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Migration

A Decade of Immigration in the British Press

A new report from the Migration Observatory at the University of OxfordA Decade of Immigration in the British Press‘ says that over the past 10 years British national newspapers moved away from focussing on illegal immigration and instead focused on the scale of legal immigration, EU migration and the need for “control”.

The report also highlights the role that journalists and media organisations have played since 2006 in framing narratives about migration. Nearly half of all stories analysed in detail relied on statements or arguments made by the journalist, rather than reporting of the views of external sources such as policy-makers, NGOs, community organisations or academia.

Key findings from the report include:

  • A sharp increase in newspaper migration coverage over the course of the Conservative-led coalition government from 2010.
  • An apparent change in how immigration is discussed, with a significant decline in discussion of the legal status of migrants and an increase in the focus on the scale of migration from 2009 onwards.
  • A rise in the relative importance of discussion relating to ‘limiting’ or ‘controlling’ migration since 2010.
  • A sharp increase in the frequency of discussion of migrants from the EU/Europe after 2013, with a particular spike in 2014 when migrants from Romania and Bulgaria achieved full access to the UK labour market.
  • A tendency for journalists themselves to play the role of framing problems in the migration debate, rather than simply reporting on others’ (such as politicians’ or think-tanks’) analysis.
  • A tendency to hold politicians responsible for problems relating to EU migration, while migrants themselves are more likely to be held responsible for problems relating to illegal migration.

Newspapers included in the analysis were: Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror; Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday; The People; The Sun; Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday; The Express and Sunday Express;  The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph; the Financial Times; The Guardian  and The Observer; The Independent and the Independent on Sunday; The Times and Sunday Times.

The News of the World and The I newspaper were not included in the analysis because they were not published continuously throughout the study period, leading to problems with data collection.

About the Migration Observatory

Based at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, the Migration Observatory provides independent, authoritative, evidence-based analysis of data on migration and migrants in the UK, to inform media, public and policy debates, and to generate high quality research on international migration and public policy issues. The Observatory’s analysis involves experts from a wide range of disciplines and departments at the University of Oxford.