Media Matters: Climate Coverage on Nets Increasing

According to a new Media Matters for America analysis, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox increased their coverage of climate change issues for the third year in a row, though that was still less than in some previous years.

Coverage on the Sunday public affairs shows reached a six-year high, which came after some senators asked for more coverage of the issue. But the study found that those shows infrequently interviewed scientists for those stories.

"During 2014, the major broadcast networks' evening and Sunday news programs aired a total of 154 minutes of coverage of climate change. This was an increase from the previous year's 129 minutes and was significantly above the six-year average of about 108 minutes, but remained below the 205 minutes of coverage in 2009," Media Matters said.

NBC and CBS had the most coverage, but Fox and ABC showed significant gains. The Sunday shows also broadened their coverage beyond politics and also improved the balance of Democrats and Republicans discussing the topic.

But the shows, with the exception of Face the Nation, also provided what Media Matters called "false balance" (not providing the correct balance to the fact that most climate scientists support the theory of global warming).

The report was based on analysis of coverage of "climate change" or "global warming" between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014, on four Sunday morning shows (ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday) and three nightly news programs. Fox does not have a nightly news equivalent, so the analysis includes FNC segments "devoted to climate change, as well as any substantial mention (more than one paragraph of a news transcript and/or a definitive statement about climate change)."

Sen. Brian Schatz (D- Hawaii) said he was pleased with the boost, but not with what he saw as the bias.

“While I am pleased that broadcast media coverage of climate change has increased this year, it is not enough,” he said in a statement. “I remain deeply concerned about both the lack and the quality of the coverage. This new report shows that Sunday shows still aired segments that misled audiences and ignored the scientific consensus by framing the facts of climate change as a 'debate'.  The debate is over.  Human-caused climate change is accepted by Fortune 500 companies, school-teachers, religious groups, the United States military, nurses and doctors, professional sports leagues, the majority of other countries, and over 97% of climate scientists. It is time for broadcasters to stop creating a false debate about the reality of climate change and engage in the real debate about how we can solve it.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.