CMDS Report on Media Coverage of Refugee Crisis Shows Strong Emphasis on Voice of Hungarian Government

January 6, 2017

The Center for Media Data and Society (CMDS) at CEU's School of Public Policy (SPP) has published the concluding report authored by Vera Messing and Gabor Bernath on the media coverage in Hungary and Austria of three crucial events during what has been referred to as the "refugee crisis," that took place during summer/early autumn 2015.

The aim of the research was to investigate how different media outlets framed events related to the refugee crisis; which actors were allowed to voice their experiences and opinions; and what visual and narrative representations shaped the coverage of the events. The report reveals that the news media in both countries reported intensively about events related to the refugee crisis in August and September 2015, dedicating a substantial part of their news content to refugee-related developments. In comparison to the Austrian news media, however, the Hungarian media displayed a strong emphasis on the governmental and political agenda. Hungarian media reports covered actions and communication of the government especially prominently, and members of the administration were given a strong voice in all media outlets. The most salient difference between the Austrian and the Hungarian news coverage was that while in the Austrian media a humanitarian frame was significant throughout the entire time-span of the analysis, this was not prominent in the Hungarian news coverage in general.

"Public opinion polls illustrate the impact of the Hungarian government’s anti-refugee campaign, revealing that the level of xenophobia rose to higher levels than ever before," the authors write. "We have also demonstrated that even in the midst of a government campaign aimed at controlling meanings there is a space for independent journalism. Non-media actors in Hungary like the grassroots volunteer groups also demonstrated in the course of this crisis that no one discourse can succeed in monopolizing the debate entirely. The refugee crisis is far from over, and has already revealed how the meaning of concepts like solidarity, humanity, Europe, security and tolerance can easily be relativized or inverted."

The comparative analysis covers a sample of mainstream news media: television stations, daily newspapers and tabloid newspapers and it applied a multi-method approach, combining two types of analyses: a quantitative content analysis based on coded contents of the news and a qualitative analysis of television news programmes. The research continues and extends on earlier research about the representation of refugees in political and media discourses which was conducted in January - March 2015 by the lead authors of the report, Messing and Bernath.

Lead researchers and the authors of the report:

Vera Messing, PhD (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Social Sciences; and Central European University)
Gabor Bernath (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Centre for Social Sciences)

Our project research team included:

Eva Bognar (Center for Media, Data and Society at the School of Public Policy of Central European University), Dumitrita Holdis (Center for Media, Data and Society at the School of Public Policy of Central European University), Constanze Jeitler (Central European University), Georg Layr (Central European University), Judit Szakács (Central European University), Joost van Beek (Center for Media, Data and Society at the School of Public Policy of Central European University), Veszna Wessenauer (Central European University)

The project was supported by the Central European University`s Research Support Scheme and the Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS) at CEU`s School of Public Policy.

The report is available at the link below.