Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse calls for better media coverage of the climate crisis

Whitehouse cites Media Matters research on 45% drop in broadcast TV climate coverage

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called on news outlets to improve and increase their reporting on the climate crisis during a speech on the Senate floor, citing Media Matters’ research to make his case. He noted findings from our study of broadcast TV coverage in 2018, including the fact that time spent reporting on climate change fell 45% from 2017 to 2018. He also discussed his campaign to push for more discussion of climate change on the Sunday morning political news shows, which includes releasing a monthly scorecard based on data provided by Media Matters.

Whitehouse, a leading advocate for climate action and a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has a long record of calling on media to improve reporting on climate change.

From Whitehouse’s May 20 speech:

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SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Unprecedented catastrophes. Forceful warnings from scientists and financial experts. Surely the viewers of America’s top television networks should be focused on these things. Or not.

According to the media watchdog Media Matters, our major television networks, ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, aired 45% less climate change coverage on their marquee news programs in 2018 than in 2017. Climate coverage on network nightly news and Sunday morning political shows fell to just 142 minutes in all of 2018 -- down from an already lame 260 minutes in 2017. That’s less than one minute a day of coverage from all four major networks combined.

Kudos to NBC, which actually upped its coverage by about a quarter from the year before. Without NBC, the numbers look even worse. Media Matters found CBS’ climate coverage down 56% from 2017 to 2018, Fox News Sunday’s down 75%, and ABC’s down a whopping 81% from pretty low performing to begin with.

I have noticed this trend so I’ve begun keeping an eye on the Sunday shows’ coverage this year. Each month I look at how many substantive segments on climate change each show runs. It’s not good. In April, for instance, there were only two substantive segments on climate change across all five shows. They have basically become Sunday morning political gossip columns.