Report 2: 6 – 12 June 2024

This is the second 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 6th June and 12th June. The media sampled were:

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

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

The Headlines

The Conservative Party have received more coverage this week – but this coverage has been more negative than last week. Much of this is linked to Rishi Sunak’s D-day gaffe and apology. The normally Tory sympathizing newspapers have been highly critical of the Prime Minister.

Tax was the major policy issue this week reflecting the Conservative contested claim that Labour would cost families £2,000 and opponents’ retort that taxes were at their highest levels in decades

Reform UK has continued to attract coverage, some of it more critical, and the Liberal Democrats and Greens received greater attention. The SNP remains comparatively marginalised. 

Executive Summary

In a reversal of last week’s greater prominence for Labour, the Conservatives are the leading party in terms of press and TV coverage this week. In contrast, Labour's overall presence has substantially decreased.

The key contributory factor to this disparity has arisen from this week’s predominant focus on Rishi Sunak’s early departure from the 80th D-Day anniversary commemorations. While Sunak's presence in papers and TV has remained relatively stable from last week, there has been an increased presence among the broader Conservative Party. The party’s greater news presence and airtime has, however, largely been conducted in a defensive mode. 

Rishi Sunak’s difficulties apart, party manifesto launches by the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Green Party, alongside the campaign’s first multi-party television debate on 7 June have led to greater media attention for the leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Greens, particularly on TV.

Keir Starmer has been much less prominent this week, saving his party’s manifesto launch  until later and standing back in the face of the fallout of the D-Day story. He remains the second most prominent political personality, appearing in 17% of TV broadcast items and 24% of press articles, compared with Rishi Sunak at 25% and 34% respectively.

Nigel Farage retained his relative prominence in TV coverage at 11% this week, but the attention he garnered in the press fell from 17% to 12%. He did, however, remain the third most prominent political personality by some distance in this week’s coverage, with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt emerging in press coverage as manifesto launches came into view.

Process- that is so-called “horse race”-issues and taxation dominated coverage in the second week, accounting for over 50% of all issues. Other issues down the order include immigration, economy, standards and scandals and the NHS. Brexit and climate change remain elusive news topics.

Collectively the press has taken “a plague on both your houses” approach during this campaign so far, but this week it is the Conservatives, not Labour, who have received the more negative press coverage. The Mail, Express and Telegraph have been sharply negative of Labour, but the Conservatives have won little sympathy amongst their usual backers.

The Sun and The Times (the dailies owned by News UK) have been two of the three less partisan titles, the other being the traditionally non-aligned Star. The attention that other parties have received has been much slighter, and much less polarising.

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 6  – 12 June. 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.

Chart showing news presence of the political parties on TV (6 - 12 June)
Figure 1.1: News presence of the political parties on TV (6 - 12 June)

Figure 1.1 table

Party Leader % Party %
Conservatives 16% 27%
Labour 11% 12%
Lib Dems 3% 5%
Reform UK 7% 3%
Green 5% 3%
SNP 2% 2%
Plaid Cymru 1% 0%
Independents - 1%
Other Parties - 0%
Chart showing news presence of parties in the press (6 - 12 June)
Figure 1.2: News presence of parties in the press (6 - 12 June)

Figure 1.2 table

Party Leader % Party %
Conservatives 16% 32%
Labour 11% 25%
Lib Dems 2% 2%
Reform UK 6% 3%
Green 0% 1%
SNP 0% 1%
Plaid Cymru 0% 0%
Independents - 1%
Other Parties - 0%

