Media and Lisbon

I recently took part in an episode of Inside Out for Dublin City FM on the topic of media and the Lisbon Treaty.

The discussion revolved around the suggestion that the British imports available in Ireland, which are generally Euro-sceptic, played a significant role in pushing the electorate towards the ‘No’ side. It also extended into questions over general impartiality in the media and the reasons for the tight restrictions on broadcast media such as RTÉ.

You can listen to it here.

There’s also a discussion of a similar vein going on over on the News/Media forum of Boards.ie for anyone interested in throwing their 2c in.

As you can hear in the interview and read in the thread, it’s my opinion that the anti-Lisbon print media was not responsible (even partially) for the end result of the treaty. My reasons for believing this are two-fold.

Firstly, Ireland has long had the access to a variety of British media, including print, and has long been exposed to the British euro-scepticism voiced by the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s News International group (through The Sun, The News of The World and The Sunday Times). People who read these newspapers are generally aware of this anti-EU sentiment and either already agree with it or are capable of filtering it out. To suggest that these newspapers suddenly had an effect on Irish attitudes to Europe in 2008, having had next to no effect on the same before seems illogical to me.

Secondly, if you are to assume that the anti-Lisbon print media was able to influence readers through its own bias then you’d have to agree that the pro-Lisbon print media was able to do the same from their side of the fence. Given that The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, The Evening Herald, The Mirror and (possibly amongst others) – which all came out in favour of Lisbon – have a combined readership that’s more than three times the size of Euro-sceptic newspapers in Ireland then logic would suggest that overall print media bias should have favoured the ‘Yes’ campaign far more than the ‘No’ campaign. (The same statistical comparison exists if you compare Sunday newspapers, such as the Sunday Independent which was pro and the Sunday Times which was anti.)

In reality if the Lisbon result proved anything it’s that print media has a negligible – perhaps even non-existent – impact on its reader’s opinions on important matters. To suggest that readers of any newspaper are either lazy enough to agree with an argument just because it’s put in front of them (perhaps repeatedly), or are stupid enough not to realise they’re reading something bias, is just plain ignorant in itself.

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