Objective: To examine the coverage of colorectal cancer on Australian television news over a 3 year period commencing May 2005, and compare it with that given to other cancers.
Methods: News reports on colorectal cancer broadcast on Sydney's five free-to-air television channels between 3 May 2005 and 30 May 2008 were reviewed for statements by news actors. The frequency of coverage was compared with that for other cancers.
Results: Colorectal cancer news reports accounted for 4.1% (95% CI 2.9-5.1%) of all cancer news reports while the cancer represents 13.5% of cancer incidence and 11.5% of cancer deaths. Compared to cancers receiving greater television news coverage, there was a near total absence of reports of celebrity diagnoses, and of representations by colorectal advocacy groups. A national colorectal screening programme received limited coverage.
Conclusions: Media neglect of colorectal cancer may be an important factor in explaining low participation in the Australian colorectal screening programme. Those advocating for colorectal cancer screening face ingrained cultural challenges in gaining broad media coverage, but investment in efforts to generate news and commentary would appear to be overdue.