Sustainable Media Events? Production and Discursive Effects of Staged Global Political Media Events in the Area of Climate Change

Research question/goal: 

This project integrates two research perspectives on the emergence of cross-border media debates that have remained unconnected so far: research on the attention-grabbing characteristics of global media events on the one hand and research on longer-term shifts in the parameters of media debates on the other. Thus, the project investigates (a) how staged global political media events (i.e. the United Nations climate conferences in 2012 and 2013) are produced, and (b) which discursive effects these events have on national climate debates in the media of five leading democratic countries around the world, namely Germany, the U.S., India, South Africa and Brazil.

Module 1 of the project analyses the communicative production of the climate conferences via interviews and non-participant observation of central actors on site (communication professionals of government delegations and NGOs as well as journalists). The underlying hypothesis is that the climate conferences are co-produced by these actors in ways that temporarily suspend the adversary professional roles commonly assumed between them.

Module 2 investigates the possible discursive effects of the climate conferences by way of a large-scale multi-modal comparative media content analysis, looking particularly at the extent of cross-references between the five countries and possible convergences in actors’ issue framing, visual framing, and narrative features of news reports. The underlying assumption here is that the climate conferences drive national media debates in the same direction.

Current stage: 

A content analysis of newspaper coverage in five countries about four UN Climate Change Conferences (COPs) was finalized in May 2015. We presented the results of a multimodal (text and visual) frame analysis at the ICA conference in San Juan. Two papers were accepted for publication: one on networks of co-production at the COPs between journalists and PR professionals; another on the visual framing contest between NGOs and government delegations. At COP21 in Paris we conducted a standardized survey of journalists and other communicators. We currently collect data for a long-term media content analysis for the period July 2012 to December 2015.

Fact sheet

2012 to 2016
Data Sources: 
Quantitative media content data und qualitative interview data (own data gathering)
Geographic Space: 
Germany, U.S., India, South Africa, Brazil



Wessler, Hartmut, and Michael Brüggemann (2012): Transnationale Kommunikation: Eine Einführung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. more