The "environment" is typically a socially constructed notion. Different conceptions of the environment underlie different attitudes towards its conservation and the media will reflect them. To see how, we carried out a study of the way in which the main television news bulletins treat the question. Starting with a wide definition - anything concerning our physical settings, and our relations to Nature - we selected all items presented during a month on the evening news of four French television channels.

We first carried out a quantitative analysis of these items which allowed us to categorise the type of news presented, the persons interviewed, the vocabulary used, etc. An important finding was that there was no tightly defined agenda : during the month only three items were common to all four bulletins. The media chose the items they present out of a vast pool of possible news stories and their choices only exceptionally coincide.

A qualitative analysis allowed us to observe two important factors that differ from one channel to another. First, the type of mediation can be characterised as varying from "present" (the mediator explains, interprets and makes accusations in his own name) to "withdrawn" (the mediator quotes sources, reports actors' interpretations rather than his own, etc.). Secondly, the world vision presented runs from one menaced by chaos and disruption, populated by isolated and fatalistic victims, to one of greater social cohesion where people help each other in the face of adversity, public services function, etc. Each channel adopts a stable configuration that we analyse in terms of different "contracts" between the media and it's audience. In France, the main commercial channel adopts the first terms of the two alternatives, proposing to stand between the viewer and a what is depicted as a dangerous world, telling him how to interpret it and championning his interests. The main public channel takes the opposite stance, proposing to give the viewer an apparently direct view on the world and to let him be judge.

These different modes of address and of construction of the public sphere have important consequences for the communication of ecological problems - that often depend on collective solutions - because of the very different representations of the empowerment of individuals or groups over the situations with which they are confronted.
 
 

 

 

">
 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Mediations and world visions the reporting of environmental news on TV

Suzanne de Cheveigné   Laboratoire Communication et Politique

The "environment" is typically a socially constructed notion. Different conceptions of the environment underlie different attitudes towards its conservation and the media will reflect them. To see how, we carried out a study of the way in which the main television news bulletins treat the question. Starting with a wide definition - anything concerning our physical settings, and our relations to Nature - we selected all items presented during a month on the evening news of four French television channels.

We first carried out a quantitative analysis of these items which allowed us to categorise the type of news presented, the persons interviewed, the vocabulary used, etc. An important finding was that there was no tightly defined agenda : during the month only three items were common to all four bulletins. The media chose the items they present out of a vast pool of possible news stories and their choices only exceptionally coincide.

A qualitative analysis allowed us to observe two important factors that differ from one channel to another. First, the type of mediation can be characterised as varying from "present" (the mediator explains, interprets and makes accusations in his own name) to "withdrawn" (the mediator quotes sources, reports actors' interpretations rather than his own, etc.). Secondly, the world vision presented runs from one menaced by chaos and disruption, populated by isolated and fatalistic victims, to one of greater social cohesion where people help each other in the face of adversity, public services function, etc. Each channel adopts a stable configuration that we analyse in terms of different "contracts" between the media and it's audience. In France, the main commercial channel adopts the first terms of the two alternatives, proposing to stand between the viewer and a what is depicted as a dangerous world, telling him how to interpret it and championning his interests. The main public channel takes the opposite stance, proposing to give the viewer an apparently direct view on the world and to let him be judge.

These different modes of address and of construction of the public sphere have important consequences for the communication of ecological problems - that often depend on collective solutions - because of the very different representations of the empowerment of individuals or groups over the situations with which they are confronted.
 
 

 

 

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

BACK TO TOP