Representations of Corruption in the British, French, and Italian Press: Audience Segmentation and the Lack of Unanimously Shared Indignation

As part of a larger European Union (EU)-funded project, this paper investigates the coverage of corruption and related topics in three European democracies: France, Italy, and the United Kingdom. Based on Freedom House data, these countries are characterized by different levels of press freedom. A large corpus of newspaper articles (107,248 articles) from the period 2004 to 2013 were analyzed using dedicated software. We demonstrate that freedom of press is not the only dimension that affects the ability to and the way in which news media report on corruption. Because of its political partisanship, the Italian press tends to emphasize and dramatize corruption cases involving domestic public administrators and, in particular, politicians. The British coverage is affected mainly by market factors, and the press pays more attention to cases occurring abroad and in sport. The French coverage shares specific features with both the British and the Italian coverage: Newspapers mainly focus on corruption involving business companies and foreign actors, but they also cover cases involving domestic politicians. Media market segmentation, political parallelism, and media instrumentalization determine different representations preventing the establishment of unanimously shared indignation.

Tags: , , , , , , ,