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We investigated the prevalence of 5 news frames identified in earlier studies on framing and framing effects: attribution of responsibility, conflict, human interest, economic consequences, and morality. We content analyzed 2,601 newspaper stories and 1,522 television news stories in the period surrounding the Amsterdam meetings of European heads of state in 1997. Our results showed that, overall, the attribution of responsibility frame was most commonly used in the news, followed by the conflict, economic consequences, human interest, and morality frames, respectively. The use of news frames depended on both the type of outlet and the type of topic. Most significant differences were not between media (television vs. the press) but between sensationalist vs. serious types of news outlets. Sober and serious newspapers and television news programs more often used the responsibility and conflict frames in the presentation of news, whereas sensationalist outlets more often used the human interest frame.
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Framing European Politics
93
Framing European Politics: A Content
Analysis of Press and Television News
by Holli A. Semetko and Patti M. Valkenburg
We investigated the prevalence of 5 news frames identified in earlier studies on
framing and framing effects: attribution of responsibility, conflict, human inter-
est, economic consequences, and morality. We content analyzed 2,601 newspaper
stories and 1,522 television news stories in the period surrounding the Amsterdam
meetings of European heads of state in 1997. Our results showed that, overall, the
attribution of responsibility frame was most commonly used in the news, followed
by the conflict, economic consequences, human interest, and morality frames, re-
spectively. The use of news frames depended on both the type of outlet and the type
of topic. Most significant differences were not between media (television vs. the
press) but between sensationalist vs. serious types of news outlets. Sober and serious
newspapers and television news programs more often used the responsibility and
conflict frames in the presentation of news, whereas sensationalist outlets more
often used the human interest frame.
Over the past 25 years, an impressive literature has contributed to our understand-
ing of frames and framing effects (e.g., Edelman, 1993; Entman, 1991, 1993; Fiske
& Taylor, 1991; Gamson, 1992; Goffman, 1974; Graber, 1988, 1993; Iyengar, 1991;
Iyengar & Simon, 1993; McLeod, Kosicki, & McLeod, 1994; Neuman, Just, & Crigler,
1992; Price, Tewksbury, & Powers, 1997; Tuchman, 1978; Zaller, 1992). Framing
analysis shares with agenda-setting research a focus on the relationship between
public policy issues in the news and the public perceptions of these issues. How-
ever, framing analysis “expands beyond agenda-setting research into what people
Holli A. Semetko (PhD, London School of Economics & Political Science) is professor and chair of
audience and public opinion research at the Amsterdam School of Communications Research at the
University of Amsterdam, where she also serves as chair of the Department of Communication Science.
Her research interests include media content and effects in elections, media effects on public opinion,
political communication, and cross-national comparative research. Patti M. Valkenburg (PhD, Leiden
University) is professor of child and media research in the Amsterdam School of Communications
Research at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests include survey and experimental
research methodology, framing effects of the news, and the effects of media on the cognitive, affective,
and social development of children. The authors would like to thank the Dutch Royal Academy of Arts
and Sciences (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen [KNAW]) for providing support
for this study. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American
Political Science Association, Boston, September 1998.
Copyright © 2000 International Communication Association
Journal of Communication, Spring 2000
94
talk or think about by examining how they think and talk about issues in the
news” (Pan & Kosicki, 1993, p. 70, emphasis in the original).
Although there is no single definition of news frame or framing, the many that
have been employed point up similar characteristics. News frames are “concep-
tual tools which media and individuals rely on to convey, interpret and evaluate
information” (Neuman et al., 1992, p. 60). They set the parameters “in which
citizens discuss public events” (Tuchman, 1978, p. IV). They are “persistent selec-
tion, emphasis, and exclusion” (Gitlin, 1980, p. 7). Framing is selecting “some
aspects of a perceived reality” to enhance their salience “in such a way as to
promote a particular problem definition, causal interpretation, moral evaluation,
and/or treatment recommendation” (Entman, 1993, p. 53). Frames are to help
audiences “locate, perceive, identify, and label” the flow of information around
them (Goffman, 1974, p. 21) and to “narrow the available political alternatives”
(Tuchman, 1978, p. 156).
Framing effects are “changes in judgment engendered by subtle alterations in
the definition of judgment or choice of problems” (Iyengar, 1987, p. 816). Put
another way, a framing effect is “one in which salient attributes of a message (its
organization, selection of content, or thematic structure) render particular thoughts
applicable, resulting in their activation and use in evaluations” (Price et al., 1997,
p. 486). Experiments with question wording, for example, show that the framing
of choices can have profound consequences for respondents’ perception of risk
(Kahneman, 1984; Kahneman & Tversky, 1982). Frames have also been shown to
shape public perceptions of political issues or institutions. The opinion of Euro-
pean publics about the European Union and various EU-related issues can easily
be swayed in different directions, depending on how the issue is framed in the
survey question (Saris, 1997).
