The Coming Apocalypse

The phenomenon of climate change is one which frequents media discourse on the Australian mediascape. Climate change is presented within the contemporary media as a central theme within local and international narratives of politics, commerce and global order. It is through media constructions and selective discourses that the issue is framed to coincide or at least to appear to, with other socio-political agendas. The presentation of climate change within the media is one with is often fraught with complexities and mystification. This is arguably an intended feature of media portrayals of climate change, as it renders audiences subordinate to knowledge power players, such as media commentators and politicians. The representation of climate change as apocalyptic is another notable characteristic of media portrayals. Media discourse related to climate change often has the effect of the construction of fear in audiences. A fearful audience and as noted above, a subordinated audience, is one which is likely to be more receptive to messages about the issue. This is significant in times of political legislative pushes. Linguistic descriptors are central in this objective in the media, with depictions of the climate change often noting the danger to human subsistence and reduced standards of living in the interim, as well as other descriptions of pending doom and disaster. Climate change is often instituted as a key narrative for the framing of local and international political drivers. An example of which can be drawn from the use of climate change as justification for the commodification of the atmosphere and industrial emissions, as proposed by the Australian government under its Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme. Climate change representations have proven to be a malleable component of media content, which have been shown to transform to complement other contemporaneous political, commercial and social issues on the agenda both locally and internationally.  

 

Hulme, M 2009, Why We Disagree About Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, UK

Cottle, S 2011, Taking Global Crises in the News Seriously: Notes from the Dark side of Globalization, Global Media and Communication, 7: 77

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Now Panic and Freak Out!

The perception of threat can act as a significant advocate in persuasive strategies when employed as part of a fear appeal approach. Thus, much media discourse is often packaged in a way which evokes a sense of trepidation in the audience through both explicit and implicit hints at pending peril. The resulting situation is characterised by the subordination of the audience, with the media as the socio-political commentator and adviser of future direction, placed at the hierarchal pivot of society. The appeal in this for the mediator lies within the power relations it sparks. A subordinate audience is inclined to look to the advising party for future counsel or recommendation. Thus, the incitement of moral panics can prove useful in guiding societal movements in a desired direction, relative to political, commercial and social agendas, as fashioned by media commentators and controllers. Moral panics further possess the function of constructing social binaries; an ‘us and them’ mentality, with the ‘them’ potentially pertaining to all members of the responding audience. This often has the effect of encouraging agreement or participation of the audience with the delivered message, so as to not be characterised as part of the offending ‘them’ component. It is this polarizing nature of moral panics, that renders it such an influential phenomena, and explains the tendencies for media to engage in fear appeal tactics in an effort to incite such panic and manipulate the direction of public sentiment, action and social agendas.

 

Lumby, C, Funnell, N 2011, ‘Between Heat and Light: The Opportunity in Moral panics’, Crime Media Culture, December 2011, Vol 7, no.3

Mr. Monopoly Man

The ownership and control of Australian media is highly contested property within commercial and political markets currently. The media market is experiencing strong competition on both domestic and international fronts for the ownership of both media content and as platforms for such content. The issue of ownership of both media materials and as a platform for communication features prominently in public and political debate in Australian society. As such, policy as an issue is also experiencing prominent attention of late. Policy can be understood as a framework for function. It is a set of guidelines or restrictions which indicate or indeed dictate the conduct, operation or usage of a specified item. Notably therefore, media policy is elemental in determining the form of the media industry and the direction in which it heads. One of the primary reasons for the recent scrutiny of Australian media policy is the recent media phenomena of digital content streaming. This refers to the tendency for digital media items to be created in order to exist independently of a particular media platform. In this way, the media product is multipurposeable, and has a higher propensity for profitable returns for the media owners. This is of considerable import within the commercially dominated media market. With such commercial incentive for media control and ownership, the necessity for policy which will effectively uphold media quality, diversity and integrity, while balancing the needs of both audiences and media stakeholders becomes apparent.

Murray, S. 2005, ‘Think Global, Act Global: Corporate content streaming and Australian media policy’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 116, pp. 100-116.

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