It is widely accepted bymany scholars that the media is an extremely powerful vehicle in shaping publicperception on certain issues (Lawlor, 2015; O’Nions, 2010; Gunnee, 2016).
Thepublic relies heavily on the media as a source of information upon whichopinions are formed and decisions are made. The media has the power to shapepublic opinion through the way in which issues are framed and language is used.Framing theory has been extensively used by scholars throughout the years; andis the focus of this thesis.
Framing refers to the way in which certain issuesare presented and narrated to the public by the media. The UKhas had a rocky relationship with the EU since joining the European Communitiesin 1973. For some, the EU has become a representation of a lack of nationalism,supremacy over the UK parliament and courts, corruption, and a lack of controlover social issues such as immigration. The UK is the only EU Member Statewhich has previously held a referendum on whether to retain EU membership.
Heldin 1975, the British electorate voted to remain a Member State by 67.23% to32.77%.
In recent years, as feelings of disillusionment and Euroscepticismgrew, the EU has been increasingly discussed in terms of social and politicalissues such as immigration (Mudde, 2010; Balch & Balabanova, 2017).Increasing levels of immigration from both the EU and beyond to the UK has ledto an increase in media discourse and political discussions regardingimmigrants, asylum seekers, and migration more generally (Verkuyten, 2005). In2016, the UK held a second referendum regarding its membership, and theelectorate voted to leave by a 51.
9% margin, making the UK the first MemberState to leave the EU. Goodwin & Heath (2016, p. 325) note the 2016referendum revealed a society divided by ‘social class, generation, andgeography’. Goodwin & Heath (2016, p. 325) also determine the LeaveCampaign won the majority of its support in specific areas; ‘communities thattend to be more economically disadvantaged… where average education levels arelow and the local population is heavily white’.
Vlandas (2016, p. 4) suggestedthere is ‘a strong anti-immigrant preference among a significant part of theUK’s population’, stemming from associations between social issues andmigration (such as crime, a lack of jobs, and inadequate access to publicservices). Immigration levels have been steadily rising in the UK, arguablyheightened by the free movement of persons between EU countries. A series ofboth newspaper articles and academic articles have insinuated that migrationhas been a source of concern and fear for many UK citizens (Tilford, 2015), andsome authors have even suggested immigration may have played a role inencouraging how some people voted in the Brexit Referendum (Vlandas, 2016;Wadsworth et al. 2016).This Chapter will includea review of the literature regarding framing theory, and previous studies onframing in the context of migration. A literature review is essential as itgives background information to the theory behind a subject, reinforcing it asan area of academic concern and importance. This literature review focusesprimarily on the theory behind framing.
It will begin with discussions on thesetheories, followed by how these theories are used to reinforce concepts such asagenda setting, scapegoating, and risk society. This Chapter will then proceedto discuss previous research concerning migration framing across the globe. Itwill conclude by discussing previous studies on migration framing in the UKcontext, prior to the Brexit Referendum. This Chapter will give an insight intothe way in which migration has been framed globally, and more specifically inthe British context.
A “frame” refers to how anissue is presented by the media to its audience. Framing theories consider theway in which issues are presented to the public by the media. According toStromback & Aalberg (2008, p. 94), a frame is a ‘central organising ideafor news content which supplies a context and suggests what the issue is,through the use of selection, emphasis, exclusion, and elaboration’.
Accordingto Goffman (1974), frames can be identified through the use of keywords,phrases, and stereotypes. Metaphors are another way in which the media canframe and discuss matters of public concern. According to Fairhurst & Sarr(1996), techniques used to frame an issue also include the use of traditions,slogans and spinning. Frames are used by the media to encourage audiences toform certain views on current affairs. Framing also reduces the complexity ofissues, making them easier to understand by an audience. Framing links to thetheory of social constructionism; the way in which the media constructideologies and opinions through presentation of issues (Entman, 1993). Themedia has developed the immense power to create specific narratives on salientsubjects, and consequently can influence and shape public opinions regardingthese topics. Hartman& Husband (1974) and van Dijk (1987) both posit the notion that mass mediais a major drive of knowledge among the public, and can thus be hugelyinfluential in how the public discuss and form thoughts on issues.