A number of recent studies have identified the importance of certain frames in
the news by focusing on their consequences for the public’s interpretation of
events and issues (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997; Graber, 1988, 1993; Iyengar, 1987,
1991; Iyengar & Kinder, 1987; Neuman et al., 1992; Norris, 1995; Patterson, 1993).
Although these and other studies have provided important information about the
occurrence or the effects of frames, there is not yet a standard set of content
analytic indicators that can be used to reliably measure the prevalence of com-
mon frames in the news. A reliable set of content analytic indicators is necessary
for studying developments in the news over time and similarities and differences
in the ways in which politics and other topics of national and international impor-
tance are framed in the news in different countries.
There are two possible approaches to content analyzing frames in the news:
inductive and deductive. The inductive approach involves analyzing a news story
with an open view to attempt to reveal the array of possible frames, beginning
with very loosely defined preconceptions of these frames (see, for example,
Gamson, 1992). This approach can detect the many possible ways in which an
issue can be framed, but this method is labor intensive, often based on small
samples, and can be difficult to replicate.
A deductive approach involves predefining certain frames as content analytic
variables to verify the extent to which these frames occur in the news. This
Framing European Politics
95
approach makes it necessary to have a clear idea of the kinds of frames likely to
be in the news, because the frames that are not defined a priori may be over-
looked. This approach can be replicated easily, can cope with large samples, and
can easily detect differences in framing between media (e.g., television vs. press)
and within media (e.g., highbrow news programs or newspapers vs. tabloid-style
media).
The literature to date has identified a handful of frames that occur commonly
in the news, although not necessarily simultaneously. Most studies focus on the
existence of one or another frame in the news and its consequences for public
opinion. The conflict frame, for instance, has been the subject of much discussion
(Patterson, 1993; Cappella & Jamieson, 1997), as well as the attribution of respon-
sibility in the news (Iyengar, 1991). A recent study by Neuman, Just, and Crigler
(1992) is an exception in that these researchers identified several different frames
that were common in U.S. news coverage of a range of issues, including conflict,
economic consequences, human impact, and morality frames. Our study pro-
vides an extension of the research of Neuman et al. (1992) by investigating the
occurrences of the different frames that have been discussed in the earlier litera-
ture. We also elaborate on the theoretical work of Iyengar (1991), who explicitly
measured how audience members framed who was responsible for various social
problems after they were exposed to two types of news formats: “episodic” news,
which refers to specific events, and “thematic” news, which refers to more ana-
lytical, contextual, or historical coverage.
An additional review of the literature about the nature of news in the U.S. and
Europe (Brants & Neijens, 1998; Brants, van Meurs, & Neijens, 1995; Diez-Nicolas
& Semetko, 1995; van Dijk, 1988; van der Eijk & van Praag, 1987; Kleinnijenhuis,
Oegema, & de Ridder, 1995; Neuman et al., 1992; Nossiter, Scammell, & Semetko,
1994; Semetko, Blumler, Gurevitch, & Weaver, 1991; Semetko, Scammell, & Nossiter,
1994; Semetko & Schoenbach, 1994) confirmed that the aforementioned frames
largely account for all the frames that have been found in the news. The litera-
ture, therefore, affords us the opportunity to opt for the second, deductive ap-
proach to assess the prevalence of frames in the news. Specifically, we investi-
gated the following five news frames that have been identified in earlier studies:
Conflict frame. This frame emphasizes conflict between individuals, groups,
or institutions as a means of capturing audience interest. Neuman et al. (1992, pp.
61–62) found that the media draw on a few central frames for reporting a range of
issues and that conflict was the most common in the handful of frames in U.S.
news they identified. Other research has also observed that discussion in the
news between political elites often reduces complex substantive political debate
to overly simplistic conflict. Presidential election campaign news, for example, is
framed largely in terms of conflict (Patterson, 1993). Because of the emphasis on
conflict, the news media have been criticized for inducing public cynicism and
mistrust of political leaders (Cappella & Jamieson, 1997). We are interested in
establishing how visible a conflict frame is relative to other common frames
in the news.
Human interest frame. This frame brings a human face or an emotional angle
to the presentation of an event, issue, or problem. Neuman et al. (1992) described
Journal of Communication, Spring 2000
96
this as the “human impact” frame, and, next to conflict, found it to be a common
frame in the news. As the market for news everywhere becomes more competi-
tive, journalists and editors are at pains to produce a product that captures and
retains audience interest (Bennett, 1995). Framing news in human interest terms
is one way to achieve this. Such a frame refers to an effort to personalize the
news, dramatize or “emotionalize” the news, in order to capture and retain audi-
ence interest.
