Representations of the Environment on New Zealand Television
Thesis DisciplineMass Communication
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This study is an analysis of environmental content on New Zealand-produced television. As a society, we are facing unprecedented environmental challenges. Television is an important source of environmental knowledge (Shanahan, 1993). It is important, then, to investigate what television is saying about the environment to gain an understanding of how this might shape public attitudes and action.
A content analysis was undertaken of 140 hours of television programming, across all genres, from four channels. A coding schedule was developed to identify environmental content on television. This gave information on the prevalence and common topics of environmental content, its relationship to other themes on television, and who is responsible for speaking about the environment. This was followed by a qualitative analysis of environmental content and its place within the narrative context of programmes.
The study found that television's attention to the environment is relatively infrequent, with a diverse range of issues and perspectives. Most television narratives focused on a human-centred world, with the environment portrayed as something that was not of direct relevance to daily life. While these portrayals were almost always positive towards the environment, they were frequently linked to consumerist values and were generally supportive of the social and political status quo. An exception to this was the channel Māori TV, where environmental issues were linked to traditional cultural knowledge and the natural world was of more relevance to everyday life. Overall, the prevailing commercial paradigm of television works against the dissemination of important environmental knowledge.