Climate change & false balance Journalism

Climate change & false balance Journalism

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts”- Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (cited in Rieder, 2014)


How do we know if the media is credible in what we read, hear and see? Or does the media just want to create a perception of balance in the coverage of an issue? . These are just many of the questions that arise when we think and concern ourselves with the topic of journalism ethics. This can particularly be seen with the debate of climate change reporting. Bud Ward the author of this week reading “Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty”(2009) looks at these issues regarding journalism, climate change, news media and journalism ethics. Stating that (Ward, 2009,p.13) ethical consideration arises in all aspect of news and opinion writing. “Seek truth and report it” is the basis of the journalism ethics code according to the US-based Society of Professional Journalists first adopted in 1996 (Ward, 2009, p.13) “ Journalist should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Clear enough”(Ward, 2009,p.13). The SPJ code of Ethics (Ward, 2009,p.14) urges reporters to “give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid”. As Ward mentions (2009,p.14) journalist reporting on climate change has taken on what critics suggest a “false balance”, giving equal weight to unsupported or even discredited claims for the sake of appearing impartial (Heuvel, 2014). As Ward suggest (2009,p.14) reporters have been balancing opinion about science when they have meant to be evaluating and reporting evidence based on science.

Thus bringing us to the issue of Climate change, which has emerged over the last decade as a global crisis that has caused international coverage on the topic that is viewed as scientifically and politically contested according to Dreher & Voyer (2014,p.4). The issue of climate change has seen readers debating the “authenticity” and “reliability” on what is being reported by the media (Dreher &Voyer, 2014,p.4). This is what Dreher & Voyer (2014,p.4) call “scientific uncertainty frame”. This type of reporting can be seen with News outlets in countries such as Australia, Untied kingdom and the United States. All three having contributed their views to the uncertainty around climate change (Dreher & Voyer, 2014,p.4). By allowing climate change skeptics and environmental scientist equal airtime to remark on their views is considered to be giving their audience a balanced view on climate change, a good example of a balanced view can be seen with Fox News video “Is the climate change threat exaggerated”(2014). Which according to Heuvel (2014) Fox News “promised to weigh the evidence on both sides of the divisive topic”. Though this has not always been the case when it comes to News outlets for example The BBC News teams.

The BBC received criticism by providing a “false balance” by giving political opinion about climate change and scientific fact the same weight of coverage (Vidal, 2014). The Guardian (2014) illustrated that the BBC has “often resulted in inaccurate or misleading scientific coverage”(Vidal, 2014). The BBC today program covered the topic of floods with climatologist Brian Hoskin and politician Nigel Lawson (Bell, 2014). The today show responded back with “outdated and unscientific climate skepticism”(Bell, 2014). Alice Bell (2014) states “when people complain about the media reporting climate change with a skeptic vs. scientist narrative, journalists often respond that news needs drama and climate change is not just about the science”(Bell, 2014).

Though when we come back to Ward’s text (2009) he claims that “Journalists have profound ethical responsibilities covering issues as expansive and critical as climate change”(Ward, 2009,p.15). Especially because we are dealing with these issues in a time where we are seeing change in our media and of the uncertainty of global economics and finance (Ward, 2009,p.15). It’s easy to see why journalist have difficulties in abiding by ethical codes when it comes to climate change, especially when facts and personal opinions can become blurred. Though it is important that journalist address the issues of “false balance” to ensure they provide an accurate account and public awareness in acknowledging the harmful realties of climate change and it’s effects. “A journalist needs to have a measurable impact on an issue as important as global climate change”(Ward, 2009,p.15)

Here is some videos regarding the  debates surrounding the topic of journalism ethics on climate change reporting , if you wanted to look more deeply into the topic : Russell Brand and the David Pakman Show


  1. Bell, A 2014, ‘The BBC is Failing to deliver a robust debate on climate change’, The guardian, 27th March, viewed 1st September, <;.
  2. Dreher, T., & Voyer, M. (2014). Climate Refugees or Migrants? Contesting Media Frames on Climate Justice in the Pacific. Environmental Communication, 1-19
  3. Heuvel, K 2014, ‘The distorting reality of ‘false balance’ in media ‘, The Washington Post, 15th July, viewed 1st September, <;.
  4. Rieder, R 2014, ‘Climate change shows danger of ‘false balance’’, USA Today, 7th October
  5. Vidal, J 2014, ‘MPs criticize BBC for ‘False balance’ in climate change coverage’, The guardian, 2nd April, viewed 1st September, <;.
  6. Ward, B (2009) ‘Journalism ethics and climate change reporting in a period of intense media uncertainty’ Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics Vol 9, pp. 13 –15.