Economic consequences frame. This frame reports an event, problem, or issue
in terms of the consequences it will have economically on an individual, group,
institution, region, or country. Neuman et al. (1992) also identify it as a common
frame in the news. The wide impact of an event is an important news value, and
economic consequences are often considerable (Graber, 1993).
Morality frame. This frame puts the event, problem, or issue in the context of
religious tenets or moral prescriptions. Because of the professional norm of ob-
jectivity, journalists often make reference to moral frames indirectly—through
quotation or inference, for instance—by having someone else raise the question
(Neuman et al., 1992). A newspaper could, for example, use the views of an
interest group to raise questions about sexually transmitted diseases. Such a story
may contain moral messages or offer specific social prescriptions about how to
behave. Although Neuman et al. (1992, p. 75) found this frame to be more com-
mon in the minds of audiences than in the content of news, they nevertheless
identified this frame as among the several used in reporting.
Responsibility frame. This frame presents an issue or problem in such a way as
to attribute responsibility for its cause or solution to either the government or to
an individual or group. Although the existence of a responsibility frame in the
news has not been measured explicitly, the U.S. news media have been credited
with (or blamed for) shaping public understanding of who is responsible for
causing or solving key social problems, such as poverty (Iyengar, 1987). Iyengar
(1991) argued that television news—by covering an issue or problem in terms of
an event, instance, or individual (episodically) rather than in terms of the larger
historical social context (thematically)—encourages people to offer individual-
level explanations for social problems. Thus, the poor woman on welfare is held
responsible for her fate, rather than the government or the system. We were
interested in establishing how the use of the “episodic . . . formats” of television
news, which refers to the fact that the vast majority of television news stories are
about “specific events or particular cases” (Iyengar 1991, p. 2), are related to an
explicitly measured responsibility frame in the news.
Research Questions
Our theoretical interest was to compare the use of frames in television news and
the press and to consider whether there are important differences between and
within media (e.g., television vs. press; serious and sober vs. sensationalist news
outlets). Therefore, our first research question was:
RQ1: Does the use of frames vary significantly by outlet?
Framing European Politics
97
A second aim of this study was to compare the use of frames in the reporting of
different topics or issues that are commonly in the news (political issues, for
example, or crime), and to consider the implications of this for public understand-
ing. Our second research question was:
RQ2: Does the use of frames vary significantly by topic?
Method
This study proceeded from a quantitative content analysis of the frames used in
the Dutch national news media from May 1 to June 20, 1997, the period leading
up to and including the so-called “Eurotop” meetings of the heads of government
of the EU countries, held in Amsterdam during June 16–17, 1997. At these official
meetings, prime ministers from all EU countries, including Germany’s Helmut
Kohl, Britain’s Tony Blair, and France’s Jacques Chirac, met to finalize agreement
on monetary union. This event presented an opportunity to study how the na-
tional news media covered this major event and the key European issues ad-
dressed by the heads of state. We coded the four national newspapers with the
highest circulation rates, the Telegraaf, Algemeen Dagblad (AD), Volkskrant, and
the NRC Handelsblad (NRC), and the three national daily television news pro-
grams with the highest viewing figures, NOS Journaal, RTL Nieuws, and Hart van
Nederland. Because readers are unlikely to be familiar with these outlets, we
briefly describe them in terms of audience size and style of reporting.
Press news. The Telegraaf has a readership of 15% of the Dutch population, the
AD, 10%; the Volkskrant, 7%; and the NRC, 4%. On a continuum ranging from
sensationalist, on the one hand, to sober and serious, on the other, the Telegraaf
is closer to the sensationalist end, with the AD in the middle and the Volkskrant
and the NRC at the sober and serious end. The Telegraaf has no actual equivalent
in other countries; it is much more elaborate and politically oriented than Germany’s
populist Bild or the U.K. tabloid, The Sun. It contains a great deal of financial
news and is widely read by businesspeople as well as by those with lower levels
of education. The AD is aimed at a broad general audience and is much easier to
read than the other two “quality” newspapers in our study. The Volkskrant might
be compared to The Guardian in the U.K. and is widely read by professionals in
education, social work, and the civil service. The NRC is the Dutch very serious
equivalent to The New York Times, with very little attention to the popular kinds of
stories found on the front pages of the Telegraaf or AD.
Television news. For decades, the NOS Journaal was the only television news
program in the country, and different versions were broadcast at different times of
the day. NOS is the Dutch equivalent to Britain’s BBC. In 1989, privately owned
channels funded by advertising were launched. RTL was the first private channel
to introduce a news program to compete with NOS (van Praag & van der Eijk,
1998). These two programs are the Dutch equivalents of the main evening net-
work news programs in the U.S. Hart van Nederland (translated as “the heart of
Journal of Communication, Spring 2000
98
Holland”), however, is different. Although it is also a national news program, it
reports stories rarely found on the other two more serious news programs, such as
the cow that strayed out of the farmer’s field, and it pays little attention to foreign
news or political news.
