ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Berlusconi-Schulz Debate

The Berlusconi-Schulz Debate

Nationalization vs. Europeanization vs. Globalization of Issues that Should Belong to the European Public Sphere

Paper presented at the ESA Conference "New Directions in European Media" Aristotle University Thessaloniki, November 5-7, 2004

John Downey and Thomas Koenig

Recently it has been argued that, despite the absence of European-wide mass media, a European public sphere is emerging, as some issues of European relevance become debated at same time with the same intensity and with recourse to the structures of meaning throughout the entire European Union.

We have examined the media framing of Silvio Berlusconi's controversial address as President of the European Council of Ministers to the European Parliament on July 2, 2003, in which he compared the Social Democrat MEP Martin Schulz to a kap´┐Ż, an auxiliary Concentration Camp guard. Our data from six European Union, two North American, and Swiss sources show that while the reporting of the address do satisfy two of Schlesinger's three criteria for the development of a European public sphere - the existence of a Europe wide news agenda that is part of everyday media consumption of large audiences across nation-states, the data does not indicate a European transcendence of national public spheres. The different framings are neither evenly distributed across EU countries, nor are structurally equivalent actors carriers of the same framings, nor is the intensity of the debate similar across countries. What is more, intra-European variances are larger than the variances between European and non-European, or EU and non-EU countries. Thus, if there exists any transcendence of national public spheres, it appears more as a move towards a Western, or even global, public sphere than one that is European.

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