This thesis examines the influence of environmental movement actors on press coverage about climate change between 1986 and 2008. It assesses the extent to which social dynamics that resemble Habermas' ideal of communicative action are important for frequent and significant impacts on media coverage. The thesis is based on four strands of research: interviews, Internet- and literature-sourced material to build a description of the British environmental movement; frequency counts of climate change coverage across four UK national newspapers; a frame analysis of a 1000+ article sample of this coverage; and background research into the political and media contexts of the climate change issue, involving further interviews and textual sources. High profile political interventions before 1992 cemented a pattern of media coverage that privileged government, science, and business over the environmental movement. Thus, although the amount of climate change coverage increased, the proportion of climate change-related coverage that referred to environmental movement groups did not keep pace. Instead, the most significant influence was political. The UK government's adoption of a target of 80% reductions in carbon emissions by 2050 followed a period of intense movement activity on climate change in which radical, reformist, and conservationist organisations were often well-networked, while reflecting different relationships with 'grass-roots' actors. Formal organisations, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and RSPB regularly and routinely made press releases, but these were associated with declines in news coverage more frequently than increases. The introduction of new relationships, actors, or pen;;pectives, such as the creation of Stop Climate Chaos and the Climate Camp, or senior politicians' support for legislation on climate, tended to be associated with the most significant positive impacts upon newspaper coverage. Interactions between environmental movement actors and the media decreased because interdependency between them declined as a wider r, II range of voices joined the debate about climate change, and as the Internet offered environmental groups alternative means to communicate. These findings support Habermas' notion of communicative action as a valuable avenue by which to pursue the study of influence.
How the environmental movement influenced climate change debates in Britain between 1986 and 2008
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Location of institution
University of Kent