The great unreported story of climate change is the true extent to which big business is opposed to the Kyoto climate change treaty and indeed any action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When the corporate media report climate change obstructionism, journalists talk in vague terms of “American opposition”, point the finger at comparatively insignificant business pressure groups such as the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), or actually applaud business for leading the way. In the Independent on Sunday, environment correspondent Geoffrey Lean insists, “The good news is that industry is ahead of politicians” in working to cut emissions (Lean, the Independent on Sunday, 5.11.00). The New Scientist declares: “Arguably, it is now business rather than governments that are leading the drive against greenhouse gases. If American industry is moving this way, it’s unlikely that Bush will oppose it.” (New Scientist, 2.12.00)
The reality could not be more different. Consider, for example, the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) – the two biggest voices of US big business. Unlike the GCC, the US Chamber and the NAM represent the interests of just about every large corporation you’ve ever heard of. Unbeknownst to the public the NAM has repeatedly affirmed its opposition to Kyoto. Consider the following declaration, widely available to the public through the NAM website but, to our knowledge, unreported in the press:
“We believe that the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention on Global Climate Change is inherently flawed… We oppose the Kyoto Protocol and urge the President and Congress to reject it. We also oppose attempts by the Administration to mandate greenhouse-gas emission reductions in the absence of Senate ratification of a protocol to the Convention on Global Climate Change and/or enactment of specific authorizing statutes.”(www.nam.org)
The influential US Chamber of Commerce takes a similar stance to the NAM and GCC. The following is taken from the US Chamber’s website:
“Environmental & Regulatory Reform
Efforts by environmental extremists to over-regulate the marketplace and put huge new mandates on businesses will be opposed… Priorities include:
1. Prevent the implementation of the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty.” (www.uschamber.org)
The reason that the public is in the dark about exactly who is responsible for obstructing action to halt climate change and why, is that the corporate media are part of the same big business system opposed to action. Oil companies are also leading advertisers, big owners of the media, and carry massive weight with governments and media companies. Since 1981 oil companies have been subsidising almost three quarters of prime-time shows on the US Public Broadcasting Service.
Last week both the Daily Mail and the Daily Express refused to run a full-page Greenpeace advert calling on consumers to boycott Esso. The advert, part of the “Stop Esso” campaign, was due to appear in national and regional newspapers on December 1. The campaign calls for a UK boycott of Esso service stations in protest at the company’s support for the US withdrawal from the Kyoto climate change treaty (www.stopesso.com). A Greenpeace spokesperson told Media Lens:
“We approached many regional papers last week and some nationals to carry the ad ahead of Stop Esso day: the Guardian, Independent and Evening Standard all agreed. The Daily Express and Daily Mail, having seen it, turned it down, saying their editors didn’t have to give a reason why… The following regional papers also turned it down, saying that the Newspaper Association had advised them not to carry it: Birmingham Evening Mail, Wolverhampton Express and Star, Liverpool Echo, Manchester Evening news, Yorkshire Evening Post. Also, Glasgow evening Times, no reason given…”
Greenpeace said that, following a Guardian report on the story, the Daily Mail decided to run the advert and the Express was reconsidering its position. Media Lens was unable to confirm that the regional papers had maintained their ban at the time of sending this alert.
The rejection of Greenpeace’s advert should be considered in light of the fact that oil companies are freely allowed to spend vast fortunes promoting their products together with their ‘green credentials’. In July 2000, BP announced that a ‘greener’ brand change had cost $7m, with plans to spend a further $100m a year developing the new image. The press have been more than happy to fill their pages with these adverts.
It is also disturbing that the Greenpeace advert was rejected at a time when the press is desperate for advertising revenue. Writing in the Guardian recently, Emily Bell notes: “For the advertising-based media industry, the current recession is best characterised as abyss-shaped. Almost from nowhere, the ground has opened up under our feet and swallowed businesses, jobs, TV channels and magazines…” (Emily Bell, ‘Staring into the abyss’, Guardian, 19.11.01)
But still there is no room for Greenpeace’s pinprick response to the oil giants’ enormous advertising campaigns!
In reality, radical adverts (like so many news reports and articles) are often rejected as a matter of course, being subject to a de facto ban from billboards, TV screens and newspapers. In Canada and the United States the dissident campaigning organisation, Adbusters, has had its adverts routinely rejected by stations and newspaper. Adbusters’ TV adverts (‘spots’) are extremely professional and are made by some of the best filmmakers in Canada and the United States. Nevertheless, Adbusters director, Kalle Lasn, told Media Lens:
“TV Station managers said ‘Why should I run ads that hurt my business. We decide what we run or not, we’re trying to run a business. Why don’t you just go away.’ These station managers were acting as if they owned the airwaves, even though, legally, these are public airwaves owned by the people and leased to stations. Broadcasters are supposed to act in the public interest, not merely in their own commercial interest. The big three stations in the United States: the ABC network, CBS and NBC, over the last eight years, have systematically, routinely refused to air any one of the twenty spots that we’ve thrown at them. They’ve refused every single one of them!”
The corporate media is free, fair, open and neutral – as long as what you have to say does not threaten the interests of the corporate system of which they are an integral part.
Do Media Lens readers sense a conspiracy, a cabal of evil liars colluding to censor and deceive? If so, we beg to differ – there is nothing more at work here than free market forces and the human capacity for self-deception. Corporate journalists are sincere and skilled performers… But perhaps we should let George Orwell fill in some of the detail:
“Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.”
Contact the Daily Express: (specifying Editor, the Daily Mail, in the ‘Subject’ box). Ask them why they initially rejected Greenpeace’s Esso advert. Ask the editors how much advertising revenue they have accepted from oil and car companies in the last financial year.
Support Greenpeace and the Stop Esso campaign: www.stopesso.com