The Covid-19 pandemic has tested the public health capacity of governments worldwide, and in turn, exposed the aptness of different political systems to cope with such an unprecedented medical development. Such has been the impact of the virus; both regarding mortality and the resultant introduction of wide-scale limitations on daily life and novel public health measures globally, the importance of accurate information has been heightened. The pandemic has arguably crystallised the function and significance of journalism, where citizens worldwide are dependent on their nations’ media to understand what they are allowed to do and the severity of the spread of Covid-19 in their country. While this dependence on media is universal, it is especially true in countries and regions with complicated political systems, where it is not immediately clear who is in charge of public health measures, with the United Kingdom being a primary example.
The Covid-19 pandemic has unprecedentedly exposed the United Kingdom’s constitutional differences and has led to devolution’s renewed importance and presence in the public sphere. Previously an esoteric topic in UK politics, acknowledgement and understanding of devolution has increased during the pandemic, especially given the autonomy exercised by the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland vis-à-vis public health decisions. Since the publication of the King Report in 2008, there exists a growing – albeit numerically limited – body of literature documenting and appraising the nature and accuracy of devolution coverage by the UK’s media. Furthermore, while this research project intends to build on the existing literature by analysing the impact of the pandemic on devolution coverage, the project is not solely interested in documenting how news is reported but how it is understood and engaged with by audiences.
An audience study detailing how people understand and engage with the news should prove the link between the presentation of news and how audiences understand and engage with it.
Specifically, this research aims to test the link between accurate devolution coverage and understanding of devolution, for example, seeing whether audiences pay attention to devolved signposting and whether that impacts their political understanding. In addition to the audience study, and a somewhat unexplored aspect of existing literature on devolution coverage is an attempt to understand the factors that shape contemporary devolution coverage via the thoughts and insights of journalism and communication staff of devolved political institutions, such as the Senedd in Wales. By building on existing literature documenting the nature of devolution coverage, attempting to understand the factors that influence said coverage and proving the link between how news is presented and understood, this research hopes to become an archetype for news reporting in complicated political systems.