Pre-election news reports ‘favoured Alliance’

Never before has a Social Democratic prime minister taken such a hammering in the media as in the lead-up to the 2006 general election. And never before has the centre-right been portrayed in such a positive light, according to a new report by media professor Kent Asp.

The latest ‘Fair news media’ report, the ninth of its kind since the 1979 election, also claims that the four-party Alliance was permitted to set the media agenda to a greater extent than its rivals.

Asp analysed news reports from the final months of the election campaign, culled from the country’s leading television stations, radio stations and newspapers.

Writing in Wednesday’s Dagens Nyheter, Asp says that eight of the eleven media outlets studied treated the alliance more leniently than the Social Democrats and their then government partners.

According to Asp, newspapers Dagens Nyheter and Expressen were most positive to the centre-right Alliance, whereas reports in SVT’s Aktuellt and Sveriges Radio’s Ekot leaned towards the Social Democrats, the Left Party and the Greens.

The most balanced reporting was to be found in Göteborgs-Posten and Aftonbladet.

The Moderates and the Centre Party were more successful than other parties when it came to setting the media agenda. But the Liberals and Christian Democrats also managed to push through their topics of choice.

The Social Democrats on the other hand were not permitted to deal with the unemployment question in the manner in which they would have wished. They were also given little opportunity to talk about the Swedish economy.

Asp regards as “reasonable” the media depiction of unity in the alliance ranks.

“But it is questionable whether the purely negative portrayal of Göran Persson in the media was equally reasonable,” wrote Asp.