Transnational films

Transnational films

No longer is Hollywood dominating the film industries, Schaefer and Karan (2010,p.309) state that scholars are predicting, “Asian film industries, particularly those of India and china, will wrestle control of global film flows from Western dominance”. Suggesting that cultural hybridity is central to globalization, where filmmakers will mix both “global” and local elements to appeal to the wider audience. Schaefer and Karan (2010,p.310) state the potential of hybridised Asian contra- flows, will have a positive impact on the global film trade, pointing to the East Asian film industries such as Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. They further their article (2010,p.310) by mentioning the highest grossing foreign film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” by Ang Lee released in 2000,  which earned $128 million. Lee’s film was classed as an hybridization taking “in Eastern movie for Western audiences, and …a Western movie for Eastern audiences”(2010,p.310). Schaefer and Karan (2010) suggested that Indian films had the best chance of “challenging Hollywood hegemony in the movie making world”(2010,p.310).  Understanding hybridity and Bollywoodization brings us to the term transnational films which according to Evans (2015) means blending elements of many nations that cannot be easily defined as belonging to one nation.  When studying this topic a fairly recent film “Life of Pi” (2012) directed by Ang Lee flashed through my mind. For those of you that don’t know about the film, here is the trailer of the movie and a link to the story line.

‘Life of Pi’ (2012), screams transnationality. Transnational elements can include the cast , crew and the production location, suggesting that production have derived  from multicultural and multinational backgrounds. ‘Life of Pi’  is based on the novel written by  a French – Canadian author Yann Martel who spent some time immersed in India culture. The film was directed by the famous Ang Lee, a Taiwanese born American citizen, previously  known for his famous earlier transnational film “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” (2000) , mentioned above. The movies transnational theme is displayed throughout the entire film. For example ,  most of the water scenes,where filmed in the largest wave tank in Taiwan , and the rest of the production shot in India’s studios and set locations such as Mexico.


Along with this , the film was released in multiple languages that enabled different cultures and nations to understand the movie content. These included English, French, and Tamil, an Indian dialect most commonly used.

The newspaper The Atlantic (2013)  interviewed  the director Ang Lee about reactions and responses he received for the film “Life of Pi”.  The article highlights  the religious side of the movie and the reaction  from different countries,  such as Northern Europe, Asia (India, china and Taiwan) and America.The article suggested Asian countries enjoyed the 3rd act of the movie more  because they could connect to their own Culture, Buddhism or Daoism. In comparison,  Northern Europe (Rust ,2013) couldn’t connect or understand the religious side of the film , Lee stated he was likely to receive questions “about what god is and what is god to you?” (Rust,2013).”I think I made a movie for the whole world. There’s not a universal look at the film and I think the diversity of response based on the culture and personal life experience [shows that] people go different directions. I think that’s how the movie is supposed to work”- Lee (2013, cited by Rust).

An important aspect of transnational cinema is that the film can reach many countries; but for the movie to work they need people of those countries to engage in the film , for it to benefit anything. The impact of the film according to the Guardain (2013) saw Asia approaching the 400 million mark worldwide, the two stand out region were India with 13million and 1 million spent on marketing  – “the highest ever in distributor Fox Star India’s history – helped the film punch its weight against Bollywood; and over $90m in China, where it become only the second US film, after Titanic 3D, to gross more than in North America”(Hoad 2013). The Guardian (2013) suggests it is directors like Lee that will shape what the mainstream looks like over the next 25 years.


Another example of transnational films like mentioned in Schaefer and Karan is the movie Avatar (2010,p.311) and Slum dog millionaire (2010,p.313).  Some of these films can be seen as having an element of propaganda and audiences drawing the line between hybridity and theft. For me I believe it depends purely on the context of the film and how the film is portrayed. I see no harm in “Life of Pi”(2012) as this transnational film brings awareness to cultures and respects many cultures tradition.

I would love to hear your thoughts,

As always all the best

Chelsea x

references :

  1. Evans, N 2015, ‘Transnational film & the politics of cultural ownership’, PowerPoint slides, International Media and Communication, BCM111, university of Wollongong, viewed 23rd August 2015
  2. Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Global Media and Communication, 6: 3, pp. 309-316.
  3. Hoad, P 2013 , ‘Life if Pi:a global vision for mainstream cinema’, Guardian, 9th January , viewed 25th  August, <;.
  4. Rust, K 2013, ‘Which story do you prefer? How different cultures saw ‘Life of Pi’, Atlantic , 19th February , viewed 25th August, <;.