This article is probably the first comparative and systematic study on the information agenda published by online media in European minority and indigenous languages. Research the agenda and the protagonists of online news from the major minority media platforms European languages as social tools that provide the audience with a specific picture of reality and participate in the construction of an informed public discourse.
The nine minority languages of Europe (located in the north, centre and south of Europe) are Basque, Welsh, Galician, Irish, Breton, Frisio, Sami, Corsica and Scottish Gaelic. The methodology is based on the quantitative analysis of a significant sample of online news items recruited in the press and a qualitative survey conducted in 2019 by media managers and updated in 2021.
The findings illustrate that the agenda in which information is presented to recipients is varied, balanced and community-centered, but limited in coverage of international reality and nation-state in most communities. In addition, the news shows that ordinary people are the protagonists of the news, but also that the presence of women is significantly lower. Most of the conclusions are consistent with the media directors’ responses to the organizations’ journalistic objectives, except on the issue of equal opportunities.
Online news and journalism are essential in most societies for current social, cultural and economic life, and are being imposed on traditional news production and consumption (Mitchelstein and Boczkowski, 2009). Society information is the key agent for meeting needs because it sets the audience agenda and provides interactive services for public dialogue on society’s own affairs.
The main media in the main languages serve the majority of the population and the dominant culture. However, they hardly express the reality and problems of minority languages and their communities. Consequently, the development of new online media for minority languages contributes to the empowerment of their communities by offering journalistic content relevant to their social, political, cultural and linguistic needs and objectives. They also collaborate with other social actors by helping to create and share public dialogue with the community (Browne, 2005).
This study analyzes the critical elements of the media agenda, i.e., news items, topos or geographic vision, and the main actors or protagonists of the news.
The systematic comparison of this research contributes to establishing a European framework. The analysis concerns the entire linguistic community, and not any other common administrative distribution that could be divided by a community (as in the Basque, Irish, Sami and Frisian realities). This approach does not correspond to conventional scholarship, in which the nation-state and subordinate districts are geographic or political areas of reference (Wimmer and Glick Schiller, 2003).
Status of the study object
In addition to standard media functions (McQuail, 2000:161), criticism, access, participation and participation in participation, the shared community and the construction of public space, media in minority languages can include linguistic revitalization.
But these functions must be protected by the media agenda. It is therefore important to investigate the collection of information on the world published in the European media in minority languages, beyond the topos of the linguistic community, within the concept of functional integrity (Moring, 2007), without using the media in the main languages.
The relationship between public information and media ownership has been the subject of several studies and sessions. It is considered key in the debate on media and democracy, and in the content of the news, in the differences in diversity between private and public institutions (Aalberg and Curran, 2012).
Online information research
Since the beginning of the new millennium, Internet news research has expanded significantly in different areas (content analysis, Agenda setting, style and structure analysis, interactivity, operations, data production, etc. ).
Some experts consider that news websites are global in scope, but “they are local in terms of language and geography” (Poor, 2007:73), and in terms of the media agenda, “online news pays a lot of attention at the national level, they tend to refer more to the voices of authority than to civil society, in these aspects similar to press and television news” (Curran et al. 2013:881).
Minority languages and media
Although the accuracy of the numbers of speakers has to be taken into account, it can be said that in the nine communities studied there are about 5.4 million speakers (approximately 22 per cent of the population) distributed as follows: 2.2 million people speak Galician (approximately 77% of the population), 0.9 million Euskaldunes (32%), 0.6 million Welsh (21%), 0.8 million Irish (13%), 0.5 million friars (74%), 0.3 million Bretons (7%), 0.13 million Chosians (42%), 0.06 million Scots (1%) and 0.025 million Scots. The analysis focuses on the entire linguistic community, although some of them (Basque, Frisian, Sami, Irish) are spread over more than one state.
The nine profile communities can be summarized in three layers (Zabaleta et al., 2019). Firstly, with medium development, five media systems (Basque, Galician, Welsh, Irish and Samia), with important radio channels, with more traditional printed publications (newspapers or weekly) and with important digital platforms of native news.
Secondly, two communities (Frisian, Scottish, Gaelic), with a basic media system, consisting of important radio broadcasting channels (radio and television), but without major written presses or original digital media.
Thirdly, two French communities (Breton and Corsica) with a minimal monolingual media system. The main Breton media are a printed weekly (Yá) and a digital newspaper of origin (Agence Bretagne Presse-ABP and Brezhoneg), with very limited journalistic resources. The Corsican community, without major media, has only monolingual and bilingual media.
1.- RQ: What are the main online communication media of European minority languages that offer the community the profile of the agenda with its information coverage, to have in relation to the variables of type and topos or scope?
2.- RQ: What presence do the protagonists of the news (typologies, genders) have in online coverage information?
3. RQ: Given the importance of ownership over the nature of the media and news coverage, does the media ownership variable have any statistical significance on the type of information agenda offered by public and private media?
4. RQ: Is there a congruent relationship between the objective of companies and their journalistic objectives, as stated by managers and editors in the survey, and the online information between the actual results and the protagonists of the coverage?
This study is based on a methodological triangle (Denzin, 2017:301) and reaffirms the validity of the conclusions through a quantitative analysis for research questions on the agenda and news actors (IG 1 and 2) and a qualitative survey of media directors and editors (IG 4 on media journalism objectives).
The study has researched 20 main online platforms, that is, 65% of the total census, and adequately reflects the online news content of each community: three media in the Galician, Basque and Irish communities; two media in the Welsh, Frisian, Sami, Breton and Corsica communities; and one in the Gaelic Scottish.
As for the media ownership variable, eight major media outlets are private and are located in six communities (except Scoca-Gaelic, Breton and Corsica), eight in seven communities (except Breton and Corsica) and four in social ownership, only Breton and Corsica.
The online content under study corresponds to the fourth quarter of the publication. The online news sample coded in this study consists of 2,622 articles, which for the purposes of this study is defined as the European framework, which represents the sum of the samples of the nine linguistic communities: 631 news in Basque, 361 news in Welsh, 507 in Galician, 405 in Irlande, 260 in Frisera, 134 in Samie, 125 in Scottish Gaelic, 115 in Breton and 85 in Corsica. Content and general announcements related to traditional television or radio programming were excluded.
The reliability among the four encoders was 95.3% after processing 106 coding units.
The systems categories refer to the content of the news, the protagonists, the topos or the geographical view and the ownership of the media. While the content and topos variables mark the core of the information agenda, the characteristics of the protagonists/news actors highlight some indicators.
Following and adapting the standard category systems for information coverage (Benson et al., 2012; Natarajan and Xiaoming, 2006; Stempel, 1985) established and defined fifteen thematic categories of having: politics, economy, culture, language, science and education, accidents and crime, sports, entertainment, travel, internet and media, community life (stories of human interest), gender (including feminism and other related matters), religion and health, and spirituality.
The protagonists of the news are the main characters of the journalistic accounts and are not necessarily the sources that appear in the news. A news item may contain one or more protagonists who can be identified operationally based on their quantitative or qualitative importance in the narrative (Harris et al., 1981). This study investigated operations according to their types and variables, with the following categories:
- Type: organization/company (government and companies, as entities), representative (politicians, representatives of social and political organizations), artist/athlete, ordinary people and others.
- Gender: male, female, other and n/a. The gender variable is very important, but has often been forgotten or rejected in the implementation studies of the agenda (Kenney, 2003).
Concepts of Topos (Zabaleta et al., 2019), Greek term meaning “place”, indicates the “main geographical focus” (Maier, 2010) or Area of interest in which the news is relevant. The categories are local, corresponding to news focused on a city, county or province; community, when the information affects the language or political community; national, in relation to the stories related to the whole country (France, Spain, United Kingdom, for example); international, when they refer to other countries or international organizations; and others.
The coverage of information in relation to the significant variable of media ownership was also analyzed (Zabaleta et al., 2014) to identify possible differences in content and journalism between public media (owned or led by public entities), private media (for profit) and social media (managed by non-profit social entities).
In the survey addressed to the directors and editors of the media, open and closed questions were asked about the media"s mission, mission and journalistic objectives, as well as the typology, topos and protagonists of the news content.
In Europe, the thematic agenda of the main online media of minority languages can be represented by a four-level scale in which the value of each group is approximately half of the immediate higher level. In the first level, political news is the most prosperous category (23.4%); in the second level there are four categories (culture, economy, sports and accidents/crime), around 12%; in the third level there are three themes (community life, science/education and language), around 5%; and in the fourth level there are other categories (health, gender, Internet/media, entertainment, travel, spirituality and any other 11.2%).
