Abstract.

Objective:  To carry out an in-depth analysis of how the four most popular and the widely read newspapers in the UK that is the Mirror, the Guardian, the Daily Mail and the Financial Times covered the news on the Supreme Court ruling of Article 50 in their publications. The focus of the research was to find out whether the reportage of the selected newspapers on the ruling of the Supreme Court would give an indication of their position on the Brexit controversies. Our aim was to ascertain which of the selected newspapers were indeed in favour of the Brexit and subsequently could be concluded to be aligned with the conservative party. Britain’s decision to exit the European Union has become a highly contested issue in recent times which many media agencies across the globe have taken a keen interest in. The just ended referendum on Brexit which recorded a vote in favour of Britain leaving the EU did not permit Britain to automatically exit the EU. Triggering of Article 50 and its success is the as crucial element of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Nonetheless, matters have far advanced with the Brexit issue. The Prime Minister has been able to secure a deal regarding the Northern Ireland Border. The global coverage of the Brexit issue as well as Britain’s position as an international actor after exiting the EU made us develop an interest in it and partly because we are in the UK and it a national issue.

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Background of the Research: Article 50 is the clause in the Lisbon treaty that permits any member of the European Union to withdraw from the Union according to its “constitutional requirements” (the independent, 2017). It can be triggered to begin the process of withdrawal ([email protected], 2017). The ruling makes it mandatory for the incumbent Prime Minister not to use her prerogative power to veto the triggering of Article 50. Which could enable her government to speed up with   Britain’s negotiation with the EU to get a deal which had already begun after the referendum held on 23rd June 2016 went in favour of Brexit. The incumbent government appealed the ruling of the high court. This took place on 5th to 8th December 2016. And On 24th January 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the outcome of the high court which mandated that Parliament should vote on the triggering of Article 50 since the “invocation of Article 50 needs an authorizing body” (James Rothwell and Midgley, 2017). This resulted in a lot of agitation from the public which the media took a keen interest in and made a whole lot of news about.  Most national newspapers are used as tools by politicians to push their interest during campaign periods and after elections.  We wanted to find out if this would reflect on this crucial matter. Majority of these newspapers are owned by the elites in the society. Many of these elites use the media to champion political parties’ ideologies and their own interest as politicians.

Research Design and Methodology: a Case study and a qualitative content analysis of 200 Articles published in 4 UK national newspapers on 24th January 2017 to 30th March 2017.

Results: Most Articles published in this newspapers gave a clear diverse view on the ruling of the Supreme Court. Some of the Articles published painted the Judges of the Supreme Court as people who were against the will of nationals and were clearly referred to as “evils of the people”. Some applauded the Judges for upholding the constitution and democratic system of the land and respecting the views of the people especially, Northern Ireland and Scotland which voted for remain during the referendum. Some reports published also showed support to the Prime Minister as some had headlines that read “no turning back for ladies”, “MPs must not stop EU exit”( (Greenslade, 2017).

Conclusions: The result of our findings clearly validated our hypotheses which is Newspapers are not neutral in their reportage. This we deduced from the languages used by these papers in their publication of the Supreme Court ruling.  The publications conveyed messages that made use of harsh languages against the judges as some were also neutral in their reportage and made use of clear and objective comments of the outcome of the ruling.

Introduction.

Concerning the role of Newspapers or news in print in politics, it is highly evident that the media plays a vital role in terms of policy enactment as well as being a watchdog on the activities of the ruling government.  Many outcomes of public opinions, for example, have been seriously affected by the media reports on such cases (Lee, 2006). The public outrage on issues which the media captures in their news publications significantly affects how policies are enacted especially in democratic states where there is freedom of the Press. The media was historically not seen as an instrumental tool in influencing populace decisions. Today that perception has been totally eroded as the media is not only upheld as an entertainment and news reporting medium but seen as a behaviour modelling organ of the political system. “Mediatization of Politics” suggest that Politicians nowadays even behave in ways that will get media attention so as to promote their self-image and probably aid them in their reelection (Cohen, Tsfati and Sheafer, 2008).  Politicians being conscious of the power the media possess tend to even start their own media houses or even influence media agencies with money to push their agenda. It not surprising that, one will certainly notice newspapers and other media enterprises seriously pushing the interest or ideologies of political groups. This is obvious from the way some vehemently support the agenda of some political groups (Pasley, 2002). The Media has become a medium for which the elite in society uses to progress their interest. It also medium by which government use to frame up an issue to support an agenda or harness the necessary public support in pushing for a particular course of action. For example, the US had used the media to frame up issues for which they were responsible for in the case of the Iran Air shoot down (Robinson, 2001).

