Mixed messages and a missed opportunity: Australian news media coverage of Clare Oliver's campaign against Solaria

Ross MacKenzie, Michelle Imison, Simon Chapman*, Simon Holding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To review television and print media coverage of the campaign to regulate solaria that was initiated by Clare Oliver before her death from melanoma in late 2007, and to investigate how the media constructed the aetiology of her disease. Design and setting: Frame analysis of all direct and attributed statements about the causes of, and responsibility for, Oliver's melanoma, and about the legacy of her campaign, in reportage on five free-to-air Sydney television stations and in Australian capital city newspapers, 21 August 2007 to 20 February 2008. Results: 26 television and 83 print media reports were identified, containing 279 statements on Oliver: 146 (52%) dealt with the responsibility of solaria or their need for regulation, 23 (8%) were on issues of self-responsibility, and 110 (40%) were on her legacy. Oliver stated she had visited solaria 10 times, but had spent years acquiring a tan outdoors. However, less than one in 10 statements about the aetiology of her melanoma referred to her outdoor tanning history, with most explaining the cause as solarium ultraviolet radiation. Oliver's campaign was credited with precipitating rapid regulation of solaria in Australia. However, the new regulations will not prevent a person of her age or skin type visiting solaria and fall well short of the ban she hoped for. Conclusion: Unlike sun exposure, solaria are an entirely tractable factor contributing to melanoma. Failure to ban solaria has been a disappointment in a high-profile window of opportunity to change public health law.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-374
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


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