Agrobiotechnologies in the Italian media. A study carried out by the Osservatorio di Pavia

Over the last few years the media ­ and especially television ­ have focussed on presumed health emergencies such as mad-cow disease, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Di Bella cancer-cure case and the Lipobay case. Topics such as these have a strong emotional impact on public opinion and subscribe to the dictates of the ratings rather than following the more or less prescriptive rules of scientific communication. In a highly competitive environment, if the ratings prevail against information, it is obvious that news follows the rules of fiction, health reports become mere entertainment, and moderation and accuracy give way to triviality, overstatement and alarmism. The loyalty of the target audience becomes the ultimate aim of the communicator, because that is what the advertisers are interested in. There is no point in blaming the journalists, though they too share the responsibility of this phenomenon. The mechanism seems to be exactly the same for all kinds of "emergencies": immigration, criminality, weather changes, new diseases, war. The format prevails over the event. Communication depends less and less on the topic and more and more on the medium, the debate on GMOs being no exception.