News about the European Parliament

My core research interests have thus far comprised the news visibility of the European Parliament and its members (MEPs). The key findings are that European Parliament and individual MEPs receive regular coverage during non-election times.

My PhD thesis studied the amount and content of news referring to the European Parliament as well as the professional attitudes of their producers. The main purpose of the thesis was to explain variation in the press coverage. It argued that cross-country and inter-temporal variation cannot be explained by factors internal to news production alone. Instead, national parliamentary traditions impact profoundly on the way EU parliamentary affairs are reported.

The thesis employed a mixed-methods research design. It employed a quantitative content analysis of 18 broadsheets published in six European countries – Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria – over three time periods: one is a routine period of two years between 2005 and 2007; the remaining two datasets are oriented at key issues and events over time, that is the investiture procedure of the European Commission in 1999, 2004, and 2009, as well as the SWIFT agreement in 2009/2010. In total, 3956 newspaper articles were analysed. 18 in-depth interviews with the respective Brussels correspondents and a director at the EP Directorate-General for Communication complemented the findings.

The thesis found that while the European Parliament receives regular coverage, news are selected and presented according to the interest of the audience. Hence the domestic angle prevails in the news coverage and the European Parliament’s own prominence and potential to generate conflict attract media attention more often when major issues are at stake. However, domestic relevance is not the only explanatory factor. While newsmakers also respond to varying levels of public support for EU membership, the thesis identified national parliamentary traditions as a strong external driver of European Parliament news coverage. Here, procedural characteristics and public expectations shape the amount and content of European Parliament news as well as newsmakers’ attitudes – and more significantly so with the rising powers of the Parliament.

In addition, my colleague Sofia Vasilopoulou and I have studied the news visibility of MEPs in national broadsheets in Britain, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Our study seeks to explain individual-level variation by employing an original dataset of news visibility of 302 MEPs over a period of 25 months (September 2009–September 2011) and tests the applicability of the news values and mirror theories in the context of supranational politics. The results show that political office, length of tenure and domestic party leadership have a positive effect. Legislative activities have a mixed effect on MEP news visibility. Attendance negatively affects news visibility, while non-attached MEPs receive more news coverage. In short, despite the core supranational nature of EP legislative politics, MEP news visibility primarily depends on journalists’ domestic considerations. This informs both our understanding of MEP parliamentary behaviour and journalism studies in the context of the EU.

Moreover, I conducted research into the news visibility of the Spitzenkandiaten, i.e. the top candidates for Commission President put forward by the major European party families during the 2014 European Parliament election campaigns. For this I studied broadsheet coverage in six EU countries (Ireland, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy) ten weeks prior to Election Day. The study found that all candidates, except for José Bové, received more news attention over time. The main contenders, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, were most visible across countries. The study also found – by comparing visibility scores to those of my study with Sofia Vasilopoulou – that the Spitzenkandidaten received more news attention during the ten weeks prior to Election Day than MEPs during 25 months of the 7th legislative term in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

Blog posts

Gattermann, K. (30 May 2013). European broadsheets pay regular attention to the European Parliament between EU elections, LSE European Politics and Policy Blog (EUROPP blog)

Gattermann, K. and Vasilopoulou, S. (3 March 2015). Newspapers care more about who our MEPs are than about what they do in the European Parliament, Political Studies Association Blog (PSA blog)

Key publications

Gattermann, K. (2011). News about the European Parliament: Patterns and Drivers of Broadsheet Coverage, PhD Thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science

Gattermann, K. (2013). News about the European Parliament: Patterns and External Drivers of Broadsheet Coverage, European Union Politics 14(3): 436-457

Gattermann, K. and Vasilopoulou, S. (2015). Absent yet popular? Explaining news visibility of Members of the European Parliament, European Journal of Political Research 54(1): 121-140

Gattermann, K. (2015). Europäische Spitzenkandidaten und deren (Un-) Sichtbarkeit in der nationalen Zeitungsberichterstattung [The European Spitzenkandidaten and their (in-) visibility in national press coverage], in Kaeding, M. and Switek, N. (eds.) Die Europawahl 2014: Spitzenkandidaten, Protestparteien, Nichtwähler [The 2014 European Elections: Spitzenkandidaten, protest parties, non-voters], Wiesbaden: Springer VS, pp. 211-222

Gattermann, K. & Vasilopoulou, S. (2017). Eurosceptic candidate MEPs in the news: a transnational perspective. In J. Fitzgibbon, B. Leruth, & N. Startin (Eds.), Euroscepticism as a transnational and pan-European phenomenon: The emergence of a new sphere of opposition (pp. 130-146). Abingdon: Routledge