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Newspapers confusing public about different lockdown rules across UK – study

01 Jun 2020 2 minute read
Daily Mail and Sun front pages

London-based news media are contributing to confusion about different lockdown rules in devolved nations, according to a new study.

The study by researchers at Cardiff University shows that some English outlets with UK-wide audiences are still failing to underline crucial cross-border policy differences.

The researchers, led by journalism professor Stephen Cushion, monitored a panel of 200 people on their perception and knowledge of news about the pandemic.

They found that many English-produced newspapers – and their online and social media platforms – reported the lockdown measures by either not referencing a nation within the UK, or stating “Britain” or “the UK” without pointing out any differences across the devolved administrations in the headlines.

“Many people remain confused by what social distancing measures they should be following in different parts of the UK,” the researchers said.

“While we found TV news bulletins accurately communicated the distinction between England and the other nations, many newspapers prominently made reference to the UK or England-only, or did not specify the geographical relevance of the lockdown measures.”



The study asked their panel between 7-10 May whether the UK Government, or the UK Government and devolved administrations, were in charge of the UK’s lockdown measures. Half of all respondents incorrectly said the UK government.

Nearly a quarter of respondents also thought rules about exercising were UK-wide, and only 11 in 20 respondents correctly identified the ‘Stay Alert’ advert as being relevant to England only.

Stephen Cushion said that the findings showed that there are “still a lot of people confused about who is in charge of the lockdown”.

“Arguably network broadcasters and London produced newspapers/online news could be more explicit in explaining these differences,” he said.

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