Media and public discourse of coal seam gas

December 2013May 2014
Initial media coverage (2008) focused on capital investment and job opportunities, however by 2010 news coverage of the boom had both escalated and turned more negative, shifting from benefit and opportunity to risks and contention e.g. water and land access.

Media and public discourse of coal seam gas

This research project investigated how media and strategic communication have played a primary role in anchoring CSG in the public agenda.

The School of Journalism & Communication (UQ) undertook a scoping study in early 2013 to investigate the impacts of stakeholder-driven strategic communication on public discourse and media coverage of CSG.

This investigation included analysis of 5,170 news reports from 32 sources published from 2008 to April 2013. In addition, relevant public and academic literature were reviewed and media statements from key corporations and activities were analysed.

CSG was first highlighted in Australian news headlines as a breakthrough business story—good news in the midst of the global financial crisis that had already overtaken the US and Europe. While the CSG to LNG story retains an important place in the business pages, CSG has been anchored on the public agenda by compulsive media attention—in traditional news media, social media, and entertainment media.

In spite of interest in how CSG is depicted in the media and how industry and other stakeholders communicate about CSG, the review of the public and academic literature revealed that there is no substantive, rigorous and independent research that applies appropriate methodologies to track and evaluate either. There is, however, a wealth of commentary about CSG debate, some of which is informed by informally structured reviews of media coverage and communication tools, such as fact sheets websites and media releases.

The original investigation found:

  • More than 50% of media coverage was generated by just 4 news organisations (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australian Financial Review, Australian Associated Press, The Australian).
  • Initial media coverage (2008) focused on capital investment and job opportunities, however by 2010 news coverage of the boom had both escalated and turned more negative, shifting from benefit and opportunity to risks and contention e.g. water and land access.
  • Analysis of corporate and activist media statements demonstrated a clear contrast in topics and themes: CSG company communications focused on information and community, whereas activist statements contained central themes of government and water.

The research concluded that while CSG companies have reacted to issues emerging in the media, the activists have focused on agenda building—leading the media into covering new issues.

The next phase of research extended the investigation to include the early years of the industry (1996 – 2008) through to early 2014. It also includes analysis of available digital/social media coverage (to the extent possible) as well as traditional media forms.

PROJECT OUTPUTS

  • Final report: CSG in the news: The issues and the stakeholders 1996-2013
  • Research poster: Presented at the 2013 Centre Research Review
  • Article: Mitchell L, Angus D (2016), From good news for business to good news for the news business, Unconventional Oil and Gas, vol 3, pp 35-39
  • Media analysis report: CSG media coverage from 1996 to present day
  • Prototype ‘information evaluation tool’: To aid independent analysis of multiple CSG information materials

 

  • Project status: Complete
  • Project title: Media and public discourse of coal seam gas
  • Project leader: Dr Elizabeth Mitchell
  • Research team: Dr Daniel Angus & Frances Wickerson
  • Research group: The University of Queensland Centre for Natural Gas (formerly known as The University of Queensland Centre for Coal Seam Gas) & The University of Queensland School of Journalism and Communication
  • Timeframe: December 2013 - May 2014
  • Project funders: APLNG, Arrow Energy, QGC, Santos, University of Queensland