Media

Stakeholder role in grid projects: 

The Media is a key multiplier of information to the public and can play an important role in shaping public opinion on grid development at large, as well as on specific projects. The Media can have a wide reach, ranging from the local level to the national or international. While certain Media outlets may present information in a neutral manner, others are, by definition, meant to provide an opinion (e.g. newspaper editorials, radio or TV talk shows, opinion blogs, etc.). Certain types of Media are also specialised in particular topics, such as scientific magazines, or are primarily geared to particular audiences, such as local newspapers. The Media may therefore weigh in on discussions about grid development and grid projects, with the potential to sway public opinion.

Project developers of grid projects may involve the Media in order to effectively diffuse key information and increase transparency and knowledge. The information which is available to the public on behalf of various stakeholders will further help steer opinions and reactions to projects. TSOs may ensure that the Media receive accurate and timely information through a dedicated Public Relations department or other Media liaisons. 

In addition, the Media can give a voice to other stakeholders – whether directly via interviews, talk show appearances, op-eds, guest columns, etc. – or indirectly, by providing their perspective. Collaboration between the Media and other stakeholders can therefore give farther reach to different perspectives.

At the same time, it is generally the role of the Media to try to present comprehensive and accurate information to the public, whether that information is presented neutrally or to support an opinion. The Media may therefore also take on an active role in seeking out information on projects, and may diffuse information on which other stakeholders had not communicated. The Media thus plays a key role in ensuring that the public is fully informed in grid projects and in driving the debate. Of course, in some cases, Media may also present information that is not fully accurate or that is highly opinionated, thus fuelling additional controversy. However, Media outlets that are generally considered trustworthy and reliable work to ensure that their information is accurate, even if they may take a position on the issue.

Primary concern with grid projects: 
Usual patterns: 

The Media is concerned with providing the most up-to-date, accurate, comprehensive and interesting information to the public. With substantial competition, particularly for national-level outlets, the Media needs to be able to maintain audience interest and loyalty by providing quality content and/or new or exclusive information. The Media is therefore likely to be interested in key project information, any controversies or successes and any new developments.
Media representatives as such generally do not have a direct stake in grid projects (rather, certain individuals may be personally impacted by a local project, but this is independent of their position in the Media). There is therefore no set position that could be ascribed to the Media as a whole. 

In the case of “opinion” Media, its interest in and position on grid development and particular projects may depend, for example, on a given outlet’s political leaning (if any), or a local outlet’s support of local concerns. In the case of “neutral” Media, it rather presents the information available about a grid project in an objective manner.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Do specific Media outlets (particularly specialised, opinion Media or politically-leaning Media) have an existing opinion on grid projects in general and/or on a specific project?
Topography within stakeholder group: 
Usual patterns: 

The Media landscape can be mapped out from several different perspectives. 

It makes sense to first distinguish between different types of Media, such as television, radio, print Media, online Media and others. Different Media types may have different geographical coverage (national/international or local) or audience types (experts or greater public).

Across Media types, local-level Media may be distinguished from national or international Media. In the context of grid projects, national Media is likely to be primarily interested in the overall context (e.g. national energy plans, national grid development, etc.), with perhaps limited reporting on specific local-level projects. Local Media in an affected region, on the other hand, is likely to report with more frequency and in greater detail on a specific project. For example, radio channels or local newspapers are typically strong local Media entities that are also likely to be more familiar with and knowledgeable about specific local concerns. 

Media may also be divided by its target groups and content focus. News dailies or general television news shows, for example, cover all general news and target a fairly broad audience, while other Media outlets such as specialised magazines or shows, or online-based Media organisations, may be focused on specific topics or audiences (e.g. young people, technical experts, people interested in environmental issues, etc.). Their coverage of grid projects may therefore vary. Further, they may recognise as experts on particular issues of relevance to grid projects, and/or may have particular influence on certain population groups.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which types of Media are likely to report on the grid project?

  • What differences are likely in the reporting done by national vs. local Media?

  • Which audience types are likely to rely on particular Media outlets for information? Which tend to be influenced by particular Media outlets?

Individuals within stakeholder organisations/entities: 
Usual patterns: 

Key individuals within the Media are individual reporters, journalists, radio or TV show hosts, columnists, etc. – particularly those with name recognition or a following amongst the public.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which reporters or journalists are taking a particular interest in the project or could best help to spread project information?
Project stage for engagement: 
Usual patterns: 

The Media can be engaged by other stakeholders, especially the project developers, during early project stages since Media entities can help diffuse project information (as well as information on grid development plans or energy plans in general) during a period in which the general public, not yet directly affected by a route corridor, may not be particularly interested in seeking out such information. Project developers, such as TSOs, should therefore seize the opportunity to engage the Media in the earliest project stages.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which Media channels are likely to be most effective to diffuse information to the public in a specific country/ region affected by grid projects before concrete placements for the grid lines have been proposed?
Usual patterns: 

Throughout subsequent project stages, the Media can play a key role in informing the public and driving opinion. The Media can also give a voice to other stakeholders. TSOs should maintain proper communication with the Media in order to ensure that accurate and timely information is presented to the public. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Can specific Media entities be identified that can accompany the grid development process as a neutral observer? 
Adequate communication channels for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

Project developers can share project information with the Media via Project websites, ideally by publishing press releases. Project developers can also provide contact information for designated press contacts or public relations departments for the project.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How often should press releases be published on a Project website? 

  • Does the project have a designated press contact person?

Usual patterns: 

Meetings can be scheduled with the Media to provide journalists with information and conduct interviews.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How regularly should the stakeholders meet with the media to discuss new information? Who should initiate such meetings?
Usual patterns: 

Media representatives may be present at any of a number of events involving other stakeholders and/or the general public. Media presence allows for coverage of the event and dissemination of key issues, information and debates to the broader public. This process boosts transparency and informs those who were unable to participate directly.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How many different media representatives are invited to public or stakeholder meetings?
Adequate communication formats for participation/cooperation: 
Usual patterns: 

In general, Media entities can benefit from and should be provided with any formats conveying content on grid projects. This helps the Media to publish information and opinions on an informed basis.

Hence, if for example brochures / flyers / leaflets / Fact sheets or Infographics have been developed for the grid project, they should also be made available to the Media.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Have formats conveying content on a specific grid project already been developed and can be provided to the media?
Country-specific examples: 

The energy transition has been widely covered in the German Media in recent years. The Media has drawn attention to both the recent trends in the energy mix which impact grid development needs (e.g. the rising importance of renewable energy sources and the phasing out of nuclear energy), and, especially more recently, the impact of these trends on electricity prices, particularly for Private consumers.

The Irish Media provides substantial coverage of the debate about grid development and particularly of the public’s concerns over perceived poor communication or “done deals” made in the context of projects of strategic national importance. Media attention also focuses on the question of overhead lines vs. underground cables, and concerns that integration of renewable energy sources is being done to benefit other countries (e.g. the UK or France), not for Irish energy needs.