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09/08/2008 08:45 AM     print story email story  

Media Boosting Myth About OffShore Drilling Potential – Paper

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The media has played a significant role in convincing Americans that offshore drilling for oil in the United States could significantly lower the price of gasoline, according to an analysis released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Even though the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Information Agency has stated that the benefits from such drilling would be too small to have any significant effect on oil prices, the media has overwhelmingly conveyed the impression that it could. Media coverage of the issue may have influenced public opinion, with a majority now favoring expanded drilling.

"This is a clear case where the overwhelming majority of the media has not done its job," said CEPR Co-Director and co-author of the paper, Mark Weisbrot.

The paper, "Oil Drilling In Environmentally Sensitive Areas: The Role of the Media," finds that in 267 television news broadcasts, the Energy Information Agency data was cited only once. Also, in 91% of the news programs in this sample, there was not even an opposing opinion presented.

"There really isn't any excuse for the media to ignore the official data on this issue," said Weisbrot. "It's like reporting on the economy and ignoring the official data on GDP growth, unemployment, or inflation. No wonder the public is confused."

Recent public opinion polls show 69% of respondents favored expanded drilling, and 51% said that they believed that "federal laws that prohibit increased drilling for oil offshore or in wilderness areas" were a "major cause of the recent increase in gasoline prices."[1]

The paper also notes that the role of the biggest media outlets in shaping public opinion on offshore drilling is underestimated by the results in the sample. Talk radio, which is overwhelmingly right wing, reaches a weekly audience in the tens of millions,[2] and reinforced the message that the proposed drilling would lower gasoline prices.

 

[1] CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, July 30, 2008 [http://www.pollingreport.com/energy.htm]

[2] See "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio," Center for American Progress and Free Press (2007) http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/06/pdf/talk_radio.pdf



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