European Identities in the Media – Public Discourse on the European Elections and the Eurovision Song Contest, 2009
Despite a general support for EU membership, the majority of Europeans primarily or exclusively feel as national citizens. There is only a minor European identity, which is one of the major shortcomings of EU democracy. Unlike most studies on European identity that focus exclusively on either political identities or the concept of cultural citizenship, this PhD project aims to incorporate both strands of theory. The study asks how media coverage contributes to the formation of various types and qualities of collective European identities. This media contribution will be examined in a systematic comparative analysis of political news coverage on one hand, and the discourse surrounding a popular European media event on the other. The concept of cultural citizenship claims that mass media, especially television, substantially contribute to collective identity formation by negotiating membership of society and confirming cultural communities (Klaus & Lünenborg, 2004; Gripsrud, 2007). Collective identity formation is built on ‘a feeling and expression of belonging to a common culture, way of life, a common symbolic system, and a common cultural heritage’ (Mach & Pozarlik, 2008, 2), and is marked by inclusions, exclusions and internal differentiations (Eder, 2007). Moreover, the expression of collective European identifications is one dimension of the Europeanization of mediated public debate (Wessler et al., 2008). Media, culture and identity are also central to Habermas’s notion of the public sphere which encompasses a political and a cultural component. In this context, both the European elections and the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) function as ‘discursive tool[s] in the definitions of Europeanness’ (Bolin, 2006, 191). Hence, both events serve as reference points in the process of European identity formation (Hepp & Krotz, 2008). The content analyses will comprise German print and TV coverage of both the elections and ESC as well as the follow-up communication of both events to be found in citizens’ comments on leading news websites and in ESC web forums and weblogs. The central concept of analysis in this context is identity framing which implies, for example, Europeans’ self-image and external perceptions, delimitations towards the outside and references to common history or symbols like the Euro (e.g. Koopmans & Pfetsch, 2006). Consequent to this analysis and based on the results, a comparison of Eurosceptic and Europhile member states in Western and Eastern Europe would bring deeper insights into the relationship between general attitudes towards the EU and possible media effects on European identity.