Report 1: 30 May – 5 June 2024

This is the first in a series of weekly reports from the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture, Loughborough University on UK wide television and print media reporting of the 2024 UK General Election. These reports will be published weekly throughout the campaign.

Report authors

David Deacon, Jilly Kay, Brendan Lawson, Nathan Ritchie, David Smith, Dominic Wring.

Dr David Smith is Lecturer in Media and Communications, University of Leicester.


This report examines:

  1. The visibility and speaking time of political parties and other organizations and individuals involved in the election.
  2. The most frequently reported campaigners.
  3. The dominant issues during the first week of the formal campaign.
  4. The positivity and negativity of press reporting of the main parties.

The results in this report are drawn from a detailed content analysis of election coverage produced on the weekdays (i.e. Monday to Friday inclusive) between 30th May and 5th June. The media sampled were:

Television: Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC1, ITV1, and Sky main evening bulletins.

Press: The Guardian, The I, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Financial Times, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Mirror, The Sun, The Star.

All election-related news items in the television programmes were analysed. For the press, all election news found on the front page, the first two pages of the domestic news section, the first two pages of any specialist election section and the page containing and facing the papers’ leader editorials were coded.

Read more details on the methodology of the study. Intercoder reliability tests were conducted on all key variables and are ongoing.

Grateful thanks to our coding team: Hannah Bruce, Magnus Hamann, Alistair Kidd, Ella Muncie, Thomas Quinlan, Reuben Shapland, Benji Simpson, Mian Tiao, Roman Winkelhahn, and Caspar Wort.

Executive Summary

The two major parties dominated election coverage during the first week of our analysis. Particularly remarkable was the significantly greater level of television news attention given to Labour (46%) compared with their Conservative counterparts (30%) (the comparable figures for the press were closer at 45% and 38% respectively).

This can be largely explained by coverage of high levels of internal disagreements over Diane Abbott's candidacy as a Labour MP. Labour figures dominated the Top 10 most visible politicians - with Diane Abbott placed fourth, the highest woman on a list dominated by men.

In terms of the minor parties, Nigel Farage stole the show. The newly announced Reform Party leader received more news attention than any other politician with the exceptions of Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak. Farage’s share of press coverage was greater than the combined total for his LibDem, SNP, Green and Plaid Cymru rivals. He also gained more coverage than other parties in TV coverage during this period.

Taxation and immigration were the policy issues that attracted most news attention. Their prominence reflected the claims and counter claims made over Labour’s £2000 and the Conservatives’ and Reform’s plans to limit inward migration.

As in previous campaigns, Labour attracted high levels of negative press coverage. However, coverage of the Conservative party also attracted significant levels of negativity, in contrast to the same stage of the 2019 General Election, even among newspapers normally renowned for their pro-Conservative leanings.

The Sun and The Times revealed negative dispositions overall to both Labour and the Conservatives, being most critical in their treatment of Labour. The Star, Guardian, and The I were also negative in their reporting of both parties, both being more  negative in their coverage of the Conservatives.

The FT and the Mirror were the only papers to publish more positive items on the Labour party: the FT by a slim margin, The Daily Mirror by a considerable margin.

Reform UK was the only political party to feature in more ‘good news’ than ‘bad news’ items for the week analysed.

Section 1: News presence and news access of political parties

Figure 1.1 compares the news presence  of the political parties on TV news during the weekday coverage between 30 May – 5 June 2024. Figure 1.2 provides the same comparison for press coverage.

To be coded as ‘present’ a political representative needed to have an active role within the item. They could be counted even if they were not quoted, but there had to be a clear and substantial attribution to them of a speech act or action. Up to five politicians could be coded per item.

