First, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism assessed the coverage in nine national newspapers on two sample days over a two month period.
The study showed that, unsurprisingly, the majority of press coverage in EU referendum campaign was heavily skewed in favour of Brexit. It found that found most pro-leave articles appeared in The Daily Mail, closely followed by The Daily Express, The Daily Star, The Sun and The Daily Telegraph.
Of the 928 articles focused on the referendum 45% were in favour of leaving, with only 27% in favour of staying in the EU (19% of articles focused on the referendum were categorised as ‘mixed or undecided’ and 9% as adopting no position).
Second, the Loughborough University Centre for Research in Communication and Culture looked at television news and ten national newspapers over a two week period in its report “Media Coverage of the EU Referendum”.
On “balance” it agreed with the Reuters assessment that “in the press OUT evaluations were more prominent that IN evaulations” but suggested that the gap was a narrower one: 32% for OUT and 26% for IN with 42% for no evaluations or no dominant evaluations.
On this issue the study concluded that
“TV news coverage was more favourable to the IN campaign, according to a range of measures. Individuals or organisations advancing the case for remaining in the EU were more frequently reported than their opponents. .. although quoted less extensively than OUT campaigners, the ‘quotation gap’ was appreciably lower than found in press coverage. In press coverage, the directional division was closer and more polarised”.
The report found that the coverage was mostly focused on the process and conduct of the campaign and on issues to do with business, trade and the economy.
The range of reported participants was also narrow, with Conservative party sources dominating press and TV reporting, in particular the actions and interventions of David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne. The top seven most reported individuals were all Conservative politicians – with Boris Johnson first and David Cameron second. The only non-Conservatives in the top ten were Jeremy Corbyn (at 8) and Gordon Brown (at 9). There were no women in the top ten.