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Reception of Climate Change Stories (Panel 7)

posted on 2024-07-08, 14:00 authored by Elke WeissmannElke Weissmann, Daniel T. Ezegwu, Jelena Krivosic, Paolo Carelli, Anna Sfardini

Daniel T. Ezegwu (Glorious Vision University, Ogwa, Edo State, Nigeria), Mercy Ifeyinwa Obichili (Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State) and Gloria Eberechukwu Nwodu (Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Anambra, State, Nigeria)

Public Perception of Select TV Stations Reportage of Climate Change Issues in Anambra State, Nigeria

Climate change has led to and continued to generate national, regional, and international discourse for decades. It has not only been at the core of political, social, and economic gatherings, but it has also resulted from numerous summits, conferences, conventions, and declarations with individuals, organisations, and nations lending their voices to the discourse. One such gathering in recent times was the COP 28 conference held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 30 November to 12 December 2023. Climate change is affecting our planet in different ways. A variation in climate impacts crop growth and human health. Climate change affects ecosystems, livelihoods, and human security as well as low crop yield and food shortage. The mass media, particularly television can as well act as a catalyst in teaching the multitude on climate change. They can also report global warming, the green peace movement, depletion of the ozone layer, the greenhouse gases effect, acid rain, etc. Television can still report the need to show restraint by humans in their use of natural resources. They can also play an essential role in reporting disasters arising from climate change. The mass media especially television medium have the constitutional mandate to monitor the environment to report the happenings to the public One of the functions of the television is to inform; this information will not happen if the target audience cannot be reached, not just with any message, but the right and accurate message. Television mediums are endowed with the ability to set an agenda for the public to understand certain issues, like those of climate change science, its effects, and the need for its prevention. The study will examine the residents of Anambra State, Nigeria. Anambra State has continued to witness the consequences of climate change, such as flooding, erosion, environmental degradation, pollution, heat waves, damage to marine ecosystems, and improper waste disposal.

The aims of the study are: To find out the extent residents of Anambra State are exposed to TV reports on climate change, to ascertain the perception of Anambra residents on TV reports of climate change, and to find out whether news-related content on climate change has the potential to shape public opinion or influence the societal discourse on the issue. The study will be anchored on social judgement theory. While survey research design will be used to elicit responses from the respondents on the subject matter. The findings will be discussed in line with the research questions. Recommendations will be made from the findings of the study. Key Words: Public, Perception, Television, Reportage, Climate Change

Jelena Krivosic (University of the West of England, Bristol)

Is the Natural History genre still able to engage audiences with stories about climate change?

Today’s Natural History documentaries, whether produced for National Geographic, Netflix, Amazon or other broadcasters, all replicate the conventional ‘blue-chip’ format (Bousé, 2000) pioneered by the BBC in the 1970s and underpinned by the BBC’s mission, as a public broadcasting service, to ‘inform, educate and entertain´ (BBC, 2024). Blue-chip’s projection of pristine, spectacular, human-less wildernesses has attracted global audiences in their millions (Jones et al., 2019). In the process, it has helped establish the genre’s reputation as an environmental ambassador by demonstrating to international audiences our joint “responsibility” for our “extraordinarily fascinating, extraordinarily valuable” natural world (Sir David Attenborough in: Wildscreen, 2000). In December 2017, the BBC’s final episode of Blue Planet II, ‘Our Oceans’, epitomised this ambassadorial role and gratified the BBC’s ethical mission. By putting the damaging consequences of consumptive human activity on centre stage, the ‘Blue Planet II effect’ (Hynes et al., 2021) triggered a widespread public reaction (Bevan et al., 2020) that put plastic pollution onto media and political agendas (Males and VanAelst, 2021). What followed in the genre was a rise in crises storytelling (Nolan et al., 2022), that openly interweave topics of climate and ecological justice within their narratives, which indicated the beginning of an important shift in subject matter.

In the past, the Natural History genre has faced much academic and industry criticism for being blinkered by its profit-oriented ambition to ‘entertain’ and for not doing more to ‘inform and educate’ audiences about the urgent need to change (Weiss, 2019; Nolan et al., 2022). Globally, as we stand at a tipping point with temperatures anticipated to break the 1.5˚ c limit (Hansen et al., 2024) and with over 44,000 species sitting on the brink of extinction (IUCN, 2024), this presentation will question whether the Natural History genre is responsibly producing a climate and ecological justice story of change, or if it is ‘amusing audiences to death’ (Postman, 2005). Based on academic literature and primary research, including series analysis and filmmaker interviews, this presentation will explore the ‘shifting production ecology’ (Cottle, 2004) of what has become the Natural History ‘global brand’ (Richards, 2013). This will help question whether the global brand is repeating neo-colonial patterns of its BBC pioneer (Christophers, 2006) by continuing to erase marginalised voices and alternative discourses. This presentation will discuss the reasons behind the increased competition to film the last of the remaining ‘wilderness’, and whether is to increase audiences’ crises awareness or is actually an attempt to attract new audiences and profit in a time of broadcast commissioning drought. It will examine blue-chip’s audio-visual spectacularisation of nature (Wheatley, 2016) and how this technique, when used to frame crises stories, could undermine the genre’s reputation as a science educator by formulating addictive ‘eco-porn’ (D’Amico, 2013). In doing so, it will ask whether landmark series risk counteracting ‘inspirational’ crises content by reinforcing a ‘climate delay discourse’ (Lamb et al., 2020) that could instead discourage progressive socio-political change

Paolo Carelli and Anna Sfardini (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore)

Sustainable culture through unscripted TV: roles, functions and models in Italian television system

In the last years, sustainable issues in their environmental, social and economic dimensions have increasingly grown in the field of television studies and imposed themselves as a relevant aspect through different perspectives, both on the side of production practices made up by creators and companies, and on the side of their representation within plots and narrative mechanisms of scripted and unscripted programs. While in TV series, sustainability is often relegated to the way through which locations are represented (with particular attention to landscapes, cultural traditions, environmental and natural resources that evoke a sort of “postcard effect”), unscripted TV reveals itself as a more interesting field to analyze the impact of sustainability in television production and creation strategies; in fact, due to their nature of programs that prevailingly represent everyday life practices and real settings and people, genres such as cooking-shows, reality-shows, documentaries, infotainment and informative TV shows could be an ideal space for highlighting and exploring green and sustainable topics and contributing to spread a shared “sustainable culture”.

Drawing on continuous research carried out by CeRTA (Research Centre on Television and Audiovisual Media at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) on the impact of unscripted programs in the whole TV offer and on the role of places and their functions and identities within media content, this paper aims at defining some key traits of the narration of sustainability in Italian television system taking into account historical connections and national specificities in declining cultural and environmental aspects (such as folkloric traditions, food and wine specialties, eco-friendly practices, protection of natural resources and so on) that represent the backbone of the culture of sustainability in Italy. More specifically, we’ll focus on different modes of connection between sustainable issues and places in which TV programs are located, on the prevailing goals of Sustainability Index addressed in narration mechanisms, and on the level of engagement of the audiences towards sustainable practices built up by the programs, in order to highlight some paradigmatic models of the ways through which this crucial phenomenon could be considered in TV production industry and open to further reflection perspectives for media and television studies.


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