In nature, when you conduct science, it is the natural world that is the ultimate decider in what is true and what is not.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
For countless decades, society has relied on the news as a source of understanding and information about the outside world. However, with the introduction of the Internet and social media, this platform is seeing a shift. Major news corporations no longer have a strangle hold over the information supplied to the public, rather it’s shifted to a state where the news only maintains as much control over the viewer as- either consciously or subconsciously- the viewer allows them to have.
Take the case of the reporting and public awareness of Global Warming and the enhanced greenhouse effect. It has been proven, by countless independent researchers and investigations that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen as an exponential rate since the industrial revolution, and that this has an adverse effect of the Earth’s temperature and climatic patterns. However, there still remains a strong bias on the reporting of global warming as an issue, dependant on the political and commercial interests of the media organisation. (Painter, 2011)
Gina Rinehart and Kerry Stokes both maintain a large investment in Australian media, controlling Channel 10 and Fairfax, and Channel 7 respectively. (Goncalves 2013)Both these media magnates also have a sizable investment in the mining industry.(Bryant 2012) This potentially is one of the motives behind the green-house effect being portrayed as sceptical, with critics without a scientific background’s opinions given as much, or more weight, than the scientific facts, in a process called “false balance”. This is effectively a control of information to reduce awareness of a serious issue, (Whitmarsh, 2011) in order to slow pro-environmental movements that would detrimentally effect the profitability of the mining industry. It makes it harder now for environmentally friendly concepts and legislations to gain weight and public support as now society has engrained misconceptions about the validity of the danger humans are facing, and will face, in the near future.
However, in this technical age the viewer has gained the freedom of choice. Countless online science journals and news databases are available for the public to access if they so desired, from which they can access facts and figures. Many different news services portray climate change differently, and the only real control over viewer’s reality is which of these they choose to expose themselves to, and accept as reality. Whilst bias in the media can have a lasting effect and detrimental effect of the views of society, distracting them from real issues, it is the viewer that maintains control over the public sphere in which they place themselves, thus awareness ultimately becomes the individual’s responsibility.
Bryant, N. (2012) WHAT GINA WANTS. The Monthly
Goncalves, R. (2013). “Factbox: Who owns what in the Australian media.” RICARDO’S BUSINESS. Retrieved 27/03/2014, 2013, from http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2012/06/22/factbox-who-owns-what-australian-media.
Painter, J. (2011). Poles Apart: The international reporting of climate change scepticism. Oxford University, Oxford: RSIJ.
Whitmarsh, L. (2011). Scepticism and uncertainty about climate change: dimensions, determinants and change over time. Global Environmental Change, 21, 690–700.