‘The BP is a great British company’: the discursive transformation of an environmental disaster into a national economic problem

Rahel Cramer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    In the contemporary globalized economy, multinational companies have come to hold considerable power that may previously have rested with nation states. However, state structures remain relevant. With Brexit, the year 2016 featured an exemplary case in which the ongoing importance of nation states came to the fore. Preceding the British referendum to exit the European Union (EU), discourses of national identity were deployed to promote a vote for the anti-globalization campaign. It is against this background that this research investigates how the relationship between multinational corporations and nation states is constructed in news discourse. The underlying assumption is that news actively construct rather than merely reflects the nature of this relationship. Drawing on Social Actor Analysis and Transitivity as a theoretical framework, this study examines news coverage of the BP oil spill that occurred in the United States in 2010 but was caused by a multinational company headquartered in the United Kingdom. The main research question is ‘How does the media establish a link between multinational corporations and nation states?’. To address this central question, this study investigates how (1) corporate responsibility is assigned, (2) the role of the nation state is portrayed and (3) victim status is allocated in the news. Findings show that the nature of the problem is constructed differently according to diverging national interests or priorities of the two nations represented by the media sources analyzed. The study indicates that the discourse around British nationality emphasized in the political struggle around Brexit was already mobilized extensively in the years leading up to the referendum.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)109– 127
    Number of pages19
    JournalDiscourse and Communication
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


    • BP
    • corporate responsibility
    • multinational corporations
    • nation states
    • national Identity
    • news discourse
    • social actor analysis
    • transitivity


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