News Corp yet to discuss climate change attack amid Murdoch boardroom rift

Inflammatory criticism by James Murdoch over News Corp’s position on climate change and the Australian bushfires has yet to be discussed by the board, according to reports, as debate continues to rage over the media firm’s handling of the crisis.

Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son, who sits on the News Corp board, and wife Kathryn yesterday took the highly unusual step of publicly attacking the publisher’s coverage of the issue.

james murdoch

James Murdoch has taken the unusual step of attacking his father’s media empire

A spokesperson for the couple told the Daily Beast they were both “frustrated” at what they regarded as News Corp’s “denial” stance on climate change.

“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.”

While extremely rare for a board member to break ranks and attack his own company – