Entrepreneurship only featured to a limited extent in Flemish news programmes

Only a fraction of Flemish news reports are dedicated to entrepreneurship, and this news is mainly financial and economic in nature. Only 4% of the news items relate to innovations and creative ideas. It is striking that civil society organisations and politicians play a very active role in the news reports about entrepreneurship.

This is apparent from a study carried out by Vlerick Business School, the first to investigate how the various facets of entrepreneurship are portrayed in Flemish news programmes. For this study, researcher Tine Holvoet called upon the ‘TV News Archive’ data set of the policy research center MEDIA, examining the 7 o’clock news programmes which were broadcast on both VRT and VTM over the past 11 years. A total of 159,694 separate news items were scanned for the keywords ‘entrepreneur’, ‘enterprise’ and derivatives. This keyword selection generated a data set of 191 news items which were analysed in depth.

Little attention

Despite the growing policy focus on entrepreneurship, the subject appears to offer limited news value and is featured in a relatively one-sided way in the news programmes,” says Tine Holvoet. “Only 191 news items survived the keyword selection. This is only a fraction of all the news items which were broadcast from 1 January 2003 until 31 March 2014 in the 7 o’clock news programmes on VRT and VTM, less than 2 per 1000. 85% of the selected items are on domestic news. Only 15% of the entrepreneurship items have a foreign connection. One qualifying comment is that this stringent working method does not detect reports which indirectly or implicitly relate to entrepreneurship. This research is necessary as every year the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows how successful entrepreneurship in Flanders enjoys relatively little appreciation and attention in the media. In order to explain this, we are carrying out further research into the perception of entrepreneurship in the media in the context of the policy research center STORE.”

Emphasis on the financial and economic aspects of entrepreneurship

In order to gain a better insight into the specific subjects which were discussed, a minimum of 1 and maximum of 3 themes were allocated to each news item. Despite the wide variety of social contexts within which entrepreneurship was formulated, the reports were mainly financial and economic in nature (66%). 16% of the news items related to work, and 9% to politics or policy. These were followed by criminality, social affairs and education. Many other themes were only mentioned a few times.

Focus on the individual

When we zoom into the approach of the news reports, the focus in over half (54%) of the news items was on ‘entrepreneur(s)’. Tine Holvoet: “The entrepreneur as a person therefore takes centre stage and we also notice that the social and ethnic background, industry and gender of the featured entrepreneurs is relatively monotonous. Only 20% of the interviewed entrepreneurs are female. In addition, 40% of the news items are based on the ‘company’; entrepreneurial behaviour is only the main focus in 6% of the reports.”

A considerable percentage of the reports (13%) concentrate on the presentation of prizes and awards won by entrepreneurs and companies. It is also striking that the term ‘entrepreneur(s)’ is sometimes used as a label even though the core of the report is not actually related to entrepreneurship at all.

Strong presence of civil society in news reports about entrepreneurship

It is certainly striking that news reports about entrepreneurship do not just feature companies, directors or managers: civil society organisations and politicians are active participants in such reports in Flemish news programmes. UNIZO is the most frequently mentioned organisation in news reports about entrepreneurship and Karel Van Eetvelt (the managing director of UNIZO) is the most frequently mentioned person. In addition, Kris Peeters and Yves Leterme are mentioned relatively frequently, which says something about the political importance of entrepreneurship.

On the basis of the new categories which were introduced by the researchers in the context of this study, we can say the following:

  • 20% of the news reports about entrepreneurship place entrepreneurship in a social context
  • 16% of the news items are about protecting the interests of entrepreneurs and companies
  • 14% of the items report on the link between enterprise and government policy (including legislation, awareness and promotion)
  • 13% of the reports are about prizes and awards
  • 10% of the news items discuss company-related developments such as infrastructure and organisational policy
  • 9% of the items focus on figures relating to entrepreneurship, with the main emphasis on the inflow and outflow of entrepreneurs, particularly the number of starters and bankruptcies
  • 5% of the items in which the term ‘entrepreneur’ is used are not about enterprise at all; in these cases, the entrepreneur is only a label and the news item is actually about a murder, a donation etc.
  • In 5% of the news items, enterprise is linked to fraud, crime or corruption
  • Education and enterprise form the subject of 5% of the items, whereby the emphasis generally lies on the role of education in fostering an entrepreneurial spirit
  • Finally, 4% of the news items feature innovations and creative ideas

The entrepreneurship palette which is represented in Flemish news programmes is limited and this is disappointing, certainly when we are aware of the impact of positive role models as a lever for new enterprise,” concludes Tine Holvoet.

Tine Holvoet is connected with Vlerick Business School, together with Professor Hans Crijns and Dr. Niels Bosma. In the policy research center STORE, they work on a broad conceptual framework which provides insights into the concepts of ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘entrepreneurship culture’ in ‘Flanders’. They argue in favour of a broader approach to entrepreneurship.

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