Framing Privatisation: The Dominance of Neoliberal Discourse and the Death of the Public Good

Henry Silke, Ciara Graham


This paper looks at the privatisation Bórd Gáis Éireann (BGÉ) in 2014 and the treatment of this issue by the mainstream print media in Ireland. From a contextual perspective, this came in the wake of the global economic recession and its longer term implications for Ireland. The media’s coverage of the sale could not be found to be impartial: both the volume and thrust of the articles were inclined to portray privatisation in a favourable, non-critical light. The majority of content was presented within Neo-Liberal frames, with a competitive frame being dominant; in other words the topic was treated from a market or business perspective rather than the perspective of the public good or wider society. A consistent source bias was also found favouring business or market interests with almost no representation of workers or civil society. Theoretically the paper argues that the framing of privatisation as a business and consumer issue, rather than a political one or that of the public good, acts to detract from the political aspects of the appropriation of public assets by international capital, including the implications for infrastructure, economic development and accountability to democratic structures, none of which receive sufficient journalistic attention.


Ireland, Privatisation, Journalism, Business Journalism, Economic Journalism, Ideology, Framing, Sourcing analysis, Bórd Gáis Éireann

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