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

Research question/goal: 

The project investigated the periodical emergence of global media debate as a precondition for coordinated and legitimate efforts to curb climate change on a global scale. To this end, communication activities at the annual United Nations Climate Change Conferences were studied in relation to media coverage of climate change in five leading democratic countries around the world, namely Brazil, Germany, India, South Africa, and the USA. We analysed 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). In addition, we investigated newspaper coverage using a novel large-scale comparative content analysis that included data on textual and visual news framing as well as narrative features of news reports for the first time.

We identified four distinct networks of coproduction between journalists and communication professionals of global environmental NGOs, which contribute to a coordinated media image of the climate conferences and partly and temporarily suspend the adversary professional roles commonly assumed. NGOs provide striking symbolic images but have difficulty placing their verbal statements in the media. Conversely, government delegations maintain direct and informal ties particularly to journalists from their home countries but vary strongly in how actively they approach foreign and transnational media. Newspaper coverage centres around four multimodal (text-plus-image) frames focusing on victims, civil society demands, political negotiations, and sustainable energy, respectively. While the prevalence of these global frames did not vary much between the five countries studied, they were counterbalanced to some degree by a set of news narratives that provide for more specific cultural resonance. Overall, the global climate change conferences create outstanding opportunities for the periodical coordination of media debates on climate change around the globe, but they do not lead to a more long-lasting substantive convergence of national media debates on a global scale.

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