Broadcast News Abandons Climate Change Coverage, Study Finds

And wasn't because of a lack of newsworthy events.

Despite being packed with record-breaking weather events, 2016 saw a significant drop in broadcast news coverage of climate change, according to a study released Thursday. 

The collective coverage of climate change on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News Sunday in 2016 was only a third of what it was in 2015, according to the nonprofit watchdog Media Matters. The year’s coverage of climate change was the least since 2011, the study found.

Media Matters broke down the coverage on Sunday shows and nightly news shows, which Fox News does not have. 

Overall, climate change coverage on the networks dropped from a combined 146 minutes in 2015 to just 50 in 2016, with none of the networks showing an increase. ABC, with just six minutes of coverage, took the title for least air time on the subject. NBC had the biggest decrease, from 50 minutes in 2015 to 10 minutes last year.

The dip is not for a lack of climate change news. Last year was bursting with events linked to global temperature rise, including the announcement of 2015 being the hottest year on record, three “1-in-1,000-year floods,” the devastating Hurricane Matthew, a record-breaking coral die-off at the Great Barrier Reef, and findings that average global CO2 levels had surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time.

There was also the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement and ample opportunity to correct false climate claims made on the 2016 presidential campaign trail.

ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox News Sunday did not air a single segment “informing viewers of what to expect on climate change and climate-related policies or issues under a Trump or Clinton administration,” Media Matters pointed out. 

The outlier was PBS, which aired 21 segments on the Paris climate conference, while the other networks aired five or fewer. 

See more findings from the study here.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article understated the total amount of time the networks devoted to climate change in 2015; that figure is 146 minutes, not 96 minutes.



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