News presence of parties on TV (30 May - 5 June)
Figure 1.1: News presence of the political parties on TV (30 May - 5 June)

Figure 1.1 table

Party Leader % Party %
Conservative 13% 17%
Labour 17% 28%
Lib Dem 4% 2%
Reform 5% 2%
Green 2% 1%
SNP 3% 1%
Plaid Cymru 1% 0%
Independents 0% 2%
Other parties 0% 1%


News presence of parties in the press (30 May - 5 June)
Figure 1.2: News presence of parties in the press (30 May - 5 June)

Figure 1.2 table

Party Leader % Party %
Conservative 16% 22%
Labour 17% 28%
Lib Dem 1% 1%
Reform 7% 3%
Green 1% 0%
SNP 0% 1%
Plaid Cymru 0% 0%
Independents 0% 1%
Other parties 0% 0%

Key findings

  • The two main parties dominated both press and broadcast coverage, continuing an established trend from previous elections.
  • Between the two main parties, Labour is present in a significantly higher portion of TV coverage. The opposition party is present in 46% of broadcasts compared to the Conservatives 30%.
  • This trend is also evident in press coverage, although to a lesser extent, with Labour present in 45% of all coverage compared to Conservatives 38%.
  • Coverage of the two main parties’ leaders Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer is similar both in the press and broadcast showing some balance in terms of presence of leaders.
  • Since data collection began on 30th May, Labour’s internal party divisions have featured prominently in coverage (see Section 3). This in part explains Labour’s prominence during this initial period.
  • The Reform Party was the third most prominently featured party in the press (10%) with returning leader Nigel Farage accounting for most of these appearances: 70% of all coverage of the Reform Party and 7% of coverage overall.
  • Nigel Farage was also third most present leader in television coverage behind Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak (see Section 2). He had more TV coverage alone than each of the Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru, though not more than their combined presence.
  • In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have only been present in 2% of newspaper items. The current leader of Lib Dems, Ed Davey makes up 50% of the parties’ overall newspaper presence.
  • The LibDems also received less TV news coverage than the Reform party.
  • Other national minor parties have gained negligible press coverage in the first week of the campaign. 

Figures 1.3 and Figure 1.4 compare the news access of the political parties and their leaders by measuring the amount of direct quotation of politicians in coverage (for TV this was measured in seconds, for newspaper coverage this was measured in words).

News access of parties measured by direct quotation (TV news: 30 May to 5 June)
Figure 1.3: News access of parties measured by direct quotation (TV news: 30 May to 5 June)

Figure 1.3 table

Party Leader (secs) Party (secs)
Conservative 533 1418
Labour 763 1332
Lib Dem 142 72
Reform 440 50
Green 414 45
SNP 176 21
Plaid Cymru 70 0
Independents   130
Other parties   89
News access of parties measured by direct quotation (Press: 30 May to 5 June)
Figure 1.4: News access of parties measured by direct quotation (Press: 30 May to 5 June)

Figure 1.4 table

Party Leader (words) Party (words)
Conservative 5988 6722
Labour 3998 6920
Lib Dem 25 228
Reform 3528 623
Green 51 51
SNP 57 50
Plaid Cymru 27 14
Independents   1074
Other parties   29

Key findings

  • The two major parties received more or less equal quotation time on TV, with Labour slightly edging this due to Keir Starmer’s greater prominence than Rishi Sunak’s.
  • In the press, however, Sunak was given over 1.5 times more speaking time than Starmer. Otherwise, their respective wider parties received broadly equal access in quotation terms.
  • Broadcasters gave more time to the leaders of smaller parties - most notably Reform UK and the Green Party – than the press, whose coverage of the Lib Dems, the Green Party, and the SNP was virtually non-existent during this sample period.
  • The leaders of all the smaller parties dominated their media appearances. Other politicians within these parties had scant opportunity to speak.
  • The arrival of Nigel Farage in the campaign as Reform UK leader and parliamentary candidate yielded nearly as much quotation in the press as Keir Starmer received. But as with TV coverage, there was little speaking time given to other members of Reform.

Section 2: most prominent political figures in the media campaign

Table 2.1: Top 20 Individuals

Position Political figure TV % Press % Total %
1 Keir Starmer (Lab) 35.3 41.7 40.2
2 Rishi Sunak (Con) 27.8 39.9 37.2
3 Nigel Farage (Ref) 11.3 17.3 15.9
4 Diane Abbott (Lab) 13.5 10.2 11.0
5 Angela Rayner (Lab) 9.8 7.1 7.7
6 Yvette Cooper (Lab) 0 7.1 5.5
7 Richard Tice (Ref) 3.0 4.9 4.5
8 Jeremy Hunt (Con) 2.3 4.9 4.3
9 Ed Davey (LD) 9.0 2.0 3.6
10 Rachel Reeves (Lab) 0.8 4.2 3.4
11 Wes Streeting (Lab) 2.3 3.5 3.3
12 James Cleverly (Con) 3.0 2.7 2.7
13= Kemi Badenoch (Con) 0.8 4.2 2.2
13= Boris Johnson (Con) 0.8 2.7 2.2
15 Jeremy Corbyn (Ind) 2.3 2.2 2.2
16 Victoria Atkins (Con) 1.5 2.2 2.1
17 John Swinney (SNP) 5.3 1.1 2.1
18 Grant Shapps (Con) 0.8 1.8 1.5
19= John Healey (Lab) 0.8 1.6 1.4
19= David Lammy (Lab) 0 1.8 1.4

