Study Finds US Media Downplayed Fukushima Daiichi

A new study looked into the media behavior in reporting on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. The study found that key media outlets based on their readership and reach, systematically downplayed the impact of the disaster while ignoring critical aspects of the disaster.

The study also pointed out a significant bias in who has access to the media and controls the narrative.

The research shows that corporations and government agencies had disproportionate access to framing the event in the media, Pascale says. Even years after the disaster, government and corporate spokespersons constituted the majority of voices published. News accounts about local impact — for example, parents organizing to protect their children from radiation in school lunches — were also scarce.” (emphasis ours)

This was a problem during the early days of the disaster where those invested in the industry causing the disaster were the majority of the sources of information or people interviewed by the media. This problem continues today as the bulk of the media coverage of the 4th anniversary in the US used industry spokespeople for their interviews then failed to ask them any tough questions.  This radio interview on NPR in the US that aired March 11, 2015 spoke with a nuclear industry lobbyist. The interviewer gave what sounded like canned soft pitch questions, allowing the lobbyist to easily push his industry talking points. A brief mention of a statement from a nuclear issue group (NIRS) is mentioned as an aside in the story. This kind of coverage is quite typical of US reporting on Fukushima.

The study goes on to point out how political disasters are and the efforts that go into controlling the narrative and the information the public receives.

The mainstream media — in print and online — did little to report on health risks to the general population or to challenge the narratives of public officials and their experts,” Pascale said. “Discourses of the risks surrounding disasters are political struggles to control the presence and meaning of events and their consequences. How knowledge about disasters is reported can have more to do with relations of power than it does with the material consequences to people’s lives.”  (emphasis ours)

Natural disasters invoke a certain amount of this, man made disasters coming from industries that the government has a stake in or is supposed to be regulating for public safety are even more likely to become politicized.

 

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