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Interested but not Engaged: How Europe's Media Cover Brexit

European countries do not appear to feel threatened by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, a study of media coverage of Brexit has revealed. The study, based on coverage in 39 media outlets in France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden, found that most Brexit reporting was neutral and fact-based. Where a position was taken in a news report, it was mostly negative towards Britains decision to leave the EU and in particular the way Britain is handling Brexit.

While Europe’s media follow the Brexit debate closely, most journalists displayed a lack of concern about the impact of Brexit upon their own country’s national interests. The study, conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and PRIME Research, between September 2017 and March 2018, concluded that Europe’s media might see their role as “bringing facts to the conversation and also keeping separatist tendencies at bay.”

The volume of Brexit news was greatest in the Irish media, followed by Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, France, Poland, and Sweden. Greek, Spanish, Swedish and Irish media in particular expressed strong views against Brexit, while Italian, Polish and French media included higher shares of mixed or pro-Brexit views. Interest in the future of the EU was highest in Sweden and Greece (for more on individual countries see below).

Findings:

  • European media coverage of Brexit was predominantly neutral and fact-based. Most (82%) of the analysed news items took no position in relation to Brexit, only 18% conveyed a clear opinion.
  • Of those media items that took a position on Brexit, just 8% were pro-Brexit, as opposed to 75% against.
  • When European media items took a position on the UK and the UK government (14%), their view was mostly negative and critical (71%)
  • Most (59%) of the coverage dealt with the challenges the UK itself will be facing, rather than what Brexit means for each respective country, (this figure increased when Irish coverage was excluded).
  • With the exception of Irish media, coverage reflected a lack of anxiety about the impact of Brexit on Europe, and the EU’s future. If Irish media are excluded, 69% of the analysed European news items reported on the British situation; fewer than one in five articles discussed implications for the EU.

For more information and for a copy of the full report, click here.