Notes: percentages = individual’s appearance / total number of items x 100

Key findings

  • Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak were by far the most prominent politicians, overshadowing the coverage of their respective colleagues and opponents.
  • Labour figures dominated the Top 10 foremost campaigners, taking half of the places on the list.
  • Reform leader Nigel Farage came third overall in terms of news prominence and, in the process, gained far greater attention than his Liberal Democrat and SNP counterparts combined. Farage’s colleague Richard Tice also managed to attract more coverage than both Ed Davey and John Swinney.
  • Women politicians account for only a third of the Top 20. The Greens’ Carla Denyer, the only female party leader (excluding Northern Ireland), does not appear on the list. That said, if the news coverage given to Denyer and her co-leader Adrian Ramsay was combined it would have seen them in the lower part of the Top 20 as a leadership pairing.
  • There were reminders of Labour’s current and recent internal divisions in the prominence given over to prospective candidate Diane Abbott, the party’s former Shadow Home Secretary. Deputy leader Angela Rayner’s prominence is in part a reflection of her intervention in support of Ms Abbott. The party’s former leader Jeremy Corbyn was the only independent politician to make the Top 20.
  • The appearances in the Top 20 of all the major party spokespeople on the economy, home affairs (notably immigration), health and defence reflects the prominence and variety of issues that have attracted attention during the opening stages of the campaign (see section 3). 

Section 3: The top issues in the media campaign

Table 3.1: Top issues in TV and Press coverage (30 May – 5 June 2024)

Table 3.1 outlines the main issues of the campaign so far across TV and press outlets, as well as overall. The issues are ranked by their prominence overall.

Rank Issue TV Press Overall
1 Electoral process 40% 36% 37%
2 Taxation 7% 9% 9%
3 Immigration/border controls 10% 7% 8%
4 Health and NHS provision 5% 7% 6%
5 Minority groups 4% 6% 6%
6= Defence/military/security/terrorism 3% 5% 4%
6= Economy/business/trade 5% 4% 4%
6= Standards/corruption/scandals/sleaze 3% 4% 4%
9 Crime/law and order 3% 3% 3%
10 Environment, including climate change 5% 1% 2%
  Other issues 15% 18% 17%

Notes: Percentages = (frequency of issue/total number of issues coded) x 100. A maximum of 3 issue responses could be coded per item. To be coded, an issue needed to occupy more than 10 seconds of TV coverage or 2 sentences. The most prominent issues were coded when more than three were present. This table shows the top 10 issue overall.

Key Findings

  • Discussion of the drama, rituals and uncertainties of the election itself dominated the campaign in the first week, particularly in the press (see “Electoral process”). This is consistent with patterns found in previous UK election coverage. We disaggregate this category in the discussion below.
  • Taxation was the most prominent policy-oriented issue of the campaign during the first week. The prominence of taxation is linked to the high-profile dispute between the Conservative Party and Labour over Rishi Sunak’s claim that Labour’s spending plans would increase tax by £2,000 per household.
  • Immigration and border controls was the second most prominent substantive issue category (ranked third overall). The prominence of this issue was heavily influenced by the surprise announcement that Nigel Farage would stand as an MP for the Reform Party.
  • The issue agendas of TV and the press were largely similar, with the exception of coverage of the environment. Whilst the environmental ranked 10th overall, TV covered this issue more prominently than the press.

