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The BSE crisis in German newspapers: reframing responsibility

Feindt, Peter H. and Kleinschmit, Daniela 2011. The BSE crisis in German newspapers: reframing responsibility. Science as Culture 20 (2) , pp. 183-208. 10.1080/09505431.2011.563569

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The 2000/2001 German BSE crisis unfolded as a public drama where awkward crisis management and political attacks on industrial agriculture sparked intense, prolonged media coverage. Mediatisation and politicisation of BSE went hand in hand. In the process, responsibilities for problems and solutions were socially constructed. A high level of press coverage and a policy turnabout (Agrarwende) became mutually reinforcing, according to our analysis of more than 5,000 articles from five national German quality newspapers. Politicians had a prominent standing but did not dominate the BSE discourse; speakers from civil society, the private sector and the media had a relatively good ‘standing’. Before the policy change, consumers appeared as the main victims in the media, while afterwards it was agriculture. Throughout the crisis, politicians were mostly blamed as problem causers and to a far lesser degree business and agriculture. Politicians were also overwhelmingly framed as problem solvers, far more than science, agriculture, business and consumers. As the new policy unfolded, more issue frames were articulated, suggesting that the debate shifted from BSE to the general direction of agriculture policy and the distribution of subsidies, but also to the relation between nature and technology and to a lesser degree the relation between food and consumers. Localisation and globalisation of food and international issues played minor roles. In the context of wider research on mass media and public opinion, the case study shows how media coverage tends to politicise food hazards. Food scares offer high news values and attract wide audiences. While industrial agriculture received much blame, major responsibility was attributed to the political system.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Uncontrolled Keywords: BS ; Mass media ; Framing ; Standing ; Public opinion ; O rganised irresponsibility ; Agriculture policy ; Food policy ; Crisis management ; Germany
Additional Information: Special Issue: AGRO-FOOD CRISES
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0950-5431
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 09:06

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