Van Dijk(1998; 1991) is of the opinion media framing is consistent with the opinionsand stances of the powerful elites, and newspapers have much control and powerto influence the opinion of its audience. Yang coined the phrase “mediafunctionalization,” which means that continued and constant mediadiscourse on topics such as migration can allow the subject to become routine,commonsensical, and naturalised (2014), in the eyes of the public. When issuesare consistently framed as negative, this can also lead to an establishedpublic opinion (Baker, 2010). The public relies on the press in order toprovide it with information with which to form views. This augments the powerof the media in creating a specific narrative which people may begin to believeis true and accurate. Individuals create their own echo chambers in the mediathey consume, which in turn allows them to cement their opinions as ultimatelycorrect, through their own perceived reality.
Framinglinks closely to agenda setting, which can influence what issues are importantto focus on and therefore receive the most press coverage. Arguably, theresults of agenda setting can be easier to see in this day and age, consideringthe power of the media. Public agenda can be shaped by the media because themedia decides the salience of issues. Agenda setting contributes to the notionof populism, whereby the media drives fear on one topic thus encouragingpoliticians and governments to “solve” the issues surrounding that topic. Themedia creates a cycle of what it wants to identify as reality, creating imageswhich may or may not be realistic or accurate, thus influencing publicperception, which in turn can create a false reality.
This false reality runsin a sort of feedback loop which encourages the media to continue to focus onan issue (Scheufele, 1999; Rhodebeck, 1998). Arguably, the media may haveplayed a role as agenda setters during the Referendum, through focusing onimmigration in the context of the EU. Beck(1992, p. 75) discusses risk society, and links it to the notion of a”scapegoat society”, a society where we seek visible groups (such as migrants)which stand out and these groups in turn become ‘the lightning rods for theinvisible threats which are inaccessible to direct action’. We are living in a world we perceive asriskier, and we seek a distinct group of ‘others’ to blame. The process of”othering” has become entrenched in everyday life (Hudson and Bramhall, 2005),including in relation to the topic of migration.
Social and political discoursehas encouraged this idea of the “other”, and in turn encourages a trend towardsviewing immigrants as a “dangerous other”. The criminology of the “other” hasbecome increasingly connected to migration and immigrants. Bosworth and Guild(2008) discuss the idea that the “other” dramatically affects the issue ofnational identity, which is especially relevant in the UK context, as nationalidentity is of the utmost importance to powerful, colonial British ideology(Kearney, 2000). 2.2 Previous Studies and Research on Framing Immigration It is necessary to examineprevious research on framing and immigration in order to enhance the academicrelevance of this thesis.
Previous studies have come across a myriad of frameswhen it comes to how the media have discussed immigration. Several commonthemes have emerged from the literature, the most frequent being the use of”threatening” frame, framing as an economic drain, and the use of watermetaphors to encourage feelings of concern and a lack of control (Parker,2015). In the context of this study, I expect to find immigration has beenframed more through economic concerns in the EU context, as opposed to”threatening” frames. I expect differences in discussions on migration in theEU Referendum context. This is due to the specific setting and focus of thisstudy the EU and immigration, as opposed to a general study on newspapernarratives regarding immigration.
This section will first delve into the wayimmigration has been narrated worldwide, and will then discuss the results ofprevious studies in the UK context. Worldwide,scholars have suggested similar tendencies and trends in the way in which themedia portrays immigration. Teo (2000) and Yang (2014) both conclude immigrantshave been framed negatively in Australia and Canada respectively. Yangdescribes how immigrant students are portrayed as outsiders; ‘Learning tospeak out as difficult as learning English’ (2014, p. 38); and ‘…there’sno doubt the more cultures and languages and lifestyles that you put together,you’re going to meet more challenges’ (2014, p.
39). In Australia, Klocker& Dunn (2003) note although the media was sympathetic towards asylumseekers at times, overall there was a negative representation of asylumseekers, referencing “threatening” frames. A link was discovered in this studybetween asylum seekers and violence or crime.
Results of Canadian research onframing immigration depict a general negative portrayal of immigrants in termsof “threat” factors (Lawlor, 2015; Fleras, 2011). These “threat” factorsinvolve the following aspects; ‘economic threat (protecting jobs), threats tosocial programs (fraud) and threats to security (terrorism or crime)’ (Lawlor,2015, p. 336). Lawlor (2015, p. 341) concludes the Canadian media portraysimmigration in an ‘event-driven manner’, and described migration using an”illegality” frame mostly between the 1990s and 2000s. An “illegality” frame inthis context meant that immigrants were discussed in terms of illegalmigration, but also crime and terrorism (Lawlor, 2015). InEurope, the framing of immigrants as a threat is not unique or unusual.