We analyzed news related to politics or political themes in Holland and Eu-
rope, and we were able to see how prominent such news was relative to other
news. In the press, we coded (a) all stories on page one, and inside we coded (b)
all stories mentioning political institutions or politicians from Holland or any Euro-
pean country, and (c) all stories about the following four topics: European inte-
gration, drugs, crime or corruption, and immigration (asylum seekers, racial-eth-
nic issues). On television, we coded all news items each day in the three main
evening news programs. In total, we analyzed 4,123 news stories: 2,601 newspa-
per stories—Telegraaf (n = 694), AD (n = 667), Volkskrant (n = 573), NRC (n =
667); and 1,522 television news stories—NOS Journaal (n = 449), RTL Nieuws (n =
553), and Hart van Nederland (n = 520). The large number of newspaper articles
that met our selection criteria led us to decide to code newspapers every other
day. This meant that in the even weeks, we coded the newspapers issued on
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; in the odd weeks, we coded those on Tuesday,
Thursday, and Saturdays (in Holland there are no newspapers on Sundays). There-
fore, the 2,601 newspaper stories occurred over 26 days.
Framing Measures
To measure the extent to which certain frames appear in stories that mention
politics, we developed a series of 20 questions to which the coder had to answer
yes (1) or no (0). Each question was meant to measure one of five news frames:
human interest, conflict, morality, attribution of responsibility, and economic con-
sequences. These were questions such as “Does the article reflect disagreement
between parties/individuals/groups?” (conflict), “Does the story emphasize how
individuals and groups are affected by the issue/problem?” (human interest), “Does
the story suggest that some level of the government is responsible for the issue/
problem?” (attribution of responsibility), “Does the story contain any moral mes-
sage?” (morality), and “Is there a mention of financial losses or gains now or in the
future?” (economic).
We investigated whether these questions would cluster in such a way as to
reveal underlying dimensions. To measure each frame, we considered a minimum
of three questions. Because our approach to measuring the existence of frames
was exploratory, and there was a chance that some of the question items would
not cluster appropriately, we added extra question items for some frames.
Our framing analysis included all stories that mentioned Dutch or European
politics, politicians, or stories that dealt with four issues: European integration,
drugs, crime, or immigration and racial-ethnic issues. We identified these issues in
advance as a basis for selecting stories because we wanted to compare how
certain long-standing domestic issues of importance are reported in comparison
with the broader contemporary issue of European integration. A full 85% (n =
2,212) of the press stories and 30% (n = 451) of the television stories met these
selection criteria and were therefore used in the framing analysis.
Framing European Politics
99
Four coders content-analyzed Dutch television and press news. The intercoder
reliability, conducted on a subsample of 50 newspaper and 50 television stories
for each of the 20 framing questions, was between 92% and 100%.
Development of Scales to Measure News Frames
We conducted a principal component analysis with varimax rotation on the 20
framing questions to investigate the extent to which these reflect underlying di-
mensions. This analysis yielded a factor solution in which the framing questions
clustered into five distinguishable frames: attribution of responsibility, human in-
terest, conflict, morality, and economic consequences. The factor solution, which
explained 54.2% of the variance of the framing items, is presented in Table 1.
Only the items with factor loadings higher than .50 were included in the scales,
a threshold commonly used by researchers (Pedhazur & Pedhazur-Schmelkin,
1991). As Table 1 shows, two items did not meet the threshold—one item measur-
ing the responsibility frame (“Does the story suggest the problem requires urgent
action?”) and one measuring the conflict frame (“Does the story refer to winners
and losers?”). As Table 1 shows, these items were empirically and conceptually
more distant to the remaining items that loaded on the same factors.
We chose to use simple yes-no categories to measure the occurrence of frames
in the news. An advantage of such a binary coding strategy is that intercoder
reliabilities are relatively high. A disadvantage of binary data is that they are mea-
sured with more measurement error, with the inevitable risk that correlations
between such variables are lower than correlations between ordinal or inter-
val variables. The attenuated correlations between binary variables could there-
fore readily mask an underlying factor structure that could be clearly visible if
the variables had been on a higher measurement level. Despite the fact that
our correlations could have been deflated, we found a very clear factor struc-
ture. There was therefore no compelling reason to perform another kind of
analysis.
Nevertheless, we also verified that our variables clustered in the same way
when we used a method specifically designed to classify binary-coded variables.
We performed a hierarchical cluster analysis with the “nearest neighbor” method
and lambda as the binary similarity measure. This analysis yielded exactly the
same clusters as the factor solution. In addition, it revealed that the very two items
with the lowest loadings in the factor analysis also did not behave well in the
hierarchical cluster analysis.
