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Abstract

This paper analyses Irish newspaper coverage of two international free-trade and investment-protection agreements, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (herein, TTIP) between the EU and the USA whose negotiations are currently in suspension, and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (herein, CETA) currently provisionally applied in law between the EU and Canada. The paper demonstrates that they constitute two good examples of substantive matters of public importance with which to analyse the editorial balance of Irish newspapers. Using agenda-setting and framing theory, the research sets out the importance of the role of media in democratic life, and contextualises newspapers’ editorial bias in Habermas’s concept of a transformed public sphere. Categorising them as editorially Pro-, Neutral or Anti-, the paper takes in all 199 articles and 39 letters on TTIP and CETA published in three national, Irish, daily, broadsheets, the Irish Times, the Irish Independent and the Irish Examiner since the start of their respective negotiations, and up to July 2017. Informed experts of different types are used in these articles to explain TTIP and CETA. 620 separate instances of the usage of experts are identified and these are categorised as being Pro, Anti or Cautious on TTIP and CETA. The research findings are that: (1) there is significant variation in editorial bias on TTIP and CETA among the three papers, and, (2) in four of the six cases, governmental and corporate experts’ voice is given privileged status to the detriment of all other actors’ voice including civil society organisations, academics and opposition politicians at a ratio of 2 to 1, up to 2.8 to 1. The differentiated readership of each paper is used to explain editorial differences; and the tentative suggestion is made, that the absence of a uniformly Pro-TTIP/CETA bias suggests a possible deconstructing of a dominant neoliberalist bias in Irish newspapers identified in previous literature. However, the dominance of governmental and corporate experts used to define the TTIP/CETA story somewhat tempers this suggestion.

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