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date: 24 April 2017

TV and Cable News Coverage of Climate Change

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Television and cable can be seen as two routes by which broadcasters reach the public. This body of citizens is known to rely on a variety of media sources. However, in a very wide range of geographical locales, television is seen by people as a main or major source or reliable and trusted information. The coverage of climate change by broadcasters is, however, modest relative to press coverage of the topic, and to reports on topics other than global warming. Journalists in the televisual media often struggle to justify the inclusion of the topic in programming, since it can lack the newsworthiness that draws editors and reporters to other issues. And there are a range of incentives and pressures that have ensured that commentary and claims that stand with the scientific consensus are represented in what is seen as “balanced” reporting. The literature on broadcast programming output on climate change is highly diverse and often country-specific. Nevertheless, certain features do stand out across locales, notably a focus on alarming (and possibly alarmist) commentary; limited reporting on the causes and consequences of climate change; and widespread reproduction of climate skeptic claims. These common forms of coverage seem unlikely to prompt full understanding of, serious engagement with, or concern about, the issue.