TV Climate Coverage Dropped 53% in 2020, Media Analysts Find


A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall in Cape Canaveral, Florida on Sept. 3, 2019. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Corporate broadcast TV nightly news and Sunday shows devoted just 112 minutes to climate change in 2020, the shortest duration since 2016, according to an analysis from Media Matters.

While last year saw the biggest-ever California wildfire, the most named storms in the Atlantic, the costliest thunderstorm in U.S. history, and a presidential race in which climate change played a central role, coverage of climate change dropped 53% from 2019 to 2020 across ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News Sunday.

Even when including network morning shows, which gave 267 minutes to climate coverage last year, the climate crisis accounted for just 0.4% of total corporate broadcast coverage. Across TV news, programs consistently failed to note the links between coronavirus and climate change, and broadcasts vastly overrepresented white men. In climate segments women accounted for less than a third of guests, while people of color accounted for just 8%, and only six of the 89 guests featured were women of color.

As reported by Media Matters:

Media coverage of climate solutions is important in getting the public to shake off the doom and gloom of climate change and take action in addressing it. As former New York Times climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis noted in a discussion about her new climate solutions podcast, How to Save a Planet:

“For the past 10 or 15 years, there has been a form of climate journalism that focuses on the problem to such a degree that it can be disempowering. People can feel like the scale of the problem is so large and there aren’t any solutions.So we’re trying to get people to understand that they can be part of the solution. They can plug into aspects of our society to move the needle on climate change.”

In that endeavor to inform the public on climate solutions and on the economic and societal benefits of getting our response to the climate crisis right, corporate broadcast TV news still has far to go.

For a deeper dive:

Media Matters

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