Diversity in two decades of campaign news in the Netherlands

TitleDiversity in two decades of campaign news in the Netherlands
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)van Hoof, A., C. Jacobi, and N. Ruigrok
Affiliation (1st Author)VU University Amsterdam
Section or WGPolitical Communication Research Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodePOLT1a
Slot Code (Keyword)POLT1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleComparing political communication research across time and space
Submission ID7123

Diversity is a fundamental value in Western democracies and of special importance in times of Elections. According to the normative model of an electoral democracy voters are expected to make a well-informed choice between various political alternatives. A well-informed choice can only be made if citizens have access to information that reflects the diversity of political candidates, parties and their issue positions. News is the most important source of information about politics for the vast majority of the citizens. Therefore knowledge about the level of and trends in diversity in the news provide insight in the vitality of our democracy. In this paper we want to address the question whether and how diversity in the news has evolved over the past two decades in the Netherlands. The Netherlands provide an interesting case. The media system in the Netherlands is a typical example of a Democratic Corporatist Model (Hallin and Mancini, 2004). Both the media system and the political system accommodate strong shifts in the power distribution from one Election to the other. In the past two decades as much as seven National Parliamentary Elections were held.   We asked how horizontal and vertical diversity (diversity as breath) of political parties and issues changed over time.  The political parties were categorized in four categories: coalition parties, structural opposition parties, opposition parties and new parties. Issues were categorized in five dimensions: the left-right dimension, the liberal-conservative dimension, the cosmopolite-nationalist dimension, the green-grey dimension and the consensus-negative valence dimension. The data stem from a content analysis of all the political news that was published during the election campaign in six national newspapers (both quality and popular) and two television news programs (one of a public broadcaster and one of a commercial broadcaster) during seven elections (the National Parliamentary Elections of 1994, 1998 2002, 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2012). Manual coding was performed by intensively trained coders using the Semantic Network Analysis.   Results show a clear decrease in attention in the news for coalition parties over the last two decades in the Netherlands. Horizontal diversity (diversity across all media) for party types was lowest in the 1990’s and highest in 2012. The diversity for party types was higher for television than for newspapers. That means that television news programs devoted attention to a broader range of party types than newspapers, i.e. less attention for coalition parties and more attention for opposition parties. In the attention for issue dimensions in the news, we found a strong decrease in the left-right dimension over time. But the horizontal diversity showed a small negative trend during the last two decades. That means that at the end of the 1990’s news media published on a broader range of issue dimensions than nowadays.  But the diversity on issue dimensions in television news  is much lower than the diversity of newspapers.

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