Key findings

  • In contrast to week 1, the Conservatives were present in substantially more TV coverage than the Labour Party.
  • The Conservatives also featured in more press coverage this week than the Labour Party. Overall, the party featured in close to half of all press coverage.
  • Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, and the party received balanced TV coverage. In contrast, the Conservative Party had 9% more coverage than its leader, Rishi Sunak, up from a 3% difference in week 1, indicating a focus on the broader party.
  • The outlook is different for press coverage, where Rishi Sunak makes up half of the overall Conservative Party presence, whilst Keir Starmer features in a third of Labour’s.
  • For the second week, Reform UK remains the third most present party in both TV and press coverage. Coverage is centred on Farage who appears in double the items compared to the rest of his party in overall press coverage. His presence in both press and TV coverage has remained relatively consistent with that of week 1.
  • Reform UK continue to receive more TV and press coverage than the fourth largest party, the Liberal Democrats. Despite this, the Lib Dems have featured in twice as much press coverage than in week 1 and have seen a smaller increase in TV coverage.
  • The Greens have made small waves on TV broadcasts appearing in 5% more items than week 1, in part because of the seven-way leader debate. However, their press coverage is again negligible.

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).

Chart showing : news access of parties measured by direct quotation (TV news: 6 to 12 June)
Figure 1.3: News access of parties measured by direct quotation (TV news: 6 to 12 June)

Figure 1.3 table

Party Leader (secs) Party (secs)
Conservatives 930 1961
Labour 320 1429
Liberal Democrats 815 95
Reform 169 108
Green 451 38
SNP 94 59
Plaid Cymru 55 0
Independents - 76
Other - -
Chart showing news access of parties measured by direct quotation (Press: 6 to 12 June)
Figure 1.4: News access of parties measured by direct quotation (Press: 6 to 12 June)

Figure 1.4 table

Party Leader (words) Party (words)
Conservatives 4247 5942
Labour 2517 4261
Liberal Democrats 470 40
Reform 993 504
Green 0 241
SNP 18 27
Plaid Cymru 49 14
Independents - 204
Other - -

Key findings

  • Across TV and print coverage there has been a substantial gap in the speaking time accorded to the Conservatives and Labour this week, with the Conservatives gaining much more airtime than Labour. Much of this is likely due to Rishi Sunak’s difficulties in quelling the fallout of his early D-Day departure, alongside the more intentional coverage earned on the back of his party’s manifesto launch on Tuesday.
  • In TV coverage, the speaking time allocated to both Keir Starmer and Reform UK leader Nigel Farage more than halved since week 1. Labour have now launched their manifesto beyond the remit of this sample (13 June), while Starmer’s lack of speaking time might well be an artefact of a strategy of refraining to interrupt one’s opponent during the difficult week Sunak has faced.
  • Rishi Sunak had more speaking time than any other leader, but LibDem leader Ed Davey claimed almost as much speaking time as Sunak in broadcast media. Davey’s prominence came largely as a result of a sit-down interview with Krishnan Guru-Murphy on Channel 4 on 6 June, as well as his party’s manifesto launch on 10 June.
  • Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay, the Green co-leaders, garnered more speaking time in TV terms than Keir Starmer, and more than all other party leaders (excluding Starmer) combined. Most of this coverage was caused by the combination of its manifesto launch on 12 June and reporting of the seven-way television debate on 7 June.
  • In combination, Conservative and Labour representatives beyond the two party’s leaders took half of all speaking time in both press and TV coverage.
  • In the press, Sunak’s quotation time was marginally superior to the speaking time allocated to all other party leaders combined.
  • Nigel Farage was the most prominent leader beyond Sunak and Starmer here, at 5% of all speaking time in print news.
  • Whereas Ed Davey gained considerable coverage in terms of quotation in broadcast news, he was much less prominent within newspaper coverage at 2% of all quotation.

