issue 2, year 1

Where are we so far

Representation of the EU and youth active EU citizenship in the media environment: some results (WP5)

The main aim of WP5 was to of observe how the EU and youth citizenship in Europe are represented and discussed in the media landscape of the 7 countries that participate in this part of the research (Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, Estonia and United Kingdom). For this purpose, the research teams conducted a comprehensive analysis of different media outlets, products and content, in different periods between 2014 and 2016, with the goal of composing an image of the main media environments that can inform young people’s knowledge and opinions, their political and civic agency, but also their notion of the European Union. The first phase of the analysis has concentrated on news media, which clearly play a crucial role in the selection of EU related issues that receive public attention, as well as in the process of opinion formation of European audiences. The second phase of the research moved its focus from mainstream news media to content and media environments targeted to younger audiences. Since Europe’s younger citizens are growing more and more disconnected from the news and are abandoning traditional media use, while choosing the Internet as a primary source of information, it appeared necessary to turn to the analysis of media environments and products that are explicitly designed for young audiences. For a detailed presentation of the results of this Work Package, the WP5 Blue Paper may be consulted: here we summarize some key findings concerning young people.

Young people are not a relevant actor in the traditional news media agenda

Young people tend to be generally underrepresented in the mainstream news media. In the few instances in which they do become “newsworthy”, we observed that they are mainly represented as:

(a) A vulnerable collective actor: the main victim of the aftermath of economic crisis, prone to having problems with unemployment, housing, lifestyle, crime. Morevore, although they are rarely evoked as voters, youth vote is usually discussed in connection to the rise of populism and far-right movements.
(b) The main beneficiaries of the most successful EU programmes, such as Erasmus+ and Youth Guarantee. The EU basis of education is valued positively, especially in the Italian and Czech media, which argue that the programmes are significantly helpful with regards to the job market, and that cooperation of the European educational system leads to improved integration and thus lower radicalisation. Moreover, students-as-tourists are constructed as beneficial to national economies.
(c) Non-active and politically apathetic, except for isolated cases. In fact, the concept of active citizenship in relation to youth, even as an underlying issue, is practically absent from the whole corpus: even the most traditional forms of political participation, like voting, are only rarely discussed in reference to young people in Europe, despite the high intensity of the coverage of the 2014 EP election campaign in almost every national corpus.

Does the picture that emerges from the alternative, youth-oriented media look the same?

According to the analysis conducted by the WP5 team leaders we can definitely say that it does not:

(1) Young people are a (often unrecognized) collective force that drives the West forward: especially in relation to new technologies and innovation, research and universities or entrepreneurship and startups;

(2) Young people are growing disenfranchised from and disillusioned with mainstream politics but are interested in other forms of participation (i.e. protest and dissent actions; volunteering);

(3) Young people are generally interested in social and cultural issues and are active within these realms;

(4) The younger generations of Europeans belong to a global (or rather glocal) community of workers, consumers and travellers that goes beyond the European borders.

CATCH-EyoU has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement n. 649538