We used Cronbach’s alphas to measure the internal consistencies for the five
scales values (Kuder-Richardson 20 method for dichotomous data, Cronbach, 1990).
Alpha values were .75 for the attribution of responsibility frame (4 items); .69 for
the human interest frame (5 items); .81 for the conflict frame (3 items); .77 for the
morality frame (3 items); and .66 for the economic consequences frame (3 items).
The intercorrelations among the five frames ranged from r = -.22 (p < .001) be-
tween attribution of responsibility and human interest frames, to .27 (p < .001)
between attribution of responsibility and economic consequences frames.
We formed multi-item scales by averaging the unweighted scores on the indi-
vidual items in each factor. The values of each framing scale ranged from .00
Journal of Communication, Spring 2000
100
Table 1. Varimax-Rotated Factor Solution for the 20 Framing Items
Factors
1234 5
Attr. of Human Conflict Morality Econ.
Framing items resp. interest cons.
Attribution of responsibility
Does the story suggest that some level of
gov’t has the ability to alleviate the problem? .80 -.11 .10 -.04 .10
Does the story suggest that some level of the
government is responsible for the issue/problem? .74 -.22 .12 .01 .10
Does the story suggest solution(s)
to the problem/issue? .69 .04 -.02 .00 .09
Does the story suggest that an ind. (or group of
people in society) is resp. for the issue-problem?1.67 -.22 -.07 .04 .04
Does the story suggest the problem
requires urgent action? .43 .14 .26 .01 .02
Human interest frame
Does the story provide a human example
or “human face” on the issue? -.01 .76 .06 .04 -.04
Does the story employ adjectives or personal
vignettes that generate feelings of outrage,
empathy-caring, sympathy, or compassion? -.08 .69 .04 .11 -.03
Does the story emphasize how individuals and
groups are affected by the issue/problem? -.08 .64 .06 -.02 -.00
Does the story go into the private or personal
lives of the actors? -.17 .61 -.02 -.00 -.00
Does the story contain visual information that
might generate feelings of outrage, empathy-
caring, sympathy, or compassion? .04 .60 -.06 .07 -.11
Conflict frame
Does the story reflect disagreement between
parties-individuals-groups-countries? .10 .02 .88 -.02 .01
Does one party-individual-group-country reproach
another? .01 .10 .81 .03 .02
Does the story refer to two sides or to more
than two sides of the problem or issue? .19 -.04 .77 -.04 .06
Does the story refer to winners and losers? -.02 .01 .29 .06 -.02
Morality frame
Does the story contain any moral message? -.01 -.02 .02 .91 -.01
Does the story make reference to morality,
God, and other religious tenets? -.02 .09 .05 .86 -.03
Does the story offer specific social
prescriptions about how to behave? .01 .07 .04 .68 -.03
Economic frame
Is there a mention of financial losses
or gains now or in the future? -.01 -.01 .03 -.02 .81
Is there a mention of the costs/degree of
expense involved? -.11 -.03 -.03 -.01 .73
Is there a reference to economic consequences
of pursuing or not pursuing a course of action? .23 -.11 .03 -.03 .74
1 Item was inversely coded.
Framing European Politics
101
(frame not present) to 1.00 (frame present). A high score on the attribution of
responsibility scale indicated that the story suggests that some level of govern-
ment has the ability to alleviate, or is responsible for causing, a certain issue or
problem. A high score on the human interest scale indicated that the story puts a
human face on the issue or problem, sometimes employing personal vignettes or
other characteristics (verbal, visual, or both) that may generate strong feelings on
the part of the viewer or reader. A high score on the conflict scale indicated that
the story reflects disagreement between parties or groups or countries or refers to
two or more sides of an issue. A high score on the morality scale indicated that the
story contains a moral message or made reference to morality, God, or religious
tenets. A high score on the economic consequences scale indicated that the story
mentioned financial losses or gains or the degree of expense involved.
Results
Television news in Holland, as in the U.S., was predominantly “episodic,” in Iyengar’s
(1991) sense of the term. In other words, it focused on specific events or occur-
rences in the past 24 hours. On television, such episodic news accounted for 92%
of stories, whereas only 8% were thematic, i.e., taking information from different
Table 2. Percentage of Subjects Covered in Four Newspaper and Three Television Outlets
Press Television
NRC Volks- AD Telegraaf NOS RTL Hart v. Total
Subject
rant Ned.
