Divided UK not told whole story

December 6, 2002

In the post-devolutionary UK, nations are not speaking unto nations through the media, but mostly unto themselves, according to research at Edinburgh University.

John MacInnes, reader in sociology at Edinburgh, said that devolution seemed to be reinforcing rather than weakening the trend of getting less news from other parts of the UK. But the Edinburgh research found that English and Scottish readers south of the border would like more news about Scotland.

At an Edinburgh conference on national identity and constitutional change, Dr MacInnes said journalists and editors were not setting out to make patriotic propaganda, but sometimes went to great lengths to tailor their products to different national audiences in the UK. They insisted that the relevance and interest of a story depended on which country it was in, but they might be assuming their audience to be more "national-parochial" than was the case, Dr MacInnes said.

Dr MacInnes is heading an investigation into the content of London-based papers bought in England, London-based papers bought in Scotland, and Scottish-based papers bought in Scotland.

Devolution seemed to have reduced the amount of Scottish news in papers bought in England, he said. Findings so far showed a "remarkable absence" of any comparisons between Scotland and England, even with issues such as top-up fees, which have been ruled out north of the border.

Dr MacInnes said that while Scottish newspapers played up their Scottishness, the term "English" was hardly ever used. He said that Wales and Northern Ireland rarely figured in newspapers in either country.

"Residents of Scotland may have more reportage about the Scottish Parliament, but have little information about Welsh, Northern Irish and English current affairs," Dr MacInnes said.

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