Former Sky News boss John Ryley says he 'failed' on climate change coverage

The man who ran Sky News for 17 years up until this spring has told the Climate Show With Tom Heap that the way media outlets are covering climate change is "pretty poor" and they are "not doing their job".

John Ryley, who stood down from the top job at the award-winning channel in April, also said he believes his own efforts to deliver sufficient climate coverage had "failed".

He was interviewed about a new book he co-edited called Toxic News? Covering Climate Change which features essays from academics and journalists on the challenges of reporting the subject.

"It poses an existential threat to the planet and the humans on it and I wanted to know what other journalists thought about the quality of reporting," he added.

But as a journalist and news executive himself with a career spanning more than 30 years he has his own views.

Mr Ryley said: "Newsdesks, in my experience, are rather reluctant to pursue climate change stories because they feel they know the answers - that the planet is heating up - and there's no news story in it.

"It needs to be on the front burner otherwise people will just think 'Oh we're all fine'. It's not fine. And this year is on track to be the hottest year on record."

He also has some agreement with campaigners who often accuse the media of failing to tell the whole truth about climate change.

'I failed'

Mr Ryley added: "I think newsdesks are not taking seriously enough their responsibility to alert the public to what is happening."

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When asked about his time in charge, he said: "I failed…I failed because, I hope, I ran things in a consensual way and often the newsdesk was reluctant to pursue the story saying 'Oh, we know that, John. We know the planet is heating up.'

"And it was an uphill struggle.

"News is about what is relevant and significant.

"Newsdesks are very happy to report day after day what's going on in Ukraine or what going on in the Middle East. Rightly so. They should cover the environment day after day."

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He had particular criticism for coverage of last week's King's Speech in which the government laid out proposals for more oil and gas drilling in the North Sea.

Ryley said: "It wasn't on the front pages that the government had made some very significant U-turns on oil production.

"And that shows us sort of a certain sort of supine nature, I think, in the journalism that reports on climate change."

He went on to urge journalists to make their climate stories exciting and imaginative to grab audiences and make it relevant.

Disclosure: Tom Heap wrote the preface to the above book but has not and will not receive any income from it