Fukushima vs. Chernobyl: Coverage of the Nuclear Disasters by American and Canadian Media

28 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 28 Aug 2012

Date Written: 2012


This study compares the American and Canadian television coverage of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan with that of the Chernobyl (Chornobyl) accident in Ukraine. These two disasters were the biggest accidents involving nuclear plants in the world. The first research question is whether political factors, such as Japan, in contrast to Ukraine, being an ally of the United States and Canada, affected the coverage of these accidents by American and Canadian television networks. The second question is whether the U.S.-Canada differences in the coverage of the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters reflected differences in the American and Canadian political cultures. Previous studies generally have focused on the media coverage of a single nuclear accident, and they typically were limited to the media reporting in one country. This paper uses content analysis of television news reports concerning the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters for more than one year since the beginning of the nuclear accident in Japan in March 2011. It analyzes more than 250 references, comparing the two disasters in news programs of the most popular TV networks in the U.S. (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) and Canada (CBC and CTV). Specific news reports are identified with the help of keyword searches of transcripts of the television programs in the LexisNexis database. The content analysis involves both a general comparison of the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear accidents and a comparison of specific aspects, such as causes of the accidents, radiation release, liquidation of disasters, and health consequences. The study shows the importance of political factors in the media coverage of the nuclear disasters. It offers support for the indexing model and finds significant differences in the coverage by ideological orientation in the U.S. and public versus private networks in Canada. Convergence in the coverage outweighs political culture differences between the U.S. and Canada.

Keywords: Fukushima, Chernobyl, nuclear disasters, political communication, Canada, United States, media

Suggested Citation

Katchanovski, Ivan, Fukushima vs. Chernobyl: Coverage of the Nuclear Disasters by American and Canadian Media (2012). APSA 2012 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2108667

Ivan Katchanovski (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa ( email )

2292 Edwin Crescent
Ottawa, Ontario K2C 1H7

HOME PAGE: http://uottawa.academia.edu/IvanKatchanovski

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