%%%%%%%
N
%
Europe 28.0 25.5 18.7 19.0 18.7 12.8 5.4 773 18.7
Nonpolitical news 5.2 6.1 7.8 13.0 20.9 22.2 53.8 709 17.2
Crime 10.9 14.0 21.9 26.8 7.1 7.8 16.3 645 15.6
Politics 17.4 16.8 18.0 13.5 15.1 13.2 3.1 583 14.1
Social welfare/
education 15.0 17.6 17.1 14.0 7.8 7.1 12.1 549 13.3
Economy 9.7 9.8 7.6 7.1 4.7 14.5 1.0 327 7.9
Infrastructure/environ-
ment/agriculture 7.0 7.9 7.2 6.2 6.5 7.1 8.1 293 7.1
Foreign news 6.6 2.4 1.6 0.4 19.2 15.4 0.2 244 5.9
Total
N
667 573 667 694 449 553 520 4123
% 100
Journal of Communication, Spring 2000
102
points in time and providing a context or interpretation for an event. In the Dutch
press, the reverse was true: 32% of stories were episodic and 68% were thematic.
To familiarize the reader with the kinds of topics covered in Dutch news, a
general overview of the stories in these outlets is provided in Table 2, which
displays the main topics of news stories in the seven news outlets during the
period under study here. The media in Table 2 are organized along a serious–
sensationalist continuum. For the press, this puts the NRC on the left and the
Telegraaf on the right, and for television NOS on the left and Hart van Nederland
on the right.
There was little difference between NOS and RTL in the percentage of stories
devoted to nonpolitical news, as well as political news, foreign news, social wel-
fare, education, infrastructure, agriculture and the environment, or crime news.
The only difference was that there were more stories about the economy on RTL
and more about Europe on NOS. Hart van Nederland, by contrast, carried far
more nonpolitical news stories, with almost no attention to foreign news, the
Table 3. Mean Scores of the Visibility of Five Frames in Dutch Television and Press News
Media
Attr. of Conflict Economic Human Morality
N
Outlet responsibility interest
Print News
NRC
.62 (.36)c.49 (.42)d.21 (.32)c.13 (.21)a.02 (.10)a533
Volkskrant
.50 (.36)b.40 (.42)c.22 (.31)c.14 (.20)a.01 (.07)a485
AD
.46 (.37)b.34 (.40)b.16(.27)b.14 (.20)a.01 (.08)a565
Telegraaf
.45 (.40)b.32 (.37)b.18 (.28)b.19 (.26)b.01 (.08)a578
TV News
NOS
.53 (.31)b.49 (.37)d.12 (.27)a.22 (.24)b.03 (.18)a176
RTL
.51 (.31)b.47 (.39)d.10 (.23)a.21 (.23)b.04 (.18)b169
Hart v. Nederland
.23 (.33)a.17 (.32)a.04 (.14)a.31 (.28)c.03 (.13)a106
Whole Sample .50 (.37)z.39 (.41)y.18 (.29)x.17 (.23)w.02 (.10)v2612
Notes. Values in parentheses represent standard deviations.
Adjustment for multiple comparisons: Bonferroni.
v, w, x, y, z Row values with different subscripts were significantly differenty from each other at
p
< .001.
a, b, c, d Column values with different subscripts were significantly different from each other at
least at
p
< .05.
Framing European Politics
103
economy, or politics. Crime was a far more important subject in this program than
in the other television news programs.
In the press, returning to the sensationalist–sober continuum, Table 2 shows
that the more sensationalist the newspaper, the more attention was paid to crime
news and nonpolitical news, whereas the more sober the newspaper, the more
attention was paid to foreign news, news about Europe, and political and eco-
nomic news. Crime, for example, accounted for 27% of stories in the Telegraaf,
compared with only 11% in the NRC.
Use of News Frames in the Different News Media
Our first research question asked whether there was variation in the framing of
news among the different print and television news media. To investigate whether
the use of frames varied, we conducted a multivariate analysis of variance
(MANOVA) with type of news frame (attribution of responsibility vs. conflict vs.
economy vs. human interest vs. morality) as a within-story factor and the news outlet
as a between-story factor. Table 3 presents the mean framing scores per outlet.
The MANOVA yielded a significant main effect of type of news frame,
F(4, 10420) = 680.89, p < .001, η2 = .21, indicating that, overall, some news frames
are more frequently used than others. Post-hoc pairwise tests with Bonferroni
adjustment revealed that all news frames differed significantly from each other at
p < .001. As the bottom row in Table 3 shows, across all outlets, the attribution of
responsibility frame occurred most frequently, followed by the conflict frame. The
economic and human interest frames were less frequently used, whereas the morality
frame hardly seemed to play a role in Dutch news at all. It must be noted, how-
ever, that the difference in the use of the economic frame and the human interest
frame was statistically significant, but not substantively meaningful because of the
large sample size and the power of the within-story analysis.
The MANOVA showed a significant main effect of news outlet, F(6, 2605) =
23.25, p < .001, η2 = .05, and a significant interaction between type of frame and
outlet, F(24, 10420) = 15.76, p < .001, η2 = .04. This interaction effect indicated
that, although in the overall sample, the most common frame was the attribution
of responsibility, followed by the conflict, economic, human interest, and morality
frame respectively, this rank order was not the case for all media. For the sensa-
tionalist news program, Hart van Nederland, human interest was the most impor-
tant frame. Univariate tests showed that, for each of the five frames separately,
there was a significant effect of news outlet. We used post-hoc pairwise compari-
sons with Bonferroni adjustment to discuss how the outlets differed in their use of
news frames.
