Week 10’s lecture was presented by Dr Tanja Dreher. Dreher focused on the balance – or false balance – of reporting on climate change in the media, especially in Australian media. Dreher also spoke about the concept of ‘voice for the voices.’ However, since my blog is restricted by a word count, I will only be focusing on the theory of balance, relative to the reporting of climate change in western media.
If you want more information on ‘voice for the voiceless,’ check the references at the end of this post for further readings and links to relevant sites.
To understand how the media reports initially, I recommend you reading my previous post (http://wp.me/p4pl8U-1H) which explains ‘news values’ and the dimensions of reporting that journalist follow. The relevant news value in terms of reporting on climate change are; relevance, and elite referencing.
In terms of relevance, climate change is only in the media at certain times. For example, after a climate change summit in which your political leader attends, that’s when climate change is newsworthy. But during the rest of the year other subjects (such as war and international relations) are reported on, pushing climate change back.
So what is balance and false balance?
The concept of balance in the media is the idea that opposing perspectives should both get reported on equally, to avoid bias. Although, in some cases, this promotes bias. The Fig1-pie2-with_logo1_copybalance of reporting on issues such as climate change, academics – such as Bud Ward – shun the media for ‘providing space disproportionate to its scientific credibility.’ (Ward 2009: 14) When considered the fact that – according to NASA – ‘Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities,’ (http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/ This link will also take you to a list of scientific organisations that support these claims, further readings to support this statement are also below in the reference list).
So, since this is a media subject, let’s explore these facts in terms of the balance of media.
For a theory so widely accepted, why would journalist report on both sides of climate change so evenly? The first reason is large oil and coal industries vested interest, (more information on this idea can be found in this Greenpeace report: http://www.mintpressnews.com/greenpeace-report-big-oil-funding-climate-denial-research/51598/) corporations who would be disadvantages by reforms in the way we handle climate change would be greatly affected. So these corporations allegedly fund research against climate change. Which means commentators and influences in our media are most likely being pushed to report on facts that disprove climate change. This is an example of ‘false balance’ of power.
The false balance leads to confusion in the public. As the public is mediated by what they are told, many contradictory arguments confuse and deter individuals, resulting in the matter becoming less urgent issue.
It is only fair that I mention sources where you can research, in detail, the research of climate change scientist. Evidence against the NASA statement in particular can be found here: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303480304579578462813553136. This sites report is based on the statement, “Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.”
Another good site that compares hundreds of essays and journal articles on both sides of climate change is; http://climatedebatedaily.com/. However, the balance of media is again questioned. Why is there hundreds of articles supporting each side? If the media were to accurately depict scientific research, shouldn’t there be thousands of articles supporting climate change and a few opposing it?
Links to images used:
Further readings that support the large consensus of climate change:
R. L. Anderegg, “Expert Credibility in Climate Change,” Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesVol. 107 No. 27, 12107-12109 (21 June 2010); DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003187107.
T. Doran & M. K. Zimmerman, “Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” Eos Transactions American Geophysical UnionVol. 90 Issue 3 (2009), 22; DOI: 10.1029/2009EO030002.
Oreskes, “Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change,” ScienceVol. 306 no. 5702, p. 1686 (3 December 2004); DOI: 10.1126/science.1103618.
Jari Lyytimäki (2009) ‘Mulling over the climate debate: Media education on climate change’. Journal of Sustainable Development, vol. 2, no. 3.
Gavin, N. (2009) ‘Addressing climate change: a media perspective’, Environmental Politics, vol. 18, no. 5, pp. 765-780.