A False Balance

Media and climate change is both a global issue and heated debate. It requires us to think global and act local. Our experience of climate change is highly mediated (Cottle 2011).

Climate change in Australian media focuses on political conflict, policy, taxation, pundits, commentators and politicians. What caught my attention was the theory of “false balance”. According to Ward (2009:14) reporters may for too have been balancing opinions about science when in fact they might better have been evaluating and reporting evidence based on the science.

The Australian Parliament’s climate change website (http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Browse_by_Topic/ClimateChange/uncertainityAndScepticism) offers a few paragraphs on uncertainty and skepticism on the subject.What comes to my attention is that at no point does it mention the media having any influence over what the majority of the public is lead to believe. The closest they get to this is referring to ‘public misconception’

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Media coverage of climate change has had noticeably significant effects of the public’s opinion on climate change. The media are very important players in cli­mate change communication – most people do not read sci­entific reports, spe­cialist web­sites and blogs, or the reports of the IPCC. Although in theory, the ‘facts’ of cli­mate change sci­ence should be reported in a straight­for­ward way by news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion net­works, con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ences exist between the edit­orial lines taken by dif­ferent media organ­isa­tions about the reality and ser­i­ous­ness of cli­mate change.

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