Bennettet al. (2013, p. 251) discovered similar “threatening” frames, from referencesto “fortress Europe” in the Italian media, to the portrayal of migrants as an “externaldanger”. Research on Belgian press has seen asylum seekers portrayed as victims(Bennett et al. 2013). In the UK context, Baker (2010) saw negative bias inreporting on Islam in Britain, and Saeed (2007) notes immigration has beendepicted as problematic in the UK. Saeed (2007) determines the media portraysnegative images of Muslims and Islam, in turn reinforcing anti-Muslim racism.It is evident from media discourse that newspaper coverage on Islam and Muslimsincreased after the 9/11 attacks.
This has encouraged a cultivation of distrustand fear surrounding Muslim and Islamic immigrants. Saeed (2007, p. 445)references an article by former editor of The Times, in which it wasstated ‘Britain is basically English speaking, Christian and white, and if onestarts to think it might basically become Urdu speaking and Muslim and brown,one gets frightened’.
Saeed (2007, p. 449) notes a survey by Spearswhich claims, ‘as soon as asylum seekersare described as ”illegal immigrants”, it is a small step before the debatesspills over to the issue of immigrants generally, and the very notion ofBritain as a multiracial society is called into question’. Studiesin the UK have shown there is a tendency to portray immigration as negative,but also in a sympathising or pitying manner in order to evoke concern. Parker(2015, p. 6) gave examples of British newspaper headlines in this vein: ‘Teargas and water cannons were used by police to control about 300 asylum seekerswho were attacking the perimeter fence with weapons about 9pm last night’, and ‘They were brought in ravaged byhunger and close to death, but these children are now among the lucky ones’ (2015,p. 9). As mentioned, immigrants can also be portrayed in a sympatheticlight, for example as ‘passive victims of atrocities or natural disasters'(Bennett et al. 2013; 249-50).
Sympathetic headlines from The Guardiannewspaper include; ‘The Guardian view on the Mediterranean migrants: everylife is a precious life’ (2015), and ‘Refugees don’t need our tears.They need us to stop making them refugees’ (2015). In herstudy comparing Canadian and British media framing of immigration, Lawlor (2015,p. 341) concludes that British media shows increased framing applied overextended periods of time, thus ‘creating a more long-lasting impact on publicperceptions of immigration’. She indicates British media largely references”race” and “race relations”, and uses an “illegality” frame more than Canadianmedia. As mentioned above, this “illegality” frame meant immigrants werediscussed in terms of illegal migration, crime and terrorism (Lawlor, 2015).
British media continuously framing migrants in a specific way has the potentialeffect of sensitising the public to migration as an “issue” needing to besolved. From researching these previous studies, I expect my research willresult in more intricate or Brexit-specific findings on migration framing. Iexpect migration to be discussed in terms of economic concerns or threats tosecurity concerns, however I do not expect the use of an “illegality” frame asdescribed by Lawlor (2015), or discussions of immigrants through a sympatheticor pitying frame, because I am investigating a very specific period of hugepotential political and legislative change. Citizenship,according to Kymlicka (2003, p. 195), has become ‘an important value andidentity’, and there has been an increasing focus on assimilation as opposed tomulticulturalism. A focus on nationalism and pride in British culture may bereflected in the media, and subsequently may affect public responses concerningimmigration. According to a survey studied by Vlandas (2016), the UK has someof the highest anti-immigration responses in Western Europe. A corpuslinguistics study by the University of Oxford Migration Observatory (Allen& Blinder, 2013) which covered 58,000 newspaper articles again noted apessimistic portrayal of immigrants in the British media.
The most commondescriptor for “immigrant” across the newspapers included in this study was”illegal”, for example ‘…the issue of illegal immigrants has been a problemfor years’ and ‘…abouttwenty tenants squeezed into outbuildings were found to be illegal immigrants’ (Allen& Blinder, 2013, p. 10). Research conducted by The Migration Observatory(Allen, 2016) on British press coverage of immigration showed that coverageregarding immigration rose between 2011 and 2015. It also determined “mass” wasthe most commonly used description of immigration, and the word “illegal” wasalso frequently used. The research also showed EU immigration tended to bediscussed in terms of difficulties rather than successes (Allen, 2016). Theoverwhelming volume of previous framing research indicates my research islikely to result in an overall negative image of immigration in the context ofthe EU Referendum and Brexit.
However, it is likely this negative image will beportrayed through other frames such as economic, and security threats, asopposed to criminality or terrorism. Regardless, negative media framing couldhave the effect of encouraging a damaging or destructive public perception ofimmigrants and migration in the context of the EU Referendum.