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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Data proves decades of lies in Murdoch media climate change coverage

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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.

Hear the interview via Bay FM.

*Mia Armitage and Sean O’Shannessy are Bay FM members

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17 COMMENTS

  1. As expected from the left hand biased ABC
    If we could be bothered to waste time on similar research of ABC climate mantra we would find similar converse opinion.

  2. Wendy Bacon knows journalism’s fact finding well & the length Murdoch’s brats must go to
    to keep ‘the boss ‘ happy. Gleeson – Bolt – Cretlin & Kenny don’t mind being bought or sold.
    Sad stuff for those in the know. Weasel words circle this country & beyond.

  3. “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.”

    So 55% of the coverage / references contained ZERO “scepticism or denial” ?

    45% against, 55% for (or neutral ?) … sounds almost “fair and balanced” to me …

    • Mark BLR -no it’s not “fair or balanced” when the scientific facts are indisputable (and they are – unless you are scientifically ignorant and illiterate). The fact that 45% of the VAST Murdoch media empire spread their malignant misinformation far and wide, is an appalling state of affairs. It is up to journalists to report the facts, verified by solid evidence, yet 45% of the reporting on climate change is evidently not fact-based, but based on the willfully ignorant or dangerously ideologically driven opinions of those who are mouth-pieces of vested interests… it is a great shame that this is what passes for “news” in Australia, and that there are so many credulous people who unquestioningly lap it. A scientific issue cannot be seen to have “fair” or “balanced” coverage just because people who have no clue about the science get to voice their opinions and spout misinformation in 45% of a media empire’s publications… not all opinions are equal – or valid when it comes to scientific issues. Non-scientifically trained people can express opinions about society’s response to climate change, but not about the science itself if they are not widely read (in the scientific field) and do not understand the science.

      • “Non-scientifically trained people ***can express opinions*** about society’s response to climate change, ***but not about the science itself*** …”

        “Scientists” =/= “As gods walking amongst men”.

      • “Non-scientifically trained people can express opinions about society’s response to climate change, but not about the science itself if they are not widely read (in the scientific field) and do not understand the science.”

        Perhaps one ought to advise Tom Whipple, the supposed science editor of The Times, of this. In a recent article ‘What is climate change? The causes, effects and solutions explained in charts’ his opening sentence claims:

        “If it were not for carbon dioxide, the temperature of the Earth would average minus 18C.”

        To say this is misleading is something of an understatement. This is what NASA has to say:

        “Without naturally occurring greenhouse gases, Earth’s average temperature would be near 0°F (or -18°C) instead of the much warmer 59°F (15°C).”

        With a little bit of due diligence, we can go even further.

        Though Eunice Foote’s work predates that of John Tyndall, it’s the latter who’s generally regarded as being the first to demonstrate the ability of certain gases (e.g. CO2, CH4 and N2O) to absorb infra-red radiation. Chief among them, though, is H2O (water vapour), with Tyndall quickly realising that without it, life on Earth could not exist:

        “Aqueous vapour [water vapour] is a blanket, more necessary to the vegetable life of England than clothing is to man. Remove for a single summer-night the aqueous vapour from the air which overspreads this country, and you would assuredly destroy every plant capable of being destroyed by a freezing temperature. The warmth of our fields and gardens would pour itself unrequited into space, and the sun would rise upon an island held fast in the iron grip of frost.” – John Tyndall (“Heat: A Mode of Motion”, 1861)

        Water vapour is the primary reason for the Earth not being a frozen wasteland not, as Tom Whipple implies, CO2. One doesn’t need a science degree to do a little basic research.

        Tom Whipple, by the way, has a degree in mathematics.

          • John, if that be the case, then John Tyndall’s observations about the role played by water vapour is also a contradiction.

            NASA correctly states that if it were not for naturally occurring greenhouse gases (plural) the Earth’s overnight temperature would plummet to minus 18°C. Mr Whipple modifies this statement; implying that CO2 (alone) is the reason for this not happening. For a science writer, such a claim is seriously misleading and extremely poor reporting.

            If one wishes to point at a single factor as to why the Earth does not turn into a frigid wasteland overnight, it only takes a modicum of research to discover that of those greenhouse gases, water vapour is very much the dominant partner.

            P.S.
            An irony I previously forgot to mention, is that The Times is another of Murdoch’s newspapers.

      • Suggest you read a little more widely. Whatever you call it, global warming or climate change, ‘the science’ is a crock. We are gently warming, the planet is greening and plants are producing more abundantly thanks to the rising CO2, which is well below historic levels but thankfully above the life-threatening levels of around 200ppm. You’ve been fed lies; think for yourself.

    • Exactly. It’s only unfair to those who have already made up their mind, who will only look at one side, who think the science is settled, who do not recognise political science, who use science as to push ideological dogma

      Having said that the mainstream news media is the last place I go to verify claims and facts no matter what a persons view on this controversial topic.

  4. Perhaps Ms Bacon and her team could also investigate Murdock media’s other lies starting with the Iraq war and other world events right up to russiagate and Covid.

  5. Private media works for who ever pays the most
    Government media works for who ever pays the government the most
    Just remember global pollution comes from science
    Payed for by governments and corporations
    No one ever asked for plastic shopping bags it was pushed onto us by corporations just like everything else afflicting this planet we have companies in Australia that have payed nothing for the environmental damage they have caused
    We can ague over the science of climate change but there no denying that science gave us climate change.

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