Analyzing the thematic agenda by communities and considering only the five thematic categories with a coverage above 10%, the most relevant results can be highlighted as follows:
- Policy: The Galician online media have the highest percentage of current political content (36.1%), followed by four communities with an average of 26% (Basque, Welsh, Irish and Corsica) and four others (Frisian, Samia, Scottish Gaelic and Breton), with a percentage close to 9%.
- Culture: About 30% of media coverage in Brittany and Corsica goes to culture, while online media in Wales only publishes 6.9%, the lowest value among the nine communities.
- Economy: In almost all communities, except for pain and breton, economic information is similar, within the range of 10-15%.
- Sports: In the Galician language community, speakers of this native language receive proportionally more online sports news (21.1% coverage) than in other communities.
- Accidents/Crime: Online Welsh and Frisian media reports more about accidents/crimes than the rest (17.2% on average). Considering the property variable of the five main categories of the six communities, the differences between private and public media have been statistically significant, except in the Samis media. In summary, the main conclusions are:
- Private media have an advantage over public media: Basque, Welsh, Galician and frieze private media publish more policy and culture news on the Internet than public media; Irish private media stand out in culture and sport; and Samanian private media Avvir report more on politics, accident/crime and science/education than the public counterpart NRK Sápmi.
- Public versus private media: Basque, Welsh, Galician and Frisian public media report more on sports and accidents/crimes than private media; Irish public media report more on politics, economics, community life and accidents/crimes; and Frisian public media offer greater economic, sports, accidents, attention to crimes and international or international communities, 18.4% on countries, 18.4% on national encounters. It is clear, therefore, that the events that occur within the boundaries of the linguistic community, including those of the local perspective, are the majority of the news, reaching 75.1% of the total journalistic production. This percentage of villages with more communities is similar or higher in all communities except Galicia, which reaches only 680%.
Protagonists of the news
Regarding the type of protagonist of the news, 30.3% were institutions or companies, 29.5% individual representatives (political leaders, parliamentarians and government members, institutional spokespersons, etc. ). ); 18.7% for normal people, 14.6% for artists and sportsmen and 6.9% for others. By communities, the data show that there is the level of uniformity mentioned in six communities in which online media are significantly developed. Exceptions are the Sami media in the network, where ordinary people play a major role (32.6%) to the detriment of institutions and companies (8.3%), and the Breton and Corsic, with a minimal media system.
Survey of editors
In the context of the survey of directors and editors from the eight communities with the main organizations or information companies, the answers to the question about the media mission showed some key concepts that can serve as a reference axis for the information agenda.
The first idea that emerged from the answers, the most common, the announcements, was to create a news and content agenda of great quality and confidence for the linguistic community. In the responses of all directors, this objective had a different perspective: to contribute to the promotion and linguistic and cultural normalization.
Beyond the community of speakers, respondents to the webpages of radio broadcasting companies (Galician, Basque, Irish, Welsh, Gaelic, Scottish, Frisian and Samia) stated that the mission of the online media included the intention to reach the audience of the entire plural community of the country/region/nation, including foreign ones, and not just the speakers. This result is closely linked to the fact that most radio broadcasters have a bilingual service.
In response to the question about the content of the news published on the website, sixteen media directors answered that the news agenda had topics of all kinds, and that only the scarcity of resources could limit this objective.
Speaking of news topos, most editors stated that the main focus was on the themes of the linguistic community, including local events, and also complemented with the general coverage of the community. Information on national and international affairs was considered limited in most autonomous communities. Only the media directors of Galicia and the Basque Country proclaimed full journalistic service with regular coverage of national and international affairs.
Within the theoretical framework of Agenda 1 or Agenda Setting, the results of this systematic and comparative research show a media agenda that represents – in the parameters of themes, topos and protagonists – an image of reality proportionally plural, balanced and centered in the community, but partially reduced in the coverage of international and national themes. This conclusion is valid for most communities and consistent as a European framework. In addition, it coincides with the journalistic policy and objectives established in the institutions, as explained by editors and directors in the survey. It can therefore be concluded that there is a great adequacy between the journalistic objectives of the media and the production of online information.
Concerning the most frequent thematic categories (policy, economic, accidents/crime, sport and culture), the thematic agenda of the European media in minority languages differs little from that offered on the relevant websites of Germany and the United Kingdom (Quandt, 2008). Differences in policy, economy, accidents/crime and sport are less than 6%. Comparing online news in France with the media agenda of the websites (Benson et al., 2012), the difference in policy is also below 6%. Finally, compared to Swedish media news production (Watson, 2021), the percentage discrepancy is less than 6% in politics, economics, accidents/crime and sport.
