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 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?

Sign up for our weekly email by clicking here.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.