COVID-19-infected media

How in 10 weeks the pandemic news occupied the information stream

Once upon a time there was a sick bat somewhere in Asia… Nobody has ever imagined that this would be the beginning of the most terrible tale of the 21st century.

There are maybe few people worldwide who have not heard of the coronavirus yet. But if we take a look in Europe, probably there will not be even one person who is not aware about the COVID-19 outbreak.

Within only 3 months the coronavirus epidemic has become a pandemic. It captured the thoughts of all people, the actions of all institutions and last but not least – the media attention and content.

Let’s see how this happened in Bulgaria and in some other Balkan countries during the past several weeks.

This in-depth analysis has been made using Perceptica’s media listening platform. If you need to effectively analyse the information stream, you can request a free demo now:

How does it all start?

The coronavirus was first announced in December 2019. The news came from China. On December 31, it was declared there is an unknown form of pneumonia in Wuhan.

In the first days of 2020, scientists found that this was a new type of virus that spread over in Asia.

Meanwhile, almost zero news coverage of the unknown disease was registered in the Balkan countries. This trend continued until the end of January.

When the coronavirus got closer…

Around 20 January 2020, the first cases of coronavirus outside Wuhan began to appear. The first case in the US was also registered. The COVID-19-related news began to show on the Balkan media with low frequency. During the next weeks the coronavirus-related content in Bulgarian, Romanian and North Macedonian media varied around 5 to 7 percent from the whole information stream. This percent was even lower for Serbia – 1 percent.

The number of reported cases in Italy increased from 5 to 120 in the end of February. As a result, the government took emergency measures against the virus. At the same time the Trump administration asked Congress for $1.25 billion for a coronavirus response.

At this moment, the media interest around the coronavirus outbreak increased sharply. The share of COVID-19-related elevated to around 20 percent in Bulgaria, Romania and North Macedonia. Meanwhile, there was almost no change in the percent of coronavirus media coverage in Serbia – it was 3%.

In the beginning of March media interest on the coronavirus outbreak raised dramatically.

After the first registered cases in the Balkans appeared, the media in Bulgaria and Romania started to show coronavirus-related content above all other topics. The percentage of the COVID-19-related news jumped to over 50%.

There was also an increase in Serbia but still the percentage was lower than in the other countries – 30%.

In Bulgaria every second publication is coronavirus-related

The news about coronavirus reached up to 60 percent of all information stream in Bulgaria during the last week.

Below you can see how the COVID-19-related news spread over the Romanian media.

Something similar happened in North Macedonia.

The exception here is Serbia. Their media reaction to the global pandemic was not as aggressive as in the other countries, even though the emergency measures the Serbian government took are similar to those in Bulgaria.

No matter that the cases are double times more than these in Bulgaria, the media focus on the topic could not reach 30 percent.

TV Media during the coronavirus pandemic

The TV media is the most infected one in Bulgaria. COVID-19-related news occupied 75% of the content of the most popular TVs – BNT, BTV and Nova TV during the last 3 weeks.

Below are presented the top mentioned people during the pandemic in Bulgaria. The most mentioned person in March 2020 is Major General Prof. Ventsislav Mutafciski, followed by the Prime Minister of Bulgaria – Boyko Borisov, the Minister of Health – Kiril Ananiev, the President – Rumen Radev and with fewest mentions is the Chief Public Prosecutor – Ivan Geshev.

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