News Corp commentator Chris Kenny has defended the company’s coverage of climate change as the media giant faced intensified criticism over its reporting, this time from James Murdoch, who broke ranks with the family empire and took aim at its news outlets in Australia.
James Murdoch, who remains a board member of News Corp, accused the company of promoting climate change denialism in the middle of Australia’s bushfire crisis.
“Kathryn and James [Murdoch’s] views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” a spokesperson for the couple told the US-based online news and opinion journal The Daily Beast.
“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial [of the role of climate change] among the news outlets in Australia, given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
James Murdoch is the younger son of News Corp and Fox Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch and brother of News Corp co-chairman and Fox chief executive Lachlan Murdoch.
He is a former chief executive of 21st Century Fox and was once seen as a potential successor to his father, before his brother Lachlan came back to the family business in 2014. James Murdoch largely split from the family business following the sale of Fox’s entertainment assets to Disney last year.
News Corp and representatives for Lachlan Murdoch declined to comment on James Murdoch’s statement.
‘Alarmist and hysterical’
Mr Kenny, who is a columnist in The Australian and presenter on Sky News, defended News Corp’s coverage of climate change.
“The point about climate change is that it presents an enormously complex range of debates around various scientific findings, meteorological records, historical context, modelled predictions, possible policy responses and their likely costs and benefits,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
“If, like me, you accept the science of global warming but are vitally interested in scientific analysis and policy options while being wary of alarmism and ideological opportunism, there are few media organisations outside of News Corp that provide fact-based, varied and realistic debate.”
Mr Kenny said coverage of climate change globally is dominated by “alarmist and hysterical views – fake news, if you like.”
“That creates false impressions, for instance suggesting that disasters like the Australian bushfires are unprecedented or that climate action could prevent them; while climate change must factor in bushfire discussions, clearly catastrophic bushfire conditions have always been a threat in Australia and always will be,” he said.
“This is just one example, and I shudder at the extent of misinformation if News Corp journalists weren’t presenting their wide variety of coverage and analysis.”
There has been a sharp focus on News Corp Australia’s coverage of Australia’s bushfire crisis, notably in newspapers The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun.
James Murdoch’s critique comes less than a week after a local News Corp employee, commercial finance manager Emily Townsend, accused the company of a “misinformation campaign” to take attention away from climate change during the bushfire crisis in Australia.
Ms Townsend – who resigned in December, according to the company – responded to an all-staff email from Australasia chairman Michael Miller that outlined what the company was doing to support the country during the crisis.
“I have been severely impacted by the coverage of News Corp publications in relation to the fires, in particular the misinformation campaign that has tried to divert attention away from the real issue which is climate change to rather focus on arson (including misrepresenting facts),” she wrote.
News Corp announced on Tuesday that it would donate $5 million for bushfire relief in Australia. This is on top of $2 million donated by Rupert and Jerry Murdoch, $2 million from Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, as well as the donation of sale proceeds from all metropolitan newspapers and advertisements on January 21.
“It is clear that confronting the bushfire disaster in Australia requires both an immediate response and an ongoing investment in rebuilding the lives and livelihoods of those most affected by the fires across the country,” Rupert Murdoch said.
“As a company with roots in Australia and an abiding commitment to its people and communities, we are determined to help, both in this time of great need and well into the future, as the hard work of restoration continues.”
At News Corp’s annual general meeting in November last year, Rupert Murdoch was asked about the company’s stance on climate change and the amount of airtime it gives to conservatives arguing against it.
“There are no climate change deniers around, I can assure you,” Mr Murdoch responded. “We have reduced our global carbon footprint by 25 per cent six years ahead of schedule.”