Attribution of responsibility frame. The post-hoc comparisons revealed that the
most sober and serious newspaper (NRC) used this frame most frequently (see
Table 3). This was also the most common frame in the other newspapers. In
television news, there was no significant difference between the more serious
outlets, NOS and RTL, which were also equally likely to use this frame frequently.
The more sensationalist news program, Hart van Nederland, however, employed
this frame significantly less often than all the other media.
Journal of Communication, Spring 2000
104
Conflict frame. The post-hoc tests revealed that the most serious newspaper,
the NRC, used this frame more frequently than the others. The more serious the
newspaper, the more the conflict frame was in evidence. In television news, there
was no significant difference between NOS and RTL, which were equally likely to
use this frame quite frequently. The more sensationalist news program, Hart van
Nederland, however, employed this frame less often.
Economic consequences frame. Television news differed significantly from the
press in utilizing this frame less often. Within the press, this frame occurred signifi-
cantly more often in the two most serious and sober newspapers. Within televi-
sion news, there was no significant difference in the use of this frame by outlet.
Human interest frame. Television news employed this frame significantly more
often than the press. Within the press, this frame also occurred significantly more
often in the most sensationalist newspaper, the Telegraaf, whereas there was no
significant difference between the other three more serious newspapers. Within
television, this frame occurred significantly more often in the sensationalist news
program and equally less frequently in the more serious NOS and RTL.
Morality frame. There was very little evidence of this frame in any of the Dutch
national news outlets, although there was a slight trend for television news to use
this frame more often than the press (see Table 3).
Differences in the Framing of Topics
Our second research question asked whether there was any difference in the use
of frames with specific topics. As mentioned earlier, we coded all stories that
mentioned politics or politicians, as well as all stories about any of the following
four topics: European integration, crime, drugs, and immigration or racial-ethnic
topics. Two of these four topics—European integration and crime—emerged as
the most important topics in the news during the 2-month period of our study. Of
the entire sample, approximately 19% of news stories focused on Europe or Euro-
pean integration and about 16% focused on crime. It is worth noting that the
number of stories about drugs and immigration were so small that they did not
merit separate categories in Table 2 and were therefore too small for inclusion in
our cross-outlet comparisons. NOS news, for example, had only six stories about
drugs and only four stories about race and ethnicity during the period under study.
Therefore, we decided to focus our analysis on differences between stories
about Europe and stories about crime. To do so, we conducted a MANOVA on the
five news frames, with outlet and topic (Europe vs. crime) as a between-story
factor. This MANOVA revealed a significant main effect of outlet, F(6, 1239) =
10.06, p < .001, η2 = .05, which we do not discuss here because it was discussed
in the previous section.
The MANOVA also yielded a significant main effect of topic, F(1, 1239) = 54.28,
p < .001, η2 = .04. As Table 4 shows, topics about Europe and the European
integration were more frequently framed in terms of attribution of responsibility
and economic consequences than were stories about crime. Stories about crime,
on the other hand, were more often framed in terms of human interest. There was
no significant difference between stories about Europe and those about crime in
terms of the prevalence of a conflict frame.
Framing European Politics
105
Finally, the MANOVA revealed a significant three-way interaction among type
of frame, outlet, and topic, F(24, 4956) = 2.18, p < .01, η2 = .01. Univariate tests
showed that the interaction between outlet and topic held only for the responsi-
bility frame, F(6, 1239) = 4.38, p < .001, η2 = .02, and not for any of the other
frames, conflict: F(6, 1239) = 1.78, p = .10, η2 = .01, economy: F(6, 1239) = 1.60, p
= .14, η2 = .01, human interest: F(6, 1239) = .93, p = .47, η2 = .00, and morality:
F(6, 1239) = 1.84, p = .09, η2 = .01. The interaction effect between outlet and topic
for the responsibility frame meant that the difference between stories about crime
and Europe, in the use of the attribution of responsibility frame, was larger in
some media than in other media. The pattern of occurrences was, however, al-
ways the same, in that all media framed stories about Europe more often in terms
of responsibility than they did stories about crime. For the other frames, the pat-
terns per outlet did not significantly deviate from the results in the overall sample.
We therefore presented the framing results for the two topics across all outlets.
Discussion
Our first aim was to assess differences in the use of news frames among different
types of outlets. To do this, we used 20 framing questions to empirically assess the
five most common news frames discussed in the various literatures. Our framing
items showed a satisfactory intercoder reliability as well as a satisfactory internal
consistency. We studied the prevalence of these frames in the four national news-
papers and three national television outlets with the highest audience ratings in
Holland. Overall, the most common frames were, in order of predominance, attri-
bution of responsibility, conflict, economic consequences, human interest, and
morality.
Responsibility for causing or solving social problems could have been attrib-
uted to the individual or to the government. Our coding of this variable was done
in such a way that a high score meant that responsibility was attributed to the
government. Our results showed, therefore, that in Holland responsibility was
Table 4. Mean Scores of the Visibility of Five Frames in Dutch Television and Press News
Media by Issue
Attr. of Conflict Economic Human Morality
N
responsibility
Issue
Euro .60 (.33)** .39 (.39) .17 (.29)* .13 (.21) .01 (.08) 689
Crime .13 (.25) .32 (.38) .10 (.22) .25 (.26)** .02 (.10) 564
Note. Values in parentheses represent standard deviations.
*
p
< .01, **
p
< .001.
Journal of Communication, Spring 2000
106
often attributed to the government. The predominance of the responsibility frame
in these national media outlets suggests the importance and potential influence of
political culture and context on the framing of problems and topics in the news. In
Holland, where there is a strong social welfare state, the government is expected
to provide answers to social problems. The responsibility frame was especially
evident in the serious news outlets in the press and television, which may be due
to our finding that the more serious outlets present more political and economic
news than the less serious outlets.
Although we found that television news in Holland was just as episodic in
character as in the U.S., we also found that the responsibility frame was heavily
present in the serious news programs. This result is in disagreement with the
argument of Iyengar (1987, 1991), who blamed the episodic nature of television
news for encouraging viewers to attribute responsibility for social problems to the
individual, rather than to the government. Our study showed that television news
can be episodic and at the same time frame the government (rather than the
individual) as responsible for social problems. This suggests that Iyengar’s (1991)
argument about the consequences of the episodic nature of TV news is actually
culture bound and not generalizable beyond television news in the U.S. Our
findings suggest that, although television news in many countries may be epi-
sodic, the way in which responsibility is framed in the news is influenced by the
political culture and social context in which the news is produced.
The conflict frame was the second most common frame in Dutch news. The
conflict frame occurred more often in the serious news outlets in the press and
television, where there was also more political news. The tendency to report
politics as conflict is similar to the U.S. (Patterson, 1993; Cappella & Jamieson,
1997), but the basis of conflict is potentially different in a parliamentary multiparty
system. In Holland, there has always been a multiparty coalition government,
with a multiparty opposition. Therefore, there is not only conflict between the
government and opposition in the news, there is also conflict among the parties
within the coalition and opposition.
We were interested in whether the prevalence of frames in the news varied by
outlet. Our results suggest that more important than the medium is the sensation-
alist or serious nature of the outlet. The differences in the use of three news
frames—the attribution of responsibility frame, the conflict frame, and the eco-
nomic consequences frame—were at least as much dependent on the sensational
or serious nature of the outlet. In general, we found that the more sober and
serious newspapers and the “harder” television news programs were similar in
their frequent use of the attribution of responsibility frame and the conflict frame,
whereas the more sensationalist newspapers and “softer” news programs showed
a similar emphasis on the human interest frame.
With respect to specific differences between press and television, there was a
tendency for television news to use the human interest frame more frequently
than print news media. This is what one would expect, based on previous news
research that shows that television is more personalized and human interest ori-
ented (Bennett, 1995). Although both print and television news used the morality
frame infrequently, there was also a slight tendency for television news, more
Framing European Politics
107
than print news, to make reference to morality, God or other religious tenets, or to
offer specific social prescriptions about how to behave. We also found that news-
papers used the economic consequences frame more often than television news
did. This could be attributed to our finding that Dutch print news is more thematic
or analytic than the predominantly episodic television news, with the result that
economic consequences may receive more attention.
A final aim of this study was to investigate whether framing of news varied by
topic. We selected two topics that were prominent in the news during the period
of data collection: crime and European integration. We found that the use of
certain news frames did vary. In general, stories about Europe were framed in
terms of the attribution of responsibility, conflict, and economic consequences.
Stories about crime were more often framed in terms of human interest. Stories
about crime often went into the personal details of victims and perpetrators and,
hence, scored higher on the human interest frame.
Europe has already taken the first step toward monetary unification with the
introduction of the common currency. With further political integration underway,
it is important to identify characteristics in the presentation of institutions and
issues in the news and to understand how this is shaped by culture and national
context. The way European politics and issues are framed in the news can have
important implications for public understanding and evaluations of issues, institu-
tions, and political actors (Valkenburg, Semetko, & de Vreese, 1999). The multi-
party system and the social welfare state are common throughout most of Europe,
and the Dutch case is, therefore, an interesting point from which to begin.
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