Covid’s grip on the news is loosening. The big news report is back

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Primetime TV News in the first half of 2021

During the first half of 2021, there was stabilisation in the prime time audience, with a slow but progressive return to the audience levels that had characterised the seasons before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. If in the spring months the average audience for evening News remained higher than in previous years, with a daily gap of around 2 million viewers compared to spring 2019, with last June and the end of the “curfew” there was a marked fall in the ratings, which realigned themselves to the typical values of past late spring seasons. All this happened without any significant change in positions, except for a slight gain for Tg1 compared to its main competitors in the 8 p.m. time slot. These are some of the elements that emerged from the Eurispes – CoRiS Sapienza TV News Observatory data analysis for the first six months of 2021.


With the relative lowering of tension, the news report, which remained hidden throughout 2020, begins to resurface in April, returning to represent the “killer application” of prime time between May and June. As in past years, dramatic events such as the massacre of Mottarone and the case of Saman Abbas, have returned to polarise tensions and anxieties of an audience that, a year after the first lockdown, now seems to have partly “metabolised” the tragedy of the pandemic.


An analysis of the individual newspapers shows that Tg1 and Tg3 are those which, during the spring of 2021, have mostly retained the audience that had materialised during the acute period of the pandemic. However, the scenario changed when summer has arrived: if Tg1 gains in terms of percentages against its “competitor” Tg5, Tg2 and Tg3 remain essentially around the same values of 2020, in a position of parity that, as in previous years, sees Mario Orfeo’s Tg3 lose the advantage gained in the spring season compared to the head of Gennaro Sangiuliano.

Narrative lines

As emerges from a global overview of the “narrative worlds” highlighted by the lexicometric analysis of the titles of the seven national newspapers, the return of crime news, even more than the independence of the political and economic narrative, seems to be what is left from these first six months of 2021. Taking the last of the six months analysed as an example, in June, 23.3% of the repertoire constitutes a sort of “island of crime”, fuelled by the anniversary of one of Italy’s most famous mysteries, the Ustica massacre, and the aftermath of the debate on Mottarone. The “continent” that opposes it is made up of four regions. The one relating to the narration of the virus, which covers 23.7% of the repertoire, has the most defined boundaries (“Delta”, “Vaccine”, “Contagion”, in grey in graph 9). There are few areas of overlap with the “international” cluster (“Biden”, “Summit”, “Football”), which reaches 22.2% of the repertoire, including part of the discussion on the European Football Championship. The clusters relating to politics are much more interrelated, with the latter regaining its space by articulating its narrative in a more “party” dimension (“Centre-right”, “Salvini”, “Berlusconi”), and a more “socio-economic” one (“Zan”, ” Licensors”, “Trade Union”), for a total of 30.7% of the repertoire.


The presence of leaders in the titles

An analysis of the number of mentions of the foremost political leaders in the headlines of prime time TV news in the first half of 2021 clearly shows several trends.


As expected, Prime Minister Draghi has become the most followed figure in prime time, surpassing his predecessor Conte in terms of the number of mentions as early as March. Nevertheless, the average number of mentions in the headlines between March and June was around 120 per month, a reasonable figure for a government leader. Attention to “party” politics declined, with the only exception of Matteo Salvini, who was singled out in February for his pro-European turn with his support for the Draghi government but continued to maintain a high presence in the spring months.


On the 5 Star party side, the extended internal crisis, which Grillo entered in June with a strong hand, contributed to keeping the former Prime Minister Conte “high” in prime time editions. On the other hand, the situation is very different for the leader of Italia Viva, Matteo Renzi, who, after collecting 136 mentions in January for the break that led to Conte 2, is gradually eclipsed, collecting just 24 mentions in the headlines from March to June. On the other hand, the presence of the PD was stable, with Enrico Letta, elected in March, continuing in the path left by Nicola Zingaretti, collecting an average of 36 mentions per month between April and June.


The full version of the Report is available at the following link after registering with the Eurispes website

This content is also available in: Italian

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