Table 3.2: Electoral Process Issues

Table 3.2 breaks the electoral process issue down into sub-categories:

Electoral process issue - breakdown TV Press Overall
Tactical voting 1% 4% 3%
Toxicity or incivility or tone of political debate 2% 4% 3%
Internal party divisions 24% 26% 26%
Manipulation, disinformation, and other threats to electoral integrity 8% 2% 4%
Role of mainstream media 1% 8% 6%
Other discussions of the role of social and online media 0% 1% 1%
All other process issues (e.g. opinion polls, PR strategies, spin) 64% 56% 58%

Notes: Only one process theme could be coded per item. Percentages = (appearance of process theme / total number of process themes coded) x 100

Key Findings

  • Just over 25% of all electoral process themes focused on internal party divisions. This reflects a week of internal issues within the Labour Party, centring on the selection and deselection of Diane Abbott and Faiza Shaheen.
  • Concerns about manipulation, disinformation, and other threats to electoral integrity featured more prominently in TV news coverage for this period.
  • Discussion of the role of mainstream media received more attention in the press than TV. 

Section 4: Positive and negative treatment of the political parties in the press

In this section we discuss the overall positivity or negativity of newspaper coverage. For each item we assessed whether the information or commentary contained within it had positive or negative implications for each political party.

This is not just a measure of overt support or criticism by a journalist of a party (although these instances would be included in the count). It is also a measure of the extent to which newspapers report on issues/ comments/ developments that have positive or negative implications for parties. We only coded those instances where these were overtly referred to in the piece.


  • If an item mainly or solely focused on positive matters for a party, it was given a value of +1.
  • If it mainly/ solely focused on negative matters for a party, it was assigned a value of -1.
  • Items where there was (a) no clear evaluation, (b) contained positive and negative issues in broadly equal measure or (c) no mention of the party was made, were coded as zero.
  • Items where no reference was made to the party were excluded from the calculation.

Figure 4.1

The scores in Figure 4.1 are calculated by subtracting the total number of negative stories from the total of positive stories for the five main parties.

Overall evaluations in newspapers
Figure 4.1: Overall evaluations in newspapers

Figure 4.1 table

Cons Labour LibDem SNP Reform
-83 -106 -1 -9 15

Key findings

  • Conservative and Labour recorded substantial deficits in positive to negative newspaper coverage in this first week of sampling.
  • Labour had the highest levels of negative coverage over this period. This offers important context to the findings presented in Figure 1.2. Labour politicians may have had more coverage in the national press than the Conservatives, but a significant proportion of this was negative.
  • The levels of negativity in the reporting of the Conservative party contrasts starkly with levels found for the equivalent stage of the 2019 UK General Election, where the Conservatives recorded marginally positive aggregated ratings.
  • Reform UK was the only party to record a positive overall evaluation for this first week of the analysis.
  • The minimal deficits for the Liberal Democrats and SNP largely reflected their marginality in newspaper coverage (see Figure 1.2).

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 provides details of the treatment of the two main parties by individual newspaper titles.

Main Party Evaluations by Newspaper (30 May - 5 June 2024)
Figure 4.2: Main Party Evaluations by Newspaper (30 May - 5 June, 2024)

Figure 4.2 table

Newspaper Conservatives Labour Lib Dems SNP Reform
The Daily Express 17 -33 -3 0 6
The Daily Mail 8 -25 0 0 3
The Daily Telegraph -7 -29 -2 1 4
The Financial Times -16 4 1 -2 -1
The Guardian -20 -6 1 0 -3
The I -15 -7 1 -3 2
The Mirror -29 17 0 0 0
The Star -9 -3 1 0 -1
The Sun -10 -16 0 -3 6
The Times -2 -8 0 -2 -1
Total -83 -106 -1 -9 15

Key findings

  • The Daily Express recorded the highest levels of positive coverage for the Conservatives, nearly doubling the Daily Mail’s.
  • Overall, coverage of the Conservatives in The Daily Telegraph was more negative than positive.
  • The Express published the highest levels of negative coverage of Labour, followed by the Telegraph and the Mail.
  • Only the Daily Mirror and the Financial Times recorded an aggregate of positive coverage for Labour. The Mirror by a considerable degree, the FT by a far smaller margin.
  • Several newspapers displayed negative coverage overall for both parties.
  • The Guardian, The I and Daily Star were more critical of the Conservatives than Labour.
  • The Sun and The Times, two titles owned by Rupert Murdoch, were more critical of Labour but, nevertheless, recorded cumulatively negative treatment of the Conservative party.