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Developing discourse? National referendums and news coverage of the European Constitutional process.

Jasson, Chiara (2009) Developing discourse? National referendums and news coverage of the European Constitutional process. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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In light of the current legitimacy crisis, the need to increase the visibility of the European Union in the mass media seems more urgent than ever. In practice, however, EU issues struggle to capture the media's attention and are covered only infrequently. Using interviews with Brussels correspondents and the content analysis of sixteen daily newspapers from four member states, this thesis shows that referendums can increase news coverage of European affairs both domestically and transnationally - prompting the emergence of a European public sphere. Domestically, newspapers from countries that held a referendum on the European Constitutional Treaty (ECT) published a greater number of articles about the Constitution. The presence of a referendum also increased the amount of analysis on this issue, improving the 'quality' of coverage. Interviews with EU journalists provide possible explanations for these findings. Scheduling a referendum augments citizens' need for information about European issues, helping to bring Europe 'home'. Because they are preceded by weeks of campaigning, referendums also create opportunities for the polarisation of political elites. This, in turn, raises the saliency and newsworthiness of EU issues. More interestingly, the data show that scheduling a referendum in one country was sufficient to 'trigger' a debate in other member states, too. The patterns of coverage observed during the salient French campaign were similar across the four member states. Articles about the Constitution became more frequent, more analytical, EU-focused and polarised during this time. Whilst provisional, these findings are important and indicate that there are times when a common EU discourse or public sphere may indeed emerge. The study also suggests that greater citizen participation through referendums may serve as a stimulus for EU debates in the mass media. By increasing the public's appetite for 'European' news and ensuring greater political investment, referendums may encourage the flow of information about the EU political process - helping to fill the current communication deficit.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, International Relations, European Studies, Journalism
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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