UQ researchers Dr Daniel Angus and Dr Elizabeth Mitchell used a new set of analytical tools to visualise and analyse topical content and stakeholder representation covered by media.
A comparison was also made on how CSG was depicted in the media in Australia versus in the US. The comprehensive study analysis included 14 000 Australian and more than 17 000 US news articles, all published between 1996-2013. An innovative software tool was used to visually map the thematic content for each country over the time period.
The study findings showed that at the beginning CSG was another resource story covered in the news. Then slowly there was a shift which began in 2008 from news on business deals and infrastructure projects to stories on environmental risk, land disputes and protests, which dominated the media by 2011.
The transfer of business to environment new coverage was more pronounced in Australia, while in the US the focus was on energy security.
The escalation in the public debate about unconventional gas in Australia was accompanied by issue advocates, activists and politicians becoming the dominant voice in the media in the 2008-2011 time period, where at the same time the industry voice diminished.
From 2008 and onwards there was also a marked increase in the number of voices joining the public debate on CSG in Australia. By 2013 elected officials also played a dominant role in the public debate.
The authors conclude that while it is unclear if a different media strategy could have changed the emerged public crisis in confidence for the CSG industry, there were evident warning signs that the public debate was escalating.
For more information on this research, see the published Magazine Article "From good news for business to good for the news business".