News and tech media mostly quiet after UN chief calls for ban on ads for oil and gas

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Major news and tech media that person tally fossil substance ads were mostly staying quiet aft nan UN’s caput wide called for governments and companies to spot bans connected advertisements for coal, lipid and gas.

“Stop taking fossil-fuel advertising,” António Guterres implored successful a awesome reside connected Wednesday aft railing against power companies for “distorting nan truth, deceiving nan public, and sowing doubt” astir nan ambiance crisis.

“Many successful nan fossil-fuel manufacture person shamelessly greenwashed, moreover arsenic they person sought to hold ambiance action pinch lobbying, ineligible threats and monolithic advertisement campaigns,” Guterres said.

The Guardian contacted 11 awesome news organizations and tech firms who tally fossil-fuel ads successful immoderate form, seeking remark connected Guterres’s telephone for media to extremity moving nan ads. Most did not respond to requests, pinch only 2 choosing to comment.

Guterres’s admonishment came amid fierce statement successful caller years astir fossil-fuel dollars successful media circles. Some publications, including the Guardian successful 2020, Vox successful 2021 and France’s Le Monde past year, person banned lipid and state advertisements.

“This besides includes not partnering pinch lobbyist groups whose intent is to support fossil-fuel companies,” a Vox Media spokesperson said successful a statement.

But galore awesome media outlets, including nan Washington Post, Reuters, Politico and Axios, and TV networks specified arsenic MSNBC and CNN still characteristic fossil-fuel ads.

News organizations person successful caller years travel nether occurrence for nan practice, and particularly for placing lipid ads alongside sum of nan ambiance crisis. In December 2022, 1 ambiance journalist parted ways pinch nan publication Semafor aft nan institution ran oil-company ads connected his ambiance newsletter and articles.

Amid increasing scrutiny of their relationships pinch fossil-fuel companies, immoderate outlets person taken steps to mitigate criticism. National Public Radio’s nationalist editor this twelvemonth said lipid sponsorship should beryllium “handled carefully” aft nan web faced pushback for accepting backing from fossil-fuel elephantine ExxonMobil. The New York Times successful 2021 pledged to ban oil-and-gas companies from sponsoring its ambiance newsletter and events, and its podcast The Daily. (The ambiance publication Heated has noted that nan Times has since run ads from lipid companies connected nan podcast, but the New York Times says it prevents them from purchasing “all of nan advertisement spots connected individual episodes”.)

A spokesperson for Politico, nan sole publication who responded to nan Guardian’s petition for comment, said nan outlet has “hosted a divers array of advertisements”, including from fossil-fuel companies, renewable-energy producers and climate-advocacy groups. The outlet besides useful to boost transparency, nan spokesperson said: “Advertisers are prominently identified, and a clear favoritism betwixt news and ads, including sponsored content, is maintained crossed Politico’s platforms.”

US news media has been successful crisis successful caller years, pinch postulation losses owed successful portion to nan diminution successful referrals from hunt engines, and shrinking advertisement revenues.

Some outlets person stressed location is simply a strict section betwixt advertizing and editorial departments. The Politico spokesperson, for instance, said her outlet’s firewall is “sacrosanct”, adding that “no advertiser aliases advertisement sways editorial decisions aliases news judgment”.

But Naomi Oreskes, a ambiance disinformation master and professor astatine Harvard University, said media outlets person a “core responsibility to supply readers pinch bully information”.

“No 1 is saying this is easy,” she said. “But we request to look nan difficult stuff.”

Even if they person nary effect connected a publication’s journalism, she said, fossil-fuel ads tin expose readers to misleading claims.

Geoffrey Supran, an subordinate professor and clever clever of fossil fuel-industry messaging astatine nan University of Miami, said “there is besides perchance a interest astir nan outlet’s *editorial staff* being exposed to nan ads claims”. In a 1980s soul nationalist relations assessment, lipid elephantine Mobil indicated that it believed its advertorials successful nan New York times had shifted nan outlet’s position successful its favor, he said.

Over nan past 10 years, scholars and journalists person amassed a wide assemblage of evidence showing that nan fossil-fuel manufacture knew astir nan ambiance dangers of coal, lipid and gas, yet hid that accusation from nan nationalist and utilized advertizing to sow ambiance doubt.

“The fossil-fuel industry’s advertizing campaigns are state-of-the-art propaganda developed successful business pinch nationalist relations experts, executed via media outlets, and based connected almost a period of collaborative experience,” said Supran.

An April congressional investigation, based connected a tranche of documents subpoenaed from lipid companies, called nan advertisements “deceptive” and said they had led a “campaign” of disinformation, akin to 1 helmed by nan baccy industry. The documents, nan lawmakers said, showed lipid companies spot sponsored contented successful nan news media arsenic a deliberate strategy to power nationalist sentiment and policy.

Representatives from nan Washington Post, nan New York Times, Reuters, Axios, Bloomberg, National Public Radio, CNN and MSNBC did not respond to requests for remark earlier clip of publication.

The main US lobby group for nan fossil-fuel manufacture defended itself. Reached for remark astir Guterres’s speech, Megan Bloomgren, elder vice-president of communications astatine nan American Petroleum Institute, said: “Our manufacture is focused connected continuing to nutrient affordable, reliable power while tackling nan ambiance challenge, and immoderate allegations to nan contrary are false.”

Many outlets are not only accepting fossil-fuel advertisements, but besides person arms that are producing them. Reuters, nan New York Times, Bloomberg, Politico and nan Washington Post each count lipid fields arsenic clients of their in-house accumulation studios, events businesses and different branded content, a recent investigation from Drilled and nan Nation found.

Fossil-fuel firms are besides awesome advertisers connected large exertion platforms specified arsenic Google, Facebook and Instagram. Meta, nan genitor institution of Facebook and Instagram, declined to remark connected Guterres’s speech.

In 2022, Google said it would prohibit ads promoting climate-change denial and promised to artifact aliases region ads that violated that rule.

“In creating our climate alteration denial policy and its parameters, we’ve consulted charismatic sources connected nan taxable of ambiance science, including experts who person contributed to nan United Nations Intergovernmental Panel connected Climate Change Assessment Reports,” a Google spokesperson said successful an email, adding that nan argumentation “generally speaking … does not artifact circumstantial types of advertisers connected our platform”.

Few governments person imposed bans connected fossil-fuel advertisements. In 2022, France banned ads for immoderate fossil-fuel products, and akin laws are being discussed successful Canada and Ireland. In 2020, Amsterdam became nan first metropolis to walk a prohibition connected fossil-fuel ads; nan Scottish superior metropolis of Edinburgh and the UK’s Sheffield are group to do nan same.

This year, nan UK besides banned advertisers from utilizing immoderate perchance misleading biology terminology arsenic portion of a crackdown connected misleading biology claims.

The fossil-fuel industry’s decades of “deceptive advertisements”, said Oreskes of Harvard University, “have served to confuse nan nationalist astir nan domiciled of fossil fuels successful driving ambiance change, and nan domiciled of nan fossil-fuel manufacture successful driving fossil-fuel use”, while undermining nationalist support for nan modulation distant from fossil fuels.

She noted that nan US banned tv and power ads for cigarettes successful 1971, and that 60 different countries person wholly banned advertisements for tobacco. “It is good past clip that we imposed akin restrictions connected fossil-fuel ads,” she said.

Guterres connected Wednesday besides called connected advertizing and PR agencies to trim ties pinch coal, lipid and state companies. Public relations giants specified arsenic Weber Shandwick and BCW have held galore contracts pinch lipid and state companies, and Edelman has pledged to eschew projects promoting ambiance denial but has continually worked pinch oil companies.

But 1,100 advertising, PR and imaginative companies person taken a promise organized by Clean Creatives.

“Today is simply a turning constituent successful nan advertizing and PR industry’s narration pinch ambiance alteration and fossil fuels,” said Duncan Meisel, nan executive head of Clean Creatives, a non-profit pushing imaginative agencies to trim ties pinch fossil-fuel firms. “There is nary longer immoderate screen for agencies to opportunity that they are doing nan correct point erstwhile moving pinch polluters.”

Supran said banning aliases boycotting fossil-fuel advertizing would “hit lipid companies wherever it hurts”, by “removing 1 of nan cardinal cogs successful nan lipid industry’s ambiance denial and hold machine”.

“If large lipid loses its expertise to lobby nan public, its governmental powerfulness to hold ambiance action will beryllium severely diminished,” he said. “It would trim disconnected 1 of nan lipid industry’s lifelines for defending nan position quo.”

  • Dharna Noor tin beryllium contacted astatine dharna.noor@theguardian.com

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theguardian