I posted here about the need for press reform in Britain. Soon after posting I found the excellent Advertising Action on Climate Project which aims to bring pressure on the Mail, Sun, Times, Express and Telegraph by persuading companies to stop advertising with them until they stop publishing false information regarding climate change.
Here is my latest letter to the corporate social responsibility manager at M&S. They have been chosen because of their Plan A project, but many other companies will be approached in due course.
Many thanks for your speedy and thoughtful reply.
I have read your links, although my search did not actually turn
up the polls showing that the UK public lags behind the rest of
the world in perception of climate change.
However, I have been aware of this regrettable fact in a general
way having read about it a couple of years ago.
You argue that a section of the UK media is simply following
public opinion, printing climate sceptical stories because the
public is sceptical of climate change.
First, the true responsibility of the journalist is to report the
facts, and not to follow and reinforce any misperceptions and
false beliefs that the public already holds.
Second, we would argue that the public is being influenced by the
line that this section of the media is pushing.
It is undeniable that media reports do affect the public's view
of the salience of a topic.
The paper about public perception of CC following the flooding in
shows in Fig 5 (p 24) that, after actual changes in weather,
media reports were placed as important by the respondents.
You have probably already seen Donnachadh McCarthy's excellent
briefing paper on the UK Climate sceptic press here:
The list of "sceptic" headlines given in the paper is sobering. It
is imperative that this continuous flow of misinformation is
halted and reversed, but climate campaigners are in a catch-22
situation, because we cannot inform the public of the present and
future dangers posed by climate change because the "sceptic"
section of the media will block or distort our message.
Unfortunately, it is the case that loss of advertising revenue is
the only lever that will cause sceptic owners and editors to
reconsider their position.
I note that Lord Deben, for whom I have a great deal of respect,
says "NGO and progressive business
representation" is necessary to maintain the
pressure on Government, and this, of course, is exactly
what is happening in this correspondence.
You note that our campaign is starting with M&S, and
correctly take it as a compliment. However, the campaign has only
just started, and other companies will soon be under the same
pressure as your good selves.
I fully understand that you would worry about denying yourselves
advertising outlets. Let me would point out again that there are
other more truthful media outlets that are available to you, and
again that when it becomes public that M&S has withdrawn
advertising revenue from a climate-denying paper, this will in
itself be a free form of advertising. Moreover, it will give
M&S a branding advantage against your competitors, marking you
out as an ethical market operator. In particular it will give you
an advantage over high-end competition from John Lewis.
You question the practicality of the action that we are asking
you to take. The details are up to you, but rather than a
big-bang, immediate advertising ban on all the papers identified
by the Advertising Action on Climate Project (which we would
prefer) you may opt for a more gradual approach, selecting the
most recent and egregious statement by one paper, and ask for the
item to be recalled and /or corrected, without which you will
Again, let me congratulate you for your concern about climate
change, and thank you for considering taking this action.