Media Frames

In a study by  Andrew S. Ross and Damian J. Rivers (Ross & Rivers, 2018), the authors describe five different media frames that influence the manner in which news is both delivered and interpreted. The study focussed mainly on the use of memes in the discourse of climate change. In their article they introduce five frames that have been used within climate change discourse since it became an issue of major importance:

  1. The risk is present (“real” frame)
  2. The scientific claim of the risk is true (“hoax” frame)
  3. The risk is caused by human activities (“cause” frame)
  4. The potential consequences of the risk (“impact”frame)
  5. How to handle the risk (“action” frame)

Each frame has been separated in either ‘convinced’ of climate change or  ‘sceptical’ of climate change. In the first frame, “real”, the risk of climate change is perceived as either present or not. The study shows that the convinced memes revolve around climate change denial, as it being impossible. The sceptical view shows memes that are sceptic about climate change itself.  The second frame, “hoax”, relates to the truthfulness of the risk of the claim. Convinced memes included memes that projected the science behind climate change as being true and accurate, and ridiculed anyone who states otherwise. Sceptical memes question the science behind climate change, and state that climate change has always been present, and therefore it must be a hoax. Frame 3, “cause”, relates to the (dis)belief that climate change is the direct result of human activities. Convinced memes argue that humans are the cause of climate change, while sceptical memes argue the direct opposite. The fourth “Impact” frame deals with the risks associated with climate change. Convinced memes revolve around the supposed consequences of climate change. Sceptical memes contrast with the convinced memes by questioning or rejecting the climate change supposed consequences. Finally, the “action” frame relates to how to handle the risk of climate change. Convinced memes offer possible solutions to climate change in an satirical manner, while sceptical memes question or deny probable solutions to climate change.

Frame theory has served the domain of media and communication studies effectively, but as internet changes, the theory cannot be understood and applied consistently. This study has shown the ease of how memes are created and shared, which makes participation in debate and discussion in relation to social and political issues such as climate change more feasible and simple. This is important to attract new interactions with individuals or groups who might have otherwise avoided an interaction. The fast that internet memes are created rather simply means that the message is also delivered in an equal simplistic manner. The accessibility of these memes may offer an alternative to traditional media channels to influence viewpoints and opinions of viewers. Thus, these internet memes ought to be seen as a rather powerful form of media communication. The study ends on the note that this matter could lead some possible directions for future research. An interesting approach would be to see how this time of frame is utilized across other platforms and domains beyond memes.


Ross, A. S., & Rivers, D. J. (2018). Internet Memes, Media Frames, and the Conflicting Logics of Climate Change Discourse. Environmental Communication, 13(7), 975=994. doi:10.1080/17524032.2018.1560347