Fanning the Blame: Media Accountability, Climate and Crisis on the Australian “Fire Continent”

Deb Anderson, Philip Chubb, Monika Djerf-Pierre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper raises questions of media coverage of “compounded crises” related to extreme weather disaster, in the context of urgent calls to address the implications of a changing climate. Through media analysis, it examines the ways debate over bushfire protection policy was framed and made culturally meaningful, thereby politically consequential, in the wake of the worst bushfires in modern Australian history, Black Saturday (2009). The fires, in which 173 people died, led to a Royal Commission and fierce debate over the use of prescribed burning to reduce bushfire hazard. Longitudinal analysis of local, state and national mainstream media coverage (2009–2016) reveals blame games that targeted environmentalists and the government, which near-silenced meaningful discussion of the complexity of fire science, impacts of climate change on weather conditions, and calls for adaptation. By exploring the media’s constitutive role in crisis response, the paper highlights the legacy and potency of ideological conflict that shapes the media-policy nexus in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)928-941
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Communication
Volume12
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Black Saturday
  • blame
  • bushfire
  • climate adaptation
  • fuel reduction
  • prescribed burning

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