24 May 2016

Tories dominate opening weeks of EU Referendum coverage

The analysis, carried out by the University’s Centre for Research Communication and Culture, concentrates on the main news bulletins/programmes on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, C4, C5, Sky, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 4 and all the main daily national newspapers.

Tory spokespeople are by far the most dominant on both sides of the debate with three figures coming to the fore: David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne who, between them, account for 25% of news sources in the sample. Tory voices account for over 40% of coverage (compared to Labour’s 10%).

Longstanding in-out campaigners such as Nigel Farage and Alan Johnson have been comparatively marginalised. Jeremy Corbyn’s profile has been similarly modest.

Other parties with parliamentary representatives such as the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru and those from Northern Ireland have barely registered in the news reporting. 

Women representatives have been seldom seen, heard or reported in this stage of the campaign – accounting for just one in ten contributors in the national press, and fewer than one in six TV appearances.

Loughborough Professor of Political Communication Dominic Wring said:

“The new era of multi-party politics in the UK has not been reflected in Referendum coverage to date.

“Reporting so far has focused on the process of the campaign and the personal rivalries it has exposed at the heart of government; Labour voices have been side-lined and the Lib Dems, SNP and other parties are virtually invisible, whilst lesser known MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have come to the fore. 

“Women have played a minor role, but we might see their presence increase as the campaign goes on.”

The report looked at 10 days of weekday news reporting from 6 to 18 May 2016.

Visit the Loughborough EU Referendum 2016 website.