Framing of Renewables in Australian Newspapers: The Snowy Hydro Case

This report is the second in a series of reports examining how renewables are discussed in Australian newspapers, with a particular focus on the Snowy Hydro Project. The Snowy Hydro Project came at a key time in Australia’s uptake of renewable energy. Alongside this project events in the political space, energy price peaks and the South Australian mid-latitude cyclone worked to promote discussion. This study highlights that the rhetoric on renewables in Australian newspapers is divided, with corporate ownership of the paper playing the biggest role in how positive or negative this was.

This study looked at key terms around renewables in Australian articles between the 15th-17th March 2017 which correlates with the Federal Government’s announcement of the Snowy Hydro expansion on the 15th March.

Key findings of the study include that:

  • In articles mentioning climate change, 68% articles had a negative sentiment towards renewables and 32% had a positive sentiment.
  • News Corp Australia had a greater focus on fossil fuel narratives. Their discussion of renewables was only 36% positive, mostly focusing on the Snowy Hydro scheme. This is compared to 51% positive coverage in Fairfax, which focused on renewables as a solution to energy security.
  • Discussion of renewable energy targets (RET) featured in only 20% of articles.
  • There was a marked difference in political sentiments relating to renewable energy. Fairfax tended towards left-leaning sentiment in reporting on renewable energy and News Corp Australia had a clear preference to the right.
  • 73% of articles used politicians as key actors in the discourse, with 58% referencing the LNP and 48% referencing the ALP. This is compared to 10% of articles referencing renewable energy actors and 44% using energy resource companies.
  • Only 13% of articles mentioned climate change at all. Of this limited discussion of climate change, 46% of the articles were skeptical and 54% were a positive discussion of climate change.
  • Regional issues were a clear influence on discourse related to energy security topics. South Australian media coverage was proportionately higher than the other Australian regions. Victorian and national media also provided high coverage on the issue.

Please click here to download the full Framing of Renewables in Australian Newspapers: the Snowy Hydro Case report