more surprisingly, in German, Italian or Czech media. The Caucasus area turns out to be quite forgotten by our European newspapers, together with Northern Neighbourhood; this is primarily explained by the small number and the tiny size of these countries.
By country, Russia achieves the highest coverage level with 3.5% of our sample. A small group of countries receive a 1% to 1.5% amount of media coverage due either to the magnitude of events taking place (Egypt and Serbia) or to business and political ties with European Union (Turkey and Israel). All other ENCs are under 1%.
The analysis by the nationality of considered newspapers brings further information. As we said, French press is more open to the Mediterranean than other European media. The specificity of the French generalist newspaper is that it covers the whole Neighbourhoods, with a focus on Russia and Turkey. The Neighbourhoods geography of the business French newspaper is quite alike that of its European counterparts.
The coverage of the Italian media is concentrated on a small number of countries: Russia and Turkey (Turkey is a target for all newspapers whatever their nationality or type), and Libya for the business newspaper. Conversely, Italy neglects some countries in the Western Balkans (Kosovo and Serbia).
Spain has a quite balanced coverage, with its business newspaper being focused on Russia, Turkey and Maghreb especially Morocco. British press, including business, holds little interest in Maghreb events and more (along with Russia) in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Libya and Serbia, but not that much, for the business newspaper, in the English speaking Near-East. The general German newspaper concentrates on Russia and Turkey, the business one has a wider outlook including Tunisia where German businesses have recently significantly invested, but, as we said, not the Western Balkans.
The press in the Czech Republic pays attention to quite a wide outlook of countries, and, compared with other newspapers, less in the most important countries elsewhere: Turkey and… Russia –a surprising result.
Belarus is hardly reported by either of these newspapers, Ukraine a little bit more (by British and German business newspapers) –remember that the considered period was before 2013.
Removing demographic and economic differences: war places, and the Mediterranean
The following maps calculate a media coverage factor that is independent of ENCs demographic (Map 1) and economic (Map 2) weighting. Per capita (number of people living in the considered Neighbour country), Near-East becomes the major area under the European press scrutiny along with Western Balkans and Libya, that is to say the recent or actual unrest places. Two further smaller focus areas can be added: Georgia and Tunisia. We can conclude that the first thing that interests European readers in the Neighbourhoods is political instability.
When measured per GDP, the image changes. Poorest countries receive better media coverage: Kosovo and Montenegro, Georgia, Libya and even Jordan. Conversely, some countries with higher GDP, like Russia or Israel, receive few mentions in the newspapers. Only Turkey appears to stand out. According to this per GDP indicator, Belarus, Algeria, Morocco, Serbia and even Croatia show surprisingly very lowly interesting for European newspapers.