Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Advertising Action on Climate Project correspondence with M&S

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.

Hi Rowland

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 2014 ( )

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 withdraw advertising.

Again, let me congratulate you for your concern about climate change, and thank you for considering taking this action.

Kind regards

Richard Lawson

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