Covid-19, sport and culture dominate the world press’s coverage of Catalonia in 2020

DIPLOCAT publishes a report compiled by Rovira i Virgili University concerning the media coverage of Catalonia in 10 major international newspapers last year

DIPLOCAT has been monitoring coverage of Catalonia in the international press since 2019. Asterisc*, a communication research group at Rovira i Virgili University, was commissioned to prepare the report for the year 2020. The study analyses coverage of Catalonia in 10 major world newspapers: The Washington Post and The New York Times (United States), The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph (United Kingdom), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica (Italy), and Le Figaro and Le Monde (France).

Among the main conclusions of the report (found on pages 102-103) were the following:

  • The 10 newspapers analysed published 1,020 articles in which Catalonia was referred to in general terms, and in 322 of which it appeared as the main subject. The newspaper providing most reporting about Catalonia was The Guardian (with 247 articles) and that providing the least was The Washington Post (with 18 articles). The newspaper with most articles focusing on Catalonia as their main subject was Süddeustsche Zeitung and that with the least was The New York Times. The country that dedicated most reports to Catalonia was the United Kingdom and the country dedicating the least was the United States. Catalonia only appeared once in a main headline, in the specific case of the Corriere della Sera.
  • In comparison with 2019, the number of general references to Catalonia increased (from 584 to 1,021), but the number of articles in which Catalonia was the sole subject decreased (from 50% to 31.54% of the total). This is undoubtedly due to the fact that in 2020 many articles concerning Covid-19 mentioned Catalonia only as a geographical reference.
  • The main subject that appeared in relation to Catalonia last year was Covid-19 (in 50.54% of cases), followed by sport and cultural subjects. Subjects relating to the pro-independence movement occupied fourth place, with 7.19% of the total. 39.7% of the articles about Catalonia were in the newspapers' international sections, and 18.31% were on the sports pages.
  • The news of a political nature fell within three main frameworks of interpretation:  Catalonia and Spain are two conflicting factions (the majority view), the Catalan political situation seen as a constantly changing reality, and Catalonia and Spain are two forces in permanent tension that may lead to a future rift.
  • The months with the largest amount of news concerning Catalonia were July and August. In July there were various outbreaks of Covid-19 in Catalonia that led to the areas concerned being placed in lockdown and also to restrictive measures being taken against tourism. In August the Covid-19 subject matter continued, and Leo Messi's attempt to leave Barcelona F.C. also appeared in the news. 
  • The tone of journalism most used was the informative approach (in 75.33% of cases) and the least frequently used was an opinion-based approach (in 6.17% of cases). The scarcity of opinion-based articles concerning Catalonia shows that this type of approach was uncommon among journalists in 2020.
  • The correspondents of the newspapers analysed published 60 tweets concerning Catalonia on Twitter. The subjects most commonly found on the networks were Covid-19 and politics, especially in relation to the formation of the government in Madrid. Apart from this, Catalonia was not a focus of attention for the correspondents in relation to Spanish political developments. The most critical position in relation to Catalonia taken by correspondents on the networks concerned the political manipulation of the pandemic and the lack of coordination in the management of the health crisis. With regard to the political conflict, there is a certain consensus that the current judicialisation does not help to resolve the conflict.