Media credibility on climate change questioned as Earth Hour scandal breaks

Ever wondered why the news media seem so keen to convince you climate change is a massive problem? Turns out some media companies have a financial interest in the climate change debate.

Fairfax Media, the newspaper group that owns big daily newspapers in New Zealand and Australia, has been outed as a one-third shareholder in Earth Hour. While Fairfax doesn’t hide its role in promoting Earth Hour, the fact that there is an “Earth Hour Limited” is less widely known.

Bloggers are now questioning whether Fairfax’s promotion of Earth Hour in its media outlets is nothing more than a cynical marketing exercise known as “greenwashing”, and whether Fairfax reporting on climate change can be trusted.

The other shareholders in the Australian-registered Earth Hour Limited are the global environmental business, WWF, and an Australian advertising agency.

Earth Hour began in Australia in 2007.

Blogger Donna Laframboise – author of the bestselling book on the politics of the UN IPPC, “The Delinquent Teenager” – is highly critical of the ethics of Fairfax Media’s involvement and says it raises doubts about whether Fairfax journalists are covering the climate change debate objectively:

“I think this raises a serious ethical concern. One would have to be utterly naive to imagine that the journalists employed by Fairfax Media are free to say negative things about Earth Hour – or about environmentalism in general. Yet Australia’s recent Independent Inquiry into the Media and Media Regulation report makes no mention whatsoever of Earth Hour in its 474 pages.

“Arguably, therefore, people who participate in this annual lights-out ritual are demonstrating their support for corporate-orchestrated environmentalism. They’re also saying it’s OK for media companies to stage-manage the news rather than merely report on it.”

It’s not the first time major media companies have been outed as having a financial interest in the climate change industry. Two years ago Britain’s BBC was sprung as a massive investor in carbon trading, via its staff pension fund which held the life-savings of its journalists.

In Australia, Fairfax controls the Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald, while its New Zealand media outlets include the Stuff website, Dominion Post, The Press, the Sunday Star-Times, Sunday News and a string of other daily papers in provincial towns.