Section 2: most prominent political figures in the media campaign

Table 2.1: Top 20 Individuals (6 – 12 June)

Position (last week) Political figure TV Press Total (%s)
1 (2) Rishi Sunak (Con) 25 34 31.7
2 (1) Keir Starmer (Lab) 17 24 22.5
3 (3) Nigel Farage (Ref) 11 12 11.9
4 (10) Rachel Reeves (Lab) 2 6 4.8
5 (8) Jeremy Hunt (Con) 0 5 4.1
6 (9) Ed Davey (LD) 5 3 3.9
7 (5) Angela Rayner (Lab) 3 3 2.7
8= (-) Douglas Ross (Con) 5 1 2.1
8= (-) Jonathan Ashworth (Lab) 1 3 2.1
10=(-) Penny Mordaunt (Con) 3 1 1.8
10=(-) Mel Stride (Con) 1 2 1.8
12(-) Emily Thornberry (Lab) 1 2 1.6
13=(-) Bridget Phillipson (Lab) 1 2 1.4
13=(-) Vaughan Gethin (Lab) 0 2 1.4
15=(-) Michael Gove (Con) 2 1 1.2
15=(11) Wes Streeting (Lab) 1 1 1.2
17=(-) Claire Coutinho (Con) 0 1 1.1
17=(-) Richard Holden (Con) 1 1 1.1
17=(-) Laura Trott (Con) 2 1 1.1
17=(-) Carla Denyer (Green) 5 0 1.1

Notes: percentages = individual’s appearance / total number of items x 100. The figures for TV and press are rounded up/down but the totals are given to decimal point.

Key findings

  • Rishi Sunak was the single most prominent figure this week, reflecting the prominence given to him in the aftermath of his apology for having returned to the campaign before the end of the D Day commemorations.
  • Keir Starmer received far less coverage this week but remained a clear second overall, with his colleague Rachel Reeves coming to prominence as she and her rival Jeremy Hunt offered their different interpretations of economic policy.
  • Nigel Farage consolidated his position in third place and Ed Davey increased his profile to sixth. In a Top 20 dominated by Labour and Conservative politicians, the only other party represented were the Greens with their co-leader Carla Denyer making the list for the first time, if only just. The highest ranked SNP spokesperson was leader and Scottish First Minister John Swinney who came in at 21st.
  • Eight women made the Top 20 this week but the highest placed female politician Rachel Reeves was, at fourth, received consider less coverage than the three most prominent men
  • Like the first week, some politicians who found themselves in difficulties and as a consequence in the Top 20. They include Conservative Party Chairman Richard Holden, Scottish Conservative leader Donald Ross and Labour First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gethin.

Section 3: The top issues in the media campaign

Table 3.1: Top issues in TV and Press coverage (6 – 12 June)

Table 3.1 outlines the top 10 issues of the campaign in the second week across TV and press outlets, as well as overall. The issues are ranked by their overall prominence.

Rank Issue TV Press Overall
1 Electoral process 35% 37% 36%
2 Taxation 16% 17% 17%
3= Immigration/border controls 5% 5% 5%
3= Economy/business/trade 4% 5% 5%
3= Standards/corruption/scandals/sleaze 5% 5% 5%
6 Health and NHS provision 6% 4% 4%
7= Minority groups 2% 3% 3%
7= Education 2% 3% 3%
9 Defence/military/security/terrorism 5% 2% 2%
9= Housing and property issues 3% 2% 2%
  Other issues 19% 18% 19%

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

  • “Horse race coverage” continued to dominate in the second week, with both the press and TV focusing on opinion polls, strategy, spin and other issues of electoral process. We disaggregate this category in the discussion below.
  • Taxation was the most prominent policy-oriented issue of the campaign during the second week. Even though its ranking remained the same as the first week, the percentage almost doubled. The prominence of taxation is associated with the release of the Conservative, Lib Dem and Green manifestos, combined with broader claims and counterclaims about tax rises by a prospective future government.
  • The dominance of taxation and electoral process squeezed other issues from the coverage. Taken together, these two top issues accounted for 53% of the topics overall.
  • The issue agendas of TV and the press were largely similar, with the exception of coverage of the defence/military/security/terrorism. Whilst this issue ranked joint 9th overall, TV covered this issue more 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 0% 1% 1%
Toxicity or incivility or tone of political debate 10% 6% 7%
Internal party divisions 10% 6% 7%
Populism and the election 1% 2% 2%
Manipulation, disinformation, and other threats to electoral integrity 2% 7% 6%
Role of mainstream media 1% 5% 4%
Other discussions of the role of social and online media 1% 1% 1%
All other process issues (e.g. opinion polls, PR strategies, spin) 75% 72% 73%

