Mia Armitage & Sean O’Shannessy
When the proof is in the pudding and the spice is climate change, it can leave a bitter taste: after all, it’s no surprise to learn data shows Murdoch media bias.
But in a media environment where hard stats are ever more crucial towards revealing truth, knowing your eyes and ears aren’t deceiving you – and NewsCorp really has been – is something like the sugar needed to help the medicine go down: the numbers don’t lie.
We now have those numbers thanks to Lies, debates and silences: how NewsCorp produces climate scepticism in Australia, a meta-study of the empire that has included up to fifty-five Murdoch publications, focussing on today’s main four players.
Nearly half of Murdoch coverage climate sceptic or denying
Acclaimed Walkley Award-winning investigative journalist Wendy Bacon has delivered the goods, having released similar yet smaller in scope studies since the turn of the millennium.
For her latest opus, she led a team of more than twenty trained volunteers in a mission tracing through decades of Murdoch media headlines, opinion pieces, columns, news articles and letters from across Australia.
The results show for more than the past two decades, 45 per cent of Murdoch media climate coverage and references have been at least sceptical or at worst outright denial of the phenomenon happening all around us.
Wendy Bacon said none of the fifty-five Murdoch publications studied at one point were ‘good’ on climate change coverage but the worst was The Daily Telegraph, traditionally Sydney-focussed.
‘But also, of course, with the web [it] just goes everywhere,’ she said, ‘as well as Sydney’.
Don’t overestimate the power of Bolt
Ms Bacon told River FM’s Sean O’Shannessy research showed the top ten opinion writers in four key Murodoch publications (The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail, The Australian and The Herald Sun) were ‘all or either sceptic or extremely hostile to action on climate change’.
She said data proved Andrew Bolt was ‘extremely powerful’.
‘Of course, he goes not only into those publications, but also up the coast up to The Townsville Bulletin and that sort of thing as well over to The Adelaide Advertiser,’ she said.
But the journalist said she thought it a ‘mistake’ for people to think Andrew Bolt was the only media personality at fault.
‘It’s also a person called Peta Credlin,’ she said, referring to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s controversial advisor, now a Sky TV presenter.
‘It’s also Chris Kenny,’ she continued, ‘it’s also in Brisbane, some people may have heard of a journalist called Peter Gleeson, he’s very hostile as well’.
Mainstream media accused of silence on Murdoch climate findings
‘We are not only in a situation of global warming, but we’re in an existential crisis, we’re in an absolutely desperate situation now,’ Ms Bacon said to Environmental As Anything host and Bay FM Community Newsroom contributor Sean O’Shannessy recently, referring to a majority of scientists agreeing on key climate change findings.
‘In the light of that, in the light of those findings, we have a situation in which the most powerful media company in Australia chooses, particularly through its commerce, to deliberately produce doubt in people’s minds,’ Ms Bacon said.
The significance of her findings had been undermined, Ms Bacon said, by mainstream media coverage.
‘It’s almost greeted with silence, not a word on the ABC about it,’ she said, ‘not even the Guardian, and that was disappointing’.
‘But I think journalists are intimidated from actually speaking about it because what happens if they take on Murdoch, believe me, they get bullied, we can just see how Murdoch is constantly campaigning against the ABC,’ she said.
‘So I think that has a chilling effect.’
Ms Bacon said she thought the chilling effect meant it was up to ‘community media, all of us’ to get the truth out.
*Mia Armitage and Sean O’Shannessy are Bay FM members