U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today joined with a group of senators to ask network television executives why there has been "shockingly little discussion" about climate change on Sunday morning broadcast network news and interview programs.
A new Media Matters for America study found that only 27 minutes of air time was devoted to discussions about global warming during all of last year on Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation and Fox News Sunday -- combined.
In a letter to the executives the Senators wrote: "Given the widely recognized challenge that climate change poses to the nation and the world, this is an absurdly short amount of time for a subject of such importance."
The letter cited the virtually unanimous view by scientists that climate change is occurring and that it poses the most serious environmental crisis facing the planet.
The senators noted that big oil and coal companies spend significant amounts of money advertising on the commercial television networks. "We hope that this is not influencing your decision about the subjects discussed or the guests who appear on your network programming," they said.
Menendez is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which has jurisdiction over international negotiations to develop a global climate change agreement and efforts to help developing countries grow on a low carbon trajectory. He is also a member of the newly formed Senate Climate Action Task Force.
The letter was signed by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). All of the senators are members of a newly formed Senate Climate Action Task Force.
Text of the letter follows:
January 16, 2014
Roger Ailes David Rhodes
Chairman and CEO, Fox News President, CBS News
1211 Avenue of the Americas 524 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10036 New York, NY 10019
Ben Sherwood Deborah Turness
President, ABC News President, NBC News
47 West 66th Street 30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10023 New York, NY 10112
Dear Mr. Ailes, Mr. Rhodes, Mr. Sherwood, and Ms. Turness:
We are writing to express our deep concern about the lack of attention to climate change on such Sunday news shows as ABC's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS's "Face the Nation," and "Fox News Sunday."
According to the scientific community, climate change is the most serious environmental crisis facing our planet. The scientists who have studied this issue are virtually unanimous in the view that climate change is occurring, that it poses a huge threat to our nation and the global community, and that it is caused by human activity. In fact, 97% of researchers actively publishing in this field agree with these conclusions.
The scientific community and governmental leaders around the world rightly worry about the horrific dangers we face if we do not address climate change. Sea level rise will take its toll on coastal states. Communities will be increasingly at risk of billions of dollars in damages from more extreme weather. And farmers may see crops and livestock destroyed as worsening drought sets in. Yet, despite these warnings, there has been shockingly little discussion on the Sunday morning news shows about this critically important issue. This is disturbing not only because the millions of viewers who watch these shows deserve to hear that discussion, but because the Sunday shows often have an impact on news coverage in other media throughout the week.
A study published today by Media Matters for America reported that Sunday news shows devoted 27 minutes of air time in 2013 to climate change coverage.
Although it is a modest improvement over the eight minutes of coverage in 2012, given the widely recognized challenge that climate change poses to the nation and the world, this is an absurdly short amount of time for a subject of such importance.
We are more than aware that major fossil fuel companies spend significant amounts of money advertising on your networks. We hope that this is not influencing your decision about the subjects discussed or the guests who appear on your network programming.
Thank you very much for your interest in this matter. We urge you to take action in the near term to correct this oversight and provide your viewers, the American public, with greater discussion of this important issue that impacts everyone on the planet. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.