Research Finds National Media Anti-Renewables & Neglecting Industry Voice

London, Thursday 29th November 2012 – Research released today by the CleanTech division of PR consultancy CCgroup indicates that the UK’s renewable energy industry is facing a communications crisis. The new study, How the UK national media treats renewables, found that national media sentiment towards the renewable energy industry is negative, neglects the voice of the sector and is out of sync with wider public opinion. The media plays a substantial role in any industry’s success and the findings indicate an urgent need for the renewable energy industry, a vital sector for sustainable economic growth in the UK, to step up its communication efforts to avoid further erosion in public, political and investor confidence.

As reflected in recent negative coverage of the UK’s new Energy Bill, preoccupied with false consumer cost figures, the study found that only 21 per cent of national newspaper articles about the renewable energy industry are positive. Despite the green economy accounting for over a third of UK growth last year, renewable energy businesses are struggling to get their voice heard, with spokespeople from the industry quoted in just ten per cent of articles.

These findings emerge only a month after a YouGov poll showed an overwhelming level of public support for more solar and wind energy. The study is likely to raise concerns for the industry, who’s future will, in part, be determined by the media; a key influencer on public sentiment, political decision making and investor confidence.

More than 50 per cent of articles were found to portray the industry negatively. On a macro level, this negative reporting threatens public and wider stakeholder support, fuelling policy and investment uncertainty, impacting local planning consent and future industry development. Crucially, media negativity has a very real impact on the day to day business success of renewable energy companies and their associated innovation, exports and employment; as on a micro level, this uncertainty slows the market and impacts the business bottom line across technology supply chains, diminishing both margins and new business opportunities.

Charlotte Webster, Head of CleanTech at CCgroup, said:

“Right when the renewables industry should be seeing rapid growth, it’s in the centre of a communications crisis with the media holding one arm behind its back. This economy boosting, innovative, business savvy industry is simply not having its story heard. But it’s not the media’s ‘fault’. There is an empty platform here that renewable energy businesses need to fill, with urgency, and those that do will be the ones to see the rewards not just for industry as a whole but themselves too.”

She continued: “I’d advise that organisations in the renewables space regain control and make themselves available to media by investing in communications, particularly with the trade press. Tuning into talking and telling stories of innovation and growth will help strengthen the industry and increase the visibility of positive stories and facts in the media as a whole. What’s clear is that investment really is needed to turn this picture around.”

How the UK national media treats renewables analysed the overall sentiment of all articles mentioning renewables published in the UK’s five most widely circulated national newspapers throughout July 2012. In total, 138 articles were studied from across The Sun, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph and The Times.

Negative sentiment was strongest across the three broadsheet titles. Publishing over 80 per cent of the articles studied, more than 55 per cent of articles in these newspapers were negative about the renewable energy industry. The Daily Mail portrayed the industry in a bad light most often with an overwhelming 78.5 per cent of articles negative about renewables and only four per cent portraying the industry positively. This was followed closely by The Daily Telegraph who only reported on the industry positively in seven per cent of articles.

The sentiment toward different renewable energy technologies was also analysed. The majority of coverage across the five newspapers focused on wind energy with 68 per cent of the articles focusing on the technology. Wind was also the most negatively portrayed technology with 58 per cent of articles covering it in a bad light. Whilst the study showed that solar, marine and hydro were covered more positively, they failed to capture the media’s attention accounting for only 29 of the 138 articles between them.

The full ‘How the UK national media treats renewables‘ study is available to download.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. 1.    Sample breakdown by sentiment and publication
Publication Total number of articles No. of very positive articles No. of positive articles No. of neutral articles No. of negative articles No. of very negative articles
The Sun

16

1

5

3

6

1

Daily Mail

23

0

1

4

10

8

Daily Mirror

8

1

3

2

2

0

The Daily Telegraph

44

1

3

15

22

3

The Times

47

4

10

14

17

2

  1. 2.    Research methodology

This qualitative study used a sample of articles mentioning renewables – wind, solar, marine or hydro energy, as well as renewable energy in general – published in the print editions of the five most highly circulated UK national newspapers throughout July 2012. The time period of July 2012 was determined as a key period for the industry due to the revision of Government support for renewables, which is why it was used. Official ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulations) circulation figures from July 2012 were used to determine the five most highly circulated titles.

The final sample of articles analysed consisted of 138 articles from across the following titles:

  • 16 articles from The Sun (average daily circulation – 2.5 million)
  • 23 articles from the Daily Mail (average daily circulation – 1.9 million)
  • 8 articles from the Daily Mirror (average daily circulation – 1.1 million)
  • 44 articles from The Daily Telegraph (average daily circulation – (580,000)
  • 47 articles from The Times (average daily circulation – 400,000)

Once identified, all articles were qualitatively analysed to determine their overall sentiment toward renewable energy based on how they portrayed and reported the topic they focused on. Each article was categorised to one of the following groups:

  • Very negative: all articles that were completely one sided, portraying the industry in a poor light and didn’t include any alternative perspectives
  • Negative: all articles that were mostly negative in nature regarding the industry, but did include some account of balanced opinion or comment from the renewables sector
  • Neutral: all articles that provided a balanced account including both pro and anti-renewables accounts
  • Positive: all articles that were mostly positive in nature regarding the industry, but did include some account of balanced opinion or comment against renewables
  • Very positive: all articles that were completely one sided, portraying the industry in a positive light and didn’t include any alternative perspectives
  1. Figures regarding public support for further solar and wind development: Shown in the findings of a YouGov poll conducted by The Sunday Times. Results released publicly on 22 October 2012: http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2218986/poll-reveals-significant-public-support-for-renewables-investment

30/11/12

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