Across time and space: Explaining variation in news coverage of the European Union


Address for correspondence: Hajo G. Boomgaarden, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:


News about the European Union (EU) looks different in different countries at different points in time. This study investigates explanations for cross-national and over-time variation in news media coverage of EU affairs drawing on large-scale media content analyses of newspapers and television news in the EU-15 (1999), EU-25 (2004) and EU-27 (2009) in relation to European Parliament (EP) elections. The analyses focus in particular on explanatory factors pertaining to media characteristics and the political elites. Results show that national elites play an important role for the coverage of EU matters during EP election campaigns. The more strongly national parties are divided about the EU in combination with overall more negative positions towards the EU, the more visible the news. Also, increases in EU news visibility from one election to the next and the Europeanness of the news are determined by a country's elite positions. The findings are discussed in light of the EU's alleged communication deficit.