December 18, 2012
In Biased newspaper reporting on the carbon pricing mechanism at The Conversation a group of University Melbourne academics and students found that The Age, Herald Sun and The Australian newspapers contributed to an uninformed and inadequate public debate on the carbon price and Australian climate change policy. The reason, they say, is that:
The Australian and Herald Sun were found to be overwhelmingly unsupportive of the policy. Articles in The Age were also unbalanced, with a preference for a supportive stance .... Of more concern was the small number of articles quoting economists, climate scientists and other independent experts. This gap in coverage contributed to a shallow media discussion. It contextualised the policy in terms of short-term economic effects rather than long-term environmental – or economic – goals.
Well we knew this.
A question that can be asked is: Why was there this campaign by News Ltd against the carbon price policy? Why was there a focus on the short-term economic consequences rather than long-term environmental – or economic – goals. Why did it happen?
Their answer for the current reporting techniques and standards failing to give the issue the level of analysis required is this:
journalists work to tight deadlines, often making it difficult to report on issues with great depth. The way newspapers have traditionally worked is changing with the arrival of online news. Newspapers are receiving reduced revenue from advertisers, which means less money for funding investigative journalism, which is more expensive than simply reporting news.Deadlines and funding limitations may partially explain the lack of depth in the coverage of the carbon price, but they do not explain the difference in coverage across the three newspapers.
What then explains this difference? Their answer is that the way the media is currently regulated is not adequate to ensure accountability to the public, or to make sure reporting is as accurate and balanced as it should be.
Sure. Things are bad. Fairfax Media is on its knees, commercial broadcaster Network Ten will shed one third of its journalists and the Nine Network is now in the hands of US hedge funds. There is also a need for better regulation. Self-regulation doesn't work.
However, it is a surprise that there is no mention of the media campaigning on behalf of economic interests of Big Mining, Big Coal, and the fossil fuel generators. It was protection of those interests that lay behind the carbon tax scare campaign. It is a surprise because it is well known.
The Minerals Council, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry bombarded us with their claimed that the carbon price would lead to widespread economic damage, many destroyed businesses and significant unemployment. All their negatives were blamed on the carbon tax. They stated that those arguing for carbon pricing are blocking progress.