The media mogul Rupert Murdoch hopes to become the ‘hero of COP26’ by performing an about-turn over climate change, as advertisers pile on the pressure. Adam Sherwin explains in an article on the inews website.
Rupert Murdoch’s Australian media empire begins to ease decades-long climate change scepticism
Rupert Murdoch has bowed to political and commercial pressure by ordering his Australian media outlets to stop promoting climate change denial and campaign for net-zero emissions instead.
In a surprise about-turn, News Corp Australia, an influential player in Australia’s policy response to the climate crisis, will end a longstanding editorial hostility towards carbon-reduction policies.
Mr Murdoch, 90, owner of the Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The Australian newspapers, as well as the Sky News Australia channel, has approved a company-wide campaign promoting the benefits of achieving a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, ahead of the crucial COP26 climate summit in Glasgow later this year.
The media mogul has faced growing international condemnation, and pressure from advertisers, over attacks by his outlets on climate change science and on the Australian government’s attempts to reduce emissions.
His son James Murdoch quit the News Corp board last year after publicly denouncing the “ongoing denial” of the climate crisis in his father’s news outlets.
News Corp sources indicated the shift was in line with the views of readers, who support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions following Australia’s deadly bushfires, made worse by climate change.
Figures close to Mr Murdoch suggested the move could pave the way for James to return to News Corp, where elder brother Lachlan is co-chairman and has become his father’s closest family ally. A family reconciliation would be welcomed by Murdoch snr.
There are also political calculations behind Rupert Murdoch’s decision to lobby for the world’s leading economies to hit net-zero emissions by 2050.
The Sydney Morning Herald speculated that the backing of the Murdoch media empire would give Prime Minister Scott Morrison – who had denied links between climate change and the bushfires – “cover” to accede to calls by Boris Johnson and Joe Biden to lift the country’s ambitions and commit to a net-zero target by 2050.
Australia is widely seen as one of the world’s problem nations, along with China and the US, in efforts to deal with climate change.
The two-week media campaign, expected to focus on the new jobs created by a decarbonised economy, wil run from mid-October, allowing Mr Murdoch to present himself to world leaders at COP26 as an influential figure in the climate debate and a “force for good”.
Dissenting voices will still be allowed on Mr Murdoch’s Fox News channel – where climate deniers are given a platform – and in his Australian outlets.
In the UK, The Sun launched a Green Team campaign, showing how small steps taken by readers can help “save the planet” in the lead-up to COP26.
Mr Murdoch will also hope to head off an internal revolt, with some News Corp Australia employees expressing opposition to the papers’ previous editorial line.
Advertisers are becoming increasingly sensitive to campaigns calling for boycotts of media which are hostile to climate change science.
During last year’s annual general meeting, in response to his son’s departure, Mr Murdoch told News Corp’s shareholders that the company does not deny climate change.