How many networks does it take to change a lightbulb?
Two. “CBS Evening News” and ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” both excluded anti-regulatory opinions from segments about a coalition that wants to ban incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact fluorescents. Only NBC “Nightly News” offered a statement from its parent company, General Electric, supporting consumer choice during the March 14 broadcasts.
“Brian Castelli is part of a growing coalition that wants to ban your standard bulb and replace it with compact fluorescents (CFL). Advocates say it’ll cut greenhouse gases, save electricity and money,” said CBS technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg.
Castelli, of the Coalition to Save Energy, was quoted three times in Sieberg’s report, but Sieberg left out any criticism of regulating CFLs.
The “Evening News” also bolstered the case for mandatory CFLs with Sieberg’s comment that “it’s already catching on in places like Cuba, Venezuela, and Australia.” He did not explain those were the results of government decisions .
“World News” included pro-CFL comments from “climate activist” Mike Tidwell, Noah Horowitz of the left-wing National Resources Defense Council, and businesses that promoted the cause.
The argument that CFLs are more efficient “made business sense for Wal-Mart. It changed out all its bulbs in its stores and wants customers to do the same,” said reporter David Kerley.
“World News” included no support of consumer choice in its story, but the NBC “Nightly News” report did include this statement from GE, a company that has not joined the coalition:
“We strongly support the continued development of energy-efficient light sources, but we do not think banning incandescent lamps or any other technology, and limiting consumer choice, is the right approach.”
Overall, the three reports also left out any criticism of the claim that banning incandescent bulbs will decrease energy consumption.
In 1987, Traer, Iowa held the “Great Light Bulb Exchange.” The municipality gave out 18,000 high-efficiency bulbs to residents of Traer. The result?  “Despite the fact that over half of the town’s households participated, electricity consumption actually rose by 8 percent,” according to Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.