Australian Media and Reporting of the Carbon Price Debate

Professor Wendy Bacon and a team of researchers have published a report on the coverage of climate change in the Australian media.

The research is based on a comprehensive review of 3971 media articles which were published in ten Australian newspapers on the topic of climate change policy, during the period February 2011 and July 2011. 

Key Findings of the research are at the front of the report. They include:

  • Overall coverage: Negative coverage of the government’s carbon pricing proposal outweighed positive coverage by 73% to 27%. Negative coverage across News Ltd newspapers far outweighed positive coverage by 82% to 18%.
  • Headlines were less balanced than the actual content of articles, with neutral articles more likely to be headlined negative (41%) than positive (19%).
  • Language: 51% of articles used only the term “carbon tax” to describe the policy, whilst 11% used only the term “carbon price”. This pattern was more obvious in several News Ltd publications (e.g. The Courier Mail was 70% to 8% on this measure). “Carbon tax” was generally the preferred term for opponents of the policy, whereas proponents preferred the term “carbon price”.
  • Sources: Business sources received more coverage than all civil society sources together, including unions, NGOs, think tanks, activists, members of the public, religious spokespeople, scientists and academics. Fossil fuel lobby and other businesses opposed to the policy received very strong representation, whereas clean energy and other businesses in support of the policy received low coverage.
  • Editorial: 46% of editorials were negative, compared to 23% positive. 31% were neutral.

For more details, there is an article on The Conversation, which includes a notable reply from News Ltd. For scholars of self-awareness (or lack thereof), the reply is particularly worth reading.