On Thursday, Media Matters released new data about how broadcast networks covered climate change last year:
“In 2016, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday aired a combined 50 minutes of climate coverage on their evening and Sunday news programs, which was 96 minutes less than in 2015 — a drop of about 66 percent.”
While the research shows that the networks covered the topic less, there was no shortage of stories for them to cover. The Paris Agreement, coal jobs, record flooding in Louisiana, NOAA & NASA declaring 2015 as the hottest year on record, and the various viewpoints of candidates during the election all provided ample opportunity to drive the climate change conversation.
In fact, networks didn’t touch the candidates until after the election, in terms of climate change. The study said:
“While these outlets did devote a significant amount of coverage to Trump’s presidency, airing 25 segments informing viewers about the ramifications or actions of a Trump administration as they relate to climate change, all of these segments aired after the election.”
Media Matters cited the Tyndall Report when it said that the major networks ignored the candidates’ positions on climate change in their weeknight broadcasts. The Tyndall Report “found no issues coverage devoted to climate change in 2016 up through October 25.”
While the oil and gas industry typically favors Republicans, fossil fuel-related donors gave more money to Hillary in the 2016 elections. Bernie Sanders even took Clinton to task on the topic during their CNN debate:
“Just as I believe you can’t take on Wall Street while taking their money, I don’t believe you can take on climate change effectively while taking money from those who would profit off the destruction of the planet.”
So, why would networks shy away from climate change coverage? The answer may lie in the content aired during the commercial breaks. Media Matters showed in an April 2016 study that during major stories about climate change, CNN viewers saw five times more fossil fuel advertising than reporting on climate change.
With both candidates and the major networks in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, it is no surprise that suddenly the American public heard so little about climate change last year. The oil and gas industry spends millions in political contributions and lobbying efforts and billions in advertising each year. In return, they get favorable treatment from Washington, including over $37.5 billion in tax breaks each year.
When it comes to substantive change on climate issues, your tax dollars will continue to be used to ruin the planet, no matter which side you vote for.