The Structure of the EU Mediasphere
Ilias Flaounas, Marco Turchi, omar ali, Nick Fyson, Tijl De Bie, Nick Mosdell, Justin Lewis and Nello Cristianini
A trend towards automation of scientific research has recently resulted in what has been termed “data-driven inquiry” in various disciplines, including physics and biology. The automation of many tasks has been identified as a possible future also for the humanities and the social sciences, particularly in those disciplines concerned with the analysis of text, due to the recent availability of millions of books and news articles in digital format. In the social sciences, the analysis of news media is done largely by hand and in a hypothesis-driven fashion: the scholar needs to formulate a very specific assumption about the patterns that might be in the data, and then set out to verify if they are present or not.
In this study, we report what we think is the first large scale content-analysis of cross-linguistic text in the social sciences, by using various artificial intelligence techniques. We analyse 1.3 M news articles in 22 languages detecting a clear structure in the choice of stories covered by the various outlets. This is significantly affected by objective national, geographic, economic and cultural relations among outlets and countries, e.g., outlets from countries sharing strong economic ties are more likely to cover the same stories. We also show that the deviation from average content is significantly correlated with membership to the eurozone, as well as with the year of accession to the EU.
While independently making a multitude of small editorial decisions, the leading media of the 27 EU countries, over a period of six months, shaped the contents of the EU mediasphere in a way that reflects its deep geographic, economic and cultural relations. Detecting these subtle signals in a statistically rigorous way would be out of the reach of traditional methods. This analysis demonstrates the power of the available methods for significant automation of media content analysis.