Media Decision Making about Climate Change Risk 1473
by the BBC, in the form of their contribution of sub-stantial senior management time and other resourcesreﬂectsarecognitionoftheresponsibilitiesimpliedbythesestrengthsandaneedtoconsiderandrespondtothecriticismsonthepartofseniornewsmanagement.The social deﬁnition and deliberation of risk anddanger, and the broadcast media’s role within this,have been persistent themes throughout the series,with one seminar focusing solely on the subject of thereportingofrisk.Climatechangehasbeenapersistenttheme throughout the series.
3. FROM HYPODERMIC MODELSTO TANGLED WEBS
The self-perception of news media is that theycast, direct, and stage-manage the public’s notion of life beyond immediate lived experience. Certainly,there is little arguing that the mass media are a keylocation for the social production—including the def-inition and evaluation—of risks. Hence the broad-cast media’s treatment of climate change becomescentral to any attempt to unpick risk communicationsurrounding the issue. This article contributes to thegrowing body of literature that seeks to explain thelinks between news media and public understandingand debate of climate change (see, e.g., Wilkins, 1993;Trumbo, 1996; Weingart
., 2000).The climate change science and policy commu-nity participants at the seminars have consistentlycharged the media with having failed in what theyview to be a duty to inform. They suggest the mediaare responsible for public ignorance of both causesand consequences of climate change. These partici-pants have tended to display what has variously beentermeda“hypodermic,”“transmission,”or“informa-tion deﬁcit” model of mediation of knowledge. Inother words, they imagine an uncomplicated ﬂow of data from experts, packaged by the media, to an un-derinformed, receptacle-like society. They feel thatthe news media simply need to recognize their re-sponsibilities as a mediating channel on the subject of climate change. This model of the role of the mediahas long been picked apart by media researchers, in-cluding in the ﬁeld of representations of environment(Burgess,1990;Hansen,1993)andincallsformoreso-phisticatedapproachestounderstandingsciencecom-munication (see, e.g., Bucchi, 1998; Friedman
.,1986; Nelkin, 1987). Such work has demanded thatresearchers engage with the messy realities of the in-teractions between media, politics, and society thatproduce knowledge, debate, and decisions.In his weaving together of theoretical andempirical work on media, space, and democracy, Bar-nett (2003, p. 178) ﬁnds that “news is
. . .
constructedout of the complex mediation of knowledge, mean-ings, and performances produced and distributedby a variety of different actors with different inter-ests.” Krimsky and Plough’s (1988, p. 298) analysis of sources of risk messages ﬁnds that “risk communica-tions in their social context resemble tangled webs, incontrasttoaparallelseriesofsender-receiverinterac-tions.” The material drawn from the seminars informthisattempttothrowlightonthetangledwebofinter-actions that shape media treatments of “dangerous”climate change.
4. SOURCING CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE
. (2000, p. 13) argue that the “capac-ity to deﬁne potential risks and hazards is broadlyaligned with the distribution of power among ‘credi-ble,’ ‘authoritative,’ and ‘legitimate’ deﬁners of ‘real-ity’acrossthemediaﬁeld.”TheroleofenvironmentalNGOs as sources developed in the British context inpart as a consequence of a vacuum in terms of theproﬁle of environmental issues within representativepolitics, but also as a result of their entrepreneurial-ism. Their role as issue entrepreneurs has been par-ticularly evident in their generation of media events(Smith,2000b,pp.168–185).Whetherthroughphoto-genicdirectactions,orthetimingofthepublicationof a report, adept NGO media handlers have designedactions with a close and trained eye on winning victo-ries in the discursive struggle played out in the mediaover an issue such as climate change. Campaignershave acknowledged that danger is a driving plot de-vice, in the narratives they put to news professionals(working groups, WSSD, 2002; Risk, 2003). However,theNGOsdonotworkwithrigidmetricsofrisk;theirclaims are ﬂuid across time and space, allowing themtobeopportunisticandinnovativeinwaysthatsatisfynews needs and practices.In the small group workshops, where the spe-cialist contingent usually combines senior NGO ﬁg-ures (in a minority) with scientists and policy actorsrootedinevidence-basedpractices,thelatterhavefre-quently bemoaned the media’s tendency to rely onNGOs as sources and voices in environmental newsstories. Yet the same discussions showed that thesespecialists generally had very limited understandingof news practices. However, the workshop discus-sions have shown that as scientists and policy spe-cialists have gained a better grasp of what might be