Content analysis: Wage disputes in the media

Due to its adversarial character, wage conflicts between trade unions and employers’ associations are often covered in the mass media. At the same time, the question of how a wage conflict is picked up in the media is of crucial relevance for the collective actors involved: Both trade unions and employers’ associations try to convince the general public and political actors of their arguments and positions in order to ensure public and political support in the dispute. However, the existing body of research on the patterns of media coverage about wage disputes does not clarify which role specific aspects of the conflict itself as well as media characteristics play in explaining the tone, amount, and content of coverage.

In order to answer this question, we conducted a quantitative content analysis of the media coverage about eleven different wage disputes in Germany between 2003 and 2015. Additionally, we analyzed the corresponding trade unions and employers’ associations’ press releases. The selection of wage dispute cases was guided by the principle to cover a wide array of economic branches and actors involved. As it was our aim, to establish the picture of wage disputes as it is presented in the media as comprehensive as possible, we analyzed a total of 12 media outlets including national quality papers, tabloids, weekly periodicals, business paper and the releases of the national news agency dpa.

Funding: Otto-Brenner-Stiftung

Project term: 01.04.2015 - 31.05.2016

Project Manager: Christina Köhler and Pablo Jost


Köhler, Christina/Jost, Pablo B. (2017): Tarifkonflikte in den Medien – Was prägt die Berichterstattung über Arbeitskämpfe? Frankfurt am Main.