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

  • Around 3 in 4 articles concerning electoral process involved general process issues, such as opinion polls, PR strategies and spin. This was higher than the first week, linked directly to the fallout from Sunak leaving the D-Day ceremony early and the unveiling of party manifestos.
  • 7% of articles referring to electoral process were concerned toxicity or incivility or tone of political debate. This is an increase compared to the first week. The coverage of the claim by Nigel Farage that Rishi Sunak doesn’t understand “our culture” – and the subsequent criticism by Labour and the Conservatives – partly explains the rise of this issue.
  • Discussion of the role of mainstream media received more attention in the press than TV, mirroring the findings from the first week. 

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

Chart showing press evaluations for main parties (30 May to 12 June)
Figure 4.1: Press evaluations for main parties (30 May to 12 June)

Figure 4.1 table

Conservatives Labour Lib Dems SNP Reform UK
-200 -141 1 -10 14

Key findings

  • Collectively the press has taken “a plague on both your houses” approach during this campaign, with the major two parties both receiving a considerable amount of negative coverage.
  • Significantly the Conservatives, not Labour, have received the more negative press so far (-200 net).
  • Reform UK remain the party that have received highest number of positive evaluations overall, although is a modest total.

Figure 4.2

Chart showing press evaluations of main parties for weeks 1 and 2 of the campaign
Press evaluations of main parties for weeks 1 and 2 of the campaign

Figure 4.2 table

Party Conservatives Labour Lib Dems SNP Reform UK
6 June to 12 June -117 -35 2 -1 -1
30 May to 5 June -83 -106 -1 -9 15

Key findings

  • While Labour received the most negative coverage in week (30 May-5 June), press coverage of the Conservatives has become more critical in the week (6-12 June). This is in part a result of the D-Day controversy involving the Prime Minister
  • For the main parties in the election so far, increased press attention has tended to correlate with a higher likelihood of negative coverage.
  • Positive evaluations of Reform UK have stalled since week (30 May-5 June), in part because this week witnessed less newsworthy events relating to Nigel Farage. 

Figure 4.3

Chart showing press evaluations for Conservatives and Labour by newspaper (30 May to 12 June)
Figure 4.3: Press evaluations for Conservatives and Labour by newspaper (30 May to 12 June)

Figure 4.3 table

Newspaper Conservatives Labour Lib Dems SNP Reform UK
The Daily Express -2 -12 -1 0 2
The Daily Mail 2 -16 0 0 2
The Daily Telegraph -13 -17 1 0 0
The Financial Times -13 1 -1 -1 0
The Guardian -19 -1 3 0 -1
The I -21 -4 1 0 1
The Mirror -30 15 0 0 -3
The Star -5 0 -1 0 -1
The Sun -3 -1 0 -1 -2
The Times -13 0 0 1 1
Total -117 -35 2 -1 -1

Key findings

  • The Daily Express and the Daily Mail are the only newspapers to remain loyal to the Conservatives while the Financial Times, Guardian, i and Daily Mirror have been sharply negative of the incumbent party. Interestingly, the normally sympathetic Daily Telegraph has been more critical than supportive of the party.
  • The Sun and The Times (the dailies owned by News UK) have been two of the three less partisan titles, the other being the traditionally non-aligned Star. This is not to suggest that these newspapers lack opinions, more that their evaluations of both major parties are marginally more negative than positive overall. The result is that their coverage is more balanced than that of their rivals.
  • Labour has received a considerable amount of negative coverage in the Daily Express, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph. While the Daily Mirror remains staunchly loyal to the party, the only other title that has been more positive overall in its reporting of Labour has been the Financial Times.