Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism

ISSN: 2165-7912

Open Access

Conversion Aversion: Environmental Learning and PBS Viewer Preferences


John Fraser, James W Baxter, Jeffrey White, Rupanwita Gupta and Victor Yocco

Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television plays a unique role in informal learning for the US public. The network is generally perceived as one of the most reliable sources for information and has established itself as a primary distributor of natural history documentaries. Despite this long history, there is little survey data on what motivates viewership or how nature documentary viewing relates to environmental values, lifestyle choices, and learning outcomes. This article reports on a study of Californian PBS viewers’ environmental identity, values, patterns of visiting parks, reactions to the desirability of a series of nature program scenarios, and their reasons for these reactions. Results revealed that viewers who had visited a park or viewed another nature program in the past two years were more likely to watch PBS programs on environmental topics irrespective of the scenario, and were more likely to feel that their identity is interconnected with nature. However, analysis of comments suggested that there were a handful of priorities that may present challenges to attracting these viewers, such as a mistrust of science and political motives for producing nature documentaries. The paper suggests that nature program viewing is an identity reinforcing behavior where information is used to elaborate on existing values and beliefs. By understanding these priorities, environmental educators may be able to strategically shape programming and promotion to broaden and diversify audiences for nature documentaries.


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