This discovery reaffirms the professional effort for quality journalism and the media information agenda in minority languages, as reflected in the questionnaire responses.
However, there is a significant difference in the category of culture, as coverage in the online media in minority languages is greater than in the websites of the majority language (English, French, German) of the countries cited. This result could be explained by the greater attention to the life of the community, the importance of its own culture within the mission of the media and the news policy and institutional resources, among other factors.
The conclusions about the protagonists of the news also confirm the practice of standard and professional journalism by online media in minority languages, but also with a positive peculiarity.
About two-thirds of the protagonists (60%) are institutions/companies and political and social representatives, as they do on the websites and main languages of other countries. As demonstrated by research by Curran et al. (Curran et al., 2013), such actors occupy 62% on websites from Australia, Colombia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
But the differential feature of online information in minority languages, and in our view positive, is found in the high percentage of ordinary people who are protagonists (18.7%), in the main languages and media (English, French, etc. ). 10.4% (Curran et al., 2013). This result is consistent with the responses of the media editors, as most editors and directors of the eight communities stated that special attention is paid to the news of ordinary people and local groups and associations, while maintaining the standard and professional journalistic criteria.
The introduction of gender in research on the implementation of the Agenda is important and the activity is criticized by some experts as the main and usual paradigm of the activity (Kenney, 2003). In the binomial gender and journalism, the reality of the European media in minority languages is similar to that of the main information and language companies. Women are clearly undervalued, except in the community of pain, where women play and lead important roles and social activities.
However, this error discovery contradicts the journalistic policy and the practice performed by editors in the survey. In fact, most media directors acknowledged that they reported and focused on the facts starring women. Only the directors of the magazine Golwg frisos, Irish and Welsh assured that they did not consider gender in the coverage of events and in the elaboration of news, only the journalistic criterion.
An important discovery of the study was the existence of statistically significant differences regarding the variable property in the five main thematic categories of contents of the agenda information. At European level, private media predominate in politics, the public dominate sports and information about accidents and crimes, as in Wales, and those of social ownership in culture and language, consistent with their identity.
Under the thematic diversity of the contents of the media agenda there are a number of fundamental problems. One of them is complementarity, limiting the functional integrity of the media in minority languages. In most communities, with the exception of Galicia and perhaps the Basque, speakers have to resort to the resources of the main language to achieve adequate coverage of national and international affairs.
Therefore, rather than strong information competition, the audience and recipients may consider the media in minority languages and major languages as complementary resources. Furthermore, there is little information on minority language community issues in the mainstream media.
This research, carried out by the research team HEKA, has been supported by the University of the Basque Country/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea within the Research Program “University and Society” (Ref. US17/21). Thank you to all the media directors and editors who participated in the survey. In 2022, an earlier version was published in English in the journal Journalism Studies.
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1 in the Basque linguistic community, Berria (www.berria .eus), Argia (www.argia) and EITB (www.eitb .eus). In the Welsh community, the cybermedia Wales BBC (bbc.com/cymrufyw) and the weekly Golwg (https://golwg360.cymru/). In the Galician community, CRTVG radio television (www.crtvg.es), the weekly Sermos Galiza (www.sermosgaliz.gal), converted after 2019 into Nósdiario (www.nosor.gal), and the cybermedia Galicia Hoxe (www.galiciahoxe.com), closed in 2020. In the Irish community, Raidi na Gaeltachta irratia (www.ten.ie/rnagusia), telebist TG4 (www.tg4.ie) and the cybermedium Tuarisc.ie (https://tuairisc.ie). In the Frisian community, radio television Omrop Fryslân (www.omropfryslan.nl) and digital magazine It Nijs (www.itnijs.frl). In the Gaelic community of Scotland, the BBC’s “on-line” platform (www.bbc.com/naidheachdan). In the Sámi community, the NRK Sápmi website (www.nrk.no/sapmi/) and the Avvir newspaper (www.avvir.no). In the Breton community, the cybermedia Agence Bretagne Presse-ABP e brezhoneg (http://abp.bzh/index.php), and the BWB Brezhoweb (www.brezhoweb.com). In the coral community, the journal A Piazzetta (https://www.apiazzetta) and the bilingual weekly Arritti (http://arritti .corsica/).