Bulgarians and Romanians in the British National Press

18th August 2014

Covering the period 1 December 2012 - 1 December 2013

Authors: Dora-Olivia Vicol and William Allen

On 1 January 2014 the British government - along with all other EU governments - was required to lift the temporary restrictions that had been placed on Romanian and Bulgarian (A2) citizens’ rights to work in the UK. These transitional controls were introduced after Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 to reduce the likelihood of a sudden increase in immigration from those countries to the UK.

From 1 December 2012 to 1 December 2013, an important period leading up to the lifting of these transitional labour market controls, Britain’s 19 main national newspapers (see list below) published more than 4,000 articles, letters, comment pieces and other items mentioning Romanians or Bulgarians. In total this amounted to more than 2.8 million words. This report uses a quantitative 'big-data' methodology from the field of corpus linguistics to provide a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the language used by these newspapers to discuss Romanians and Bulgarians during this period.

While some major news stories – such as the horsemeat scandal in early 2013, several sports stories and a case in which a Bulgarian Roma family in Greece was investigated for abduction after a distinctive blonde child was found in their care – were unrelated to migration, the focus of most of the coverage was related to migration and migrants.

The analysis provides several interesting findings which include:

  • Language used by tabloid newspapers to describe and discuss Romanians as a single group was often focused on crime and anti-social behavior (gang, criminal, beggar, thief, squatter). This was less prevalent in broadsheet newspapers.
  • Language used to describe and discuss Bulgarians as a single group, in both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, did not consistently relate to any single social issue.
  • Where Romanians and Bulgarians were discussed together this was consistently in the context of immigration, across both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers.
  • References to Romanians and Bulgarians together were frequently associated with specific numbers across both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. The most common specific numbers were 29 million - the approximate combined populations of Romania and Bulgaria - and 50,000 - a prediction from pressure group MigrationWatch, which campaigns for reduced migration to the UK, of how many A2 migrants will add to the UK population each year for five years following the end of transitional controls.
  • Verbs used to describe or discuss Romanians and Bulgarians together, across both broadsheets and tabloids were frequently related to travel (come, arrive, move, travel, head) and in tabloids these included metaphors related to scale (flood, flock).
  • Words appearing before mentions of Romanians and Bulgarians as a unit in tabloid and broadsheet newspapers were frequently related to prevention of movement (stop, control, block in tabloids; deter, restrict, dissuade in broadsheets).
  • Romanians and Bulgarians were regularly associated with travelling to the UK for work across both tabloid and broadsheet publications.
  • Those words that are consistently used to describe Roma or Gypsies in both tabloid and broadsheet publications are generally related to either crime and antisocial behaviour, persecution or settlement.

The report builds on the Migration Observatory’s previous work in the quantitative analysis of media coverage of migration which can be found at Migration in the Media

Newspapers analysed were: The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, The Sun on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Express, The Sunday Express, The Guardian, The Observer, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, The Independent, Independent on Sunday, Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday, The Financial Times.

Bulgarians and Romanians in the British National Press

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