Ignorance or bias? Evaluating the ideological and informational drivers of communication gaps about climate change

Erik C. Nisbet, Kathryn E. Cooper, Morgan Ellithorpe

Does the relationship between media use and learning about climate change depend more on audiences’ scientific literacy on their ideological biases? To answer this question, we evaluate both the knowledge gap and belief gap hypotheses as they relate to climate change. Results indicate belief gaps for news and entertainment content and a knowledge gap for edutainment content. Climate change knowledge among conservatives decreased with greater attention to political news, but increased with greater attention to science news. TV entertainment was associated with a significant decrease in knowledge about climate change among liberals to similar levels as conservatives. Edutainment was associated with a widening gap in knowledge based on respondents’ scientific literacy. Implications for informal learning about controversial science through the media are discussed.



Audience responses to television news coverage of medical advances: The mediating role of audience emotions and identification

Hyehyun Hong

Exemplifying a real person in news stories has become a popular journalistic technique to describe an event or issue. With the frequent appearance of medical news reports in local television in recent years, this news presentation style is widely believed to help audiences better engage in and understand complex medical information and to influence their perceptions and judgments. In terms of television news coverage of medical advances, this study investigates how audiences respond to embedded human examples (mainly patients who experience benefits from the advances) and to overall news stories, and how such responses are related to their perception of portrayed medical advances. The experimental results indicate that news stories with a human example were more likely to intensify the audience’s positive emotions than those without, which in turn influenced favorable perceptions of the described medical advance. In addition, the extent to which the audience identified with a human example (in particular, sympathy) mediated the relationship between the audience’s involvement in the news story and its perception of the portrayed medical advance.


Audience reach of science on television in 10 European countries: An analysis of people-meter data

Markus Lehmkuhl, Pepka Boyadjieva, Yvonne Cunningham, Christina Karamanidou, Tuomo Mörä, AVSA-Team (Lucie Schiebel, Esa Väliverronen, Kostas Dimopoulos, Vasilis Koulaidis, Kristina Petkova, Brian Trench)

Beginning with a differentiation of science programmes into five different editorial concepts, this article explores the audience reach of science on television in 10 European countries with a special emphasis on young audiences aged between 14 and 29 years. In relation to the share of this age group in the entire population, science programmes in all countries reach a considerably smaller proportion of younger viewers. Specific preferences for science content on television do not seem to be relevant in explaining aggregated viewing behaviours especially of young audiences. Unlike all other segments, the young science viewer segment is almost intangible as an aggregated group, as a definable segment of a mass audience that can be targeted by science programme makers.


Frames of scientific evidence: How journalists represent the (un)certainty of molecular medicine in science television programs

Georg Ruhrmann, Lars Guenther, Sabrina Heike Kessler, Jutta Milde

For laypeople, media coverage of science on television is a gateway to scientific issues. Defining scientific evidence is central to the field of science, but there are still questions if news coverage of science represents scientific research findings as certain or uncertain. The framing approach is a suitable framework to classify different media representations; it is applied here to investigate the frames of scientific evidence in film clips (n = 207) taken from science television programs. Molecular medicine is the domain of interest for this analysis, due to its high proportion of uncertain and conflicting research findings and risks. The results indicate that television clips vary in their coverage of scientific evidence of molecular medicine. Four frames were found: Scientific Uncertainty and Controversy, Scientifically Certain Data, Everyday Medical Risks, and Conflicting Scientific Evidence. They differ in their way of framing scientific evidence and risks of molecular medicine.