French ferry workers lose their jobs… but the Times revels in French property market

Class bias of two stories set in France shines a light on the values of the UK press

The Storming of the Bastille, Jean-Pierre Houël

The Times’s worldview sees France as a riotous threat… and investment opportunity (Painting: Jean-Pierre Houël)

A bizarre decision by the Times today has placed a story about striking French ferry workers next to a story about Brits buying up and renovating French mansions.

The paper even links the two stories by having the second headline respond to the first.

Times 22 7 15 class

The difference in coverage is stark, all the more so for the stories being close together. 

The Maritime North union, burning tires to protest Eurotunnel’s sale of the MyFerryLink co-operative, is said to have ‘brought chaos’ to Calais, while the tale of British celebrities buying French chataeux is presented as simply delightful.

The paper’s knee-jerk sympathy with people put out by the strike, rather than the people who might lose their jobs, will be familiar to anyone who follows press coverage of strikes in Britain. Similarly, regular readers will recognise the newspapers’ worship of money, property and fame.

The amazing class bias of this pairing is matched by its national bias.

For example, the first story is angled around the disruption caused by the strike for British tourists. The second focuses on British homebuyers and investors.

A synthesis of these two biases – which have less to do ‘news value’ than the values of the paper and its readers – can be sampled in the intros of the two stories:

Story 1:

British tourists faced fresh chaos in Calais yesterday as French ferry workers barricaded the motorway leading to the Eurotunnel terminal with burning tyres.

Worse could follow for holidaymakers as unions are threatening further protests in the northern French port unless their demands are met.

Story 2:

British homebuyers used to arrive in France with hammers and chisels ready to renovate tumbledown properties in far-flung corners of the country.

Now for the first time since the economic crisis wrecked expat dreams in 2008, British investors have returned to the French property market in force — but rather than looking for hovels in need of restoration, plush homes with swimming pools are in demand.

Those ‘hovels’ would probably look quite good to a recently sacked ferry worker.

The values contained in both stories are worth noticing for a British reading audience. They display the paper’s class and national biases in a way all the more clear for it being set in another country.

This weird helping of Scarlet Pimpernel themes – of aristocracy and riotous French workers – are worth bearing in mind when reading future stories about industrial disputes and property prices in Britain.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

Social mobility is bad for your health, reports the Tory press. Better stay put then!

Anti-union press wants train staff to act like robots. But who is the real bully here?

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10 Responses to “French ferry workers lose their jobs… but the Times revels in French property market”

  1. Jacko

    I’ve got a question.

    Are you actually buying these newspapers in order to critique them?

    If you are, LFF must be contributing over £1000 a year to the people who own the Sun, the Telegraph, The Times, The Mail, and the Express. In the six years of LFF’s existence, that’s over £3000 given to the right wing press.

    You see, if I don’t like something, I just don’t buy it. But if LFF don’t like something, they still give it money. Is it something to do with socialism?

  2. Jacko

    I meant £6000 in total, of course.

  3. GhostofJimMorisson

    Oh this is just beyond scraping the barrel. It’s the sodding Times, the voice of the establishment, not the Morning Star.

  4. stevep

    As the establishment has always been right wing, The Times is most certainly it`s voice.

  5. stevep

    I`ve got a question.
    Why do far-right bloggers flock to Left Foot Forward to offer criticism of left-wing views. It says LEFT Foot Forward on the tin, last time I looked.
    And yes, it is something to do with Socialism!

  6. GhostofJimMorisson

    So the views of the left must NEVER be challenged, eh? And of course, those who disagree with the left-wing view must of course be branded as far-right. You use these terms without the slightest clue of what they actually mean.

  7. stevep

    Oh, I know what they mean, all right. So do you. That`s why you choose to Troll on this site. Not to add to the debate of the Left, but to disrupt it.
    Well, matey, you`ve been rumbled.

  8. GhostofJimMorisson

    Oh dear, scared of a little honest debate are we? Typical leftie name-calling; brand someone a Troll if they have the temerity to challenge you. Typical default setting for those who lack courage in their convictions.

  9. stevep

    Nope, not scared at all of honest debate. But you are not on this website to debate, just to debase.
    If you wish to discuss progressive left of centre politics, as is the remit of LFF, good. Welcome to the debate. I`ve got plenty of courage in my convictions.
    But if you just want to jibe, sneer and disrupt on behalf of a right wing agenda, then you will be challenged.
    Oh, and if I were to indulge in a lifetimes worth of name calling against right wing interests, it still wouldn`t come close to balancing out the amount of abuse the left has taken from the right over the years.
    Time for redress.
    Bring it on.

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