Media, Politics and Climate Change review article

Many other researchers are also studying media and climate change. Alison Anderson wrote a review article describing recent research in this area. The article includes references to other studies of newspaper coverage of climate change in the UK and the US and discusses general trends in that coverage, including a rise in coverage from the early 2000s to 2006. She suggests that very little research has been done with media analysis in countries outside of the UK, US and Europe thus far; with its broad set of countries included, the COMPON project will contribute greatly to this literature.

In the article, Anderson describes three broad approaches to studying media and climate change: political economy, structuralist, and culturalist. The political economy approach emphasizes corporate interests and the control they can have on government and media actions. For example, media companies may be dependent on advertising revenue from fossil fuel industries, and if the advertisers don't approve of the media company's coverage of climate change, they may take their advertising funds elsewhere, to the detriment of the media company.

The structuralist approach focuses additionally on relationships between media professionals, their sources, and the constraints imposed by editors on their time. She writes that media professionals are often more likely to rely on "institutional sources perceived to be both reliable and trustworthy". This focus can then bias the coverage of climate change towards the perspectives espoused by those sources. The COMPON project should be able to shed some light on the degree to which this occurs, using the network data we are currently collecting.

The culturalist approach is concerned with "how cultural norms or 'givens' are embedded within media coverage". She notes that several frames have been identified and used to organize ideas; often, these provide dramatically different viewpoints on the subject. Anderson writes that in the US, Democrats tend to use a "'Pandoras Box' of catastrophe metaphor, whilst Republicans have tended to emphasize the money frame and the scientific uncertainty frame". This difference in framing yields a significant difference in the information that is conveyed to the public and in how they are likely to interpret it.

Anderson also notes that these three approaches do overlap in significant ways, yet the frameworks help to understand the constraints on the media, although the media does not tell the whole picture. While these media constraints are important, there are many other social, political, economic and cultural factors that affect how climate change is perceived and studied. The COMPON project will add to the body of knowledge around some of these factors.

Citation: Anderson, Alison. Sociology Compass 3/2 (2009): 166-182.