The younger son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, has criticised the role the family businesses have played in helping to spread climate change denial, particularly slamming Australian News Corp newspapers.
The comments were reported in the US-based news outlet The Daily Beast. The outlet reported comments from a spokesperson for James Murdoch, and his wife Katheryn, confirming that the couple has become increasingly critical of the climate change denial promoted by News Corporation owned newspapers and the Fox News channel.
“Kathryn and James’ 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,” the spokesperson said.
“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
The comments place James Murdoch at odds with his father, and his elder brother Lachlan, who have both overseen the Murdoch controlled media empire as it became a rich platform for climate change denial and a defender of the fossil fuel industry.
Kathryn Hufschmid, whom James Murdoch married in 2010, has a long history of involvement in environmental causes, having worked with the Climate Climate Initiative, and has been a trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund.
The Murdoch family controls major news outlets across Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, and has served as a high profile platform for many climate denialist contributors, and has often worked to provide cover to conservative political leaders from attacks on poor climate change policies.
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In some cases, Murdoch papers will effectively work to ‘pull into line’ conservative politicians who express a desire to implement stronger climate change policies, as was the case for NSW energy minister Matt Kean, who was the target of several critical articles within The Daily Telegraph and The Australian, following an address to the Smart Energy Conference that committed the state to stronger renewable energy and climate change ambition.
The comments from James Murdoch are a further example of the growing dissent with News Corp’s own ranks and follow the very public resignation of News Corp employee Emily Townsend, who used an all-staff email to condemn the company’s track record of providing a platform to “climate change denial and lies”, particularly during the current bushfire crisis impacting large parts of Australia.
Last week, the Australian newspaper felt compelled to publish an editorial addressing the criticism.
“In our coverage, The Australian’s journalists report facts about how to tackle bushfires and about how to deal with the impact of climate change. Second, we host debates reflecting the political division that exists in Australia about how to address climate change without destroying our economy,” the editorial said.
Rupert Murdoch was forced to defend the company’s regressive stance on climate change reporting at the News Corporation annual general meeting held in November last year, saying “there are no climate-change deniers around, I can assure you.” A dubious claim regarding a stable of writers that includes Andrew Bolt, Miranda Divine and Terry McCrann.
The company also runs Sky News Australia, which offers an almost constant stream of climate change science denial from hosts that include Peta Credlin, Alan Jones and Chris Kenny.
There has been a steady flow of journalists leaving the News Corp stable, finding new homes in relatively more progressive outlets, including senior reporter David Speers, Rick Morton, Malcolm Farr and cartoonist Jon Kudelka.
James Murdoch previously held leadership roles at 21st Century Fox and the European and Asian arms of News Corporation, but subsequently resigned from the positions in the wake of the News of the World phone tapping scandal.
Much of the day-to-day operations of both News Corporation and Fox Corporation are run by elder son Lachlan Murdoch, with ongoing oversight from Rupert Murdoch.