The process of exiting the EU was commenced after the referendum which was held in June 2016 went in favour of British leaving the EU. The ruling of Article 50 by the Supreme Court has opened a whole new chapter of the Brexit issue. As individuals with the curious mind, the question lingering on our mind was, can’t the government continue without necessarily getting a Brexit bill supported by Parliament. Upon a further reading, we discovered government has the prerogative power to amend treaties but not in instances that will affect people’s right in domestic law which is according to the 1972 European Communities Act. The President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger in summary of the ruling concluded that “the change in the law required to implement the referendum outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, normally by legislation” (Henley, 2017).

In the case of the Supreme Court ruling, one could identify how some newspapers were publicly attacking the judges of the Supreme Court from their headlines stories as well as how seriously they were behind the Prime Minister position to quicken up the Brexit process. Some examples of such headlines stories were that of the Guardian which read “Evils of the people”, Daily express ”MPs must not stop Brexit” The Sun “Lady’s not for turning back” (Greenslade, 2017). This is few examples of how some newspapers captured the issue. This gives a clear indication of their position.

For the purpose of the research, we looked at Article 50 because of the pertinent role it plays on the whole Brexit issue. It is vital in determining whether Britain will be able to finalize the process and be out of the EU by 2019. It is obvious that the political divide on the issue will delay the process, this is certainly why this matter is worthwhile to be investigated into. It will give a clear indication of where the media will throw their support in order to get the public support to actually call for a second referendum in the case where the MPs do not vote in support of the Brexit Bill to vote outright for Brexit. In carrying out the research, we look out for the tone and reaction by the four newspapers in light of their reportage on the issue. We adopted a media content analysis because it easily to be understood, no contact with people, it is inexpensive and unobtrusive.

Objectives.

The aim of the research was to find out if the position of newspapers on Brexit will reflect in their reportage. The vital role played by the media in contemporary politics cannot be underestimated. Media has become a very useful tool that shapes public opinions on government decisions. The group wanted to find out whether the media is neutral on their reportage of Brexit with respect to the way they reported on the court ruling of the Article 50. The court ruling had gained much coverage from the media and there was much information on the issue.

Research topic.

Newspaper reportage on Brexit issues. This topic gained our interest due to the way the media carried out the whole issue. From the assessment of British constitutional powers to the respect of the British citizen’s rights. Right after the referendum, much has been going on pertaining to the process of Britain exiting the European Union. Since the media played a crucial role from the onset of the whole Brexit issue, we wanted to find out how relevant the media has become in terms of their role in the society.

Hypothesis

Newspapers are not neutral in their reportage on issues. We made this conclusion based on the fact that many media agencies are owned by the elites in society who take an active part in politics. There is the high tendency for the powerful and elites in the society to use the media to push their agenda and also to harness public support for the political matters.

Research Design

Our research design was a case study. We chose case study because of the research objective.  There are various aspects of the Brexit issue but we decided to focus on the specific case which was the Supreme Court ruling on the Article of 50. The case study design was appropriate for our research because it gave us the opportunity to do a thorough analysis of the case which the media has taken a keen interest in. The whole case has gained extensive attention from the media and there was much been reported about it.  Using cross-sectional or longitudinal would not have been appropriate for the study. The case study approach enables us to narrow our focus and to have a detailed analysis of the court ruling. And since we were dealing with text as a medium of communication, this was appropriate in that we could have a detailed examination of the text used in articles published that were relevant to our research objective.

Approaches for evidence gathering.

Our evidence gathering approach was based on manifest analysis of newspaper headlines as well as latent content analysis of the specific headline titles.  We did not choose questionnaire because it was not appropriate for our research objective. Our focus was to find out how the media reported and so our focus was on the text used in the publications. Also interviewing would have been expensive and will be time-consuming looking at our deadline. Also, we did not use visuals because pictures could not have given us enough information looking at our objective. Drawing meanings from visuals would be a difficult due to different meanings people may associate to a gesture based on cultural differences. On deciding on the approach to gathering our evidence we decided to use latent and manifest analysis to enable use make inferences from the text that were used to communicate on the outcome of the ruling of the Supreme Court. Disadvantages for the content analysis is difficulty in drawing generalization based on the case we took. Also, analysis of the content will be difficult to replicate the same findings due to a different interpretation that will be associated with the meaning derived from the content.

Sources of data collection

We contemplated on choosing TV, Radio and Newspapers but finally decided to choose Newspapers due to easy access to information from the archives. Radio and TV sources would be difficult due to several recordings of different programs within a day and as such, we needed to filter out the information and even getting access to the recordings would have been another challenge. The Newspapers were readily available and easy to access online. Also in choosing the radio for instances we needed need to transcribe the information to gather our evidence and this would have been another difficult task and we would not have been able to meet our deadline. In choosing the various newspapers we could have chosen international newspapers. But decided to choose national newspapers due to the significance of the issue to the UK nationals, the issue was considered very important and almost all the newspapers took a keen interest in it and reported extensively on it. Nonetheless, many international newspapers did cover much of the Brexit issue but there was much coverage done by the national newspapers.Our primary source of our data gathering for our research was based on four UK newspapers that is the Guardian, Mirror, Financial Times and Daily Mail. These newspapers were chosen due to the following reasons. Firstly, they are the widely read newspapers in the UK. According to the data from NRS Print and Digital Survey, these newspapers have the highest readership in the UK. The Guardian had a monthly readership of 8, 949 in Print. It is considered to have the biggest total monthly readership of British quality titles. It has a total monthly readership of 8.95 million in a year.  As of April, 2012 figures for Daily mail was 18,494 representing readership for print and website,  Mirror had a monthly readership of 10,590, the Times is considered to have the most popular quality title in print with a figure of 5.52 million readers in a year (Rogers, 2017).Secondly, these papers are considered as quality newspapers. This presupposes that the information they put across is considered valid (Rogers, 2017).These papers where therefore strategically chosen due to their influence. Majority of people turn to make decisions from the news they hear from the media.

Also, the cost for these papers cut across from various class. With cost been a reason for choosing, we chose daily mail and guardian considering the fact that

The process of gathering evidence.

We looked at headlines pertaining to Article 50. We did the manifest analysis of the headlines and content analysis of the headlines. We look at a latent analysis of the content on the headlines. That is to say, we look at the language used, the context in which they were used. We looked at the interpretation associated with the ruling. We tried to find out the emotions associated with the reportage.

There was not much of ethical consideration because we did not carry out an interview. However, we were very much careful with our framing so that we did not report or associated wrong meanings to the information put across in the papers. We ensured not to report in a way that might be considered defaming.

Reflection on the evidence gathering approach.

The content gathering approach was difficult.  Each member after reading the reports on the court ruling associated different meanings to the report. Reading over and over the report actually helped to solve the situation.  In view of this challenge, when doing a research again we will consider a topic that would not use content analysis based on subjective meanings.  Also getting enough evidence on the topic was challenging since the library newspaper archives were not updated. We had to subscribe to newspapers online before we could get enough information.  In the near future before choosing a topic which source of evidence would be based on newspapers we would find out whether there is a lot of information on the topic from the newspapers and we need not need to subscribe before carrying on with our research.

Challenges faced during our research.

We were handicapped in terms of data gathering from our source. The University Newspaper archives have not been updated and so we could not get information from the library. The newspapers we used were the ones available online through the online archives which need to subscribe and pay before we could assess the much of the publications on the Supreme Court