News Corp is the home for climate denial in Australian media. With sceptics Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Terry McCrann and Tim Blair as columnists, and Graham Lloyd as The Australian’s environment editor, the parent company of Australia’s most-read and influential newspapers provides a regular megaphone to denialist theories.
In the past year alone, The Australian (News Corp’s national broadsheet) has run stories by its environment editor Graham Lloyd that have:
- Rehashed a 2014 and 2017 beat-up suggesting the Bureau of Meteorology has fiddled with its data to exaggerate global warming
- Reported on October’s IPCC report by quoting climate sceptics’ issues with the data set, describing scientists as living in “a universe without parallel” (while his columnist colleagues also attacked the report)
- Reported on a shocking study on bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef by leading with the fact that “not all scientists agree” that the bleaching was down to climate change (again picked apart by Media Watch).
Of all News Corp’s Australian titles, it’s The Australian’s science news coverage that’s most often picked up for pushing climate denialism. Instead of giving most weight to the scientific consensus, it gives credence to scientific outliers, as with Lloyd’s Great Barrier Reef story.
Lloyd’s reporting is a regular fixture on the ABC’s Media Watch, as well as the focus of other media observers (including Crikey). But The Australian and its tabloid stablemates also use their opinion pages to ridicule scientists and media outlets or journalists that report on climate change.
The Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt refers to those who believe the accepted climate science as “warmists”, while his Daily Telegraph colleague Miranda Devine blames bushfires (including 2009 the Black Saturday bushfires) on “green ideology” and rejects any connection between climate change and extreme weather events.
Bolt and Devine both have regular broadcast commitments on News Corp’s Sky News.
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The local newspapers’ denialism follows a global pattern for News Corp products — a 2012 analysis found that climate coverage by Fox News and The Wall Street Journal were “overwhelmingly misleading”.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne studied opinion pieces and letters to the editor published in the local News Corp and (what was then) Fairfax newspapers between 2009 and 2013, and found that the “science accuracy” was much worse in the News Corp papers. Professor David Karoly worked on that research when he was at the University of Melbourne, but is now at the CSIRO’s earth systems and climate change hub (part of the national environmental science program). He told Crikey that they found a greater bias in both opinion pieces and letters to the editor in News Corp papers, and especially in The Australian.
“The opinion pieces in The Australian newspaper, which are often not submitted but sought, ended up being significantly more biased than the letters to the editor, and this is still the case,” he said. “It’s clear that the News Corp newspapers are trying to influence an audience, but particularly when it’s in commissioned opinion pieces.”
The research also found that The Australian was more biased than its tabloid stablemates, the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph.
“They try to strengthen a view around climate change not being an issue, or the major costs perceived to occur with moving away from coal-fired power stations and to renewable energy,” he said. “They’re essentially spruiking a Rupert Murdoch view that they do want to undercut or destroy the credibility of the science that’s been accepted in international assessments around the world and the IPCC assessment but it doesn’t fit their owner’s ideology.”
While there have been recent complaints to the Australian Press Council about News Corp’s climate change coverage, a spokesperson said none have gone as far as adjudication. A complaint about a 2012 Bolt column that inaccurately described some of the global warming science was partly upheld, but complaints about Tim Blair in 2011 and Piers Akerman in 2012 were not upheld. The most recent complaints about climate change to go to adjudication were in 2014, the year that the council upheld complaints about The Australian’s 2013 reporting on that year’s IPCC report.
This piece is part of our dedicated climate change series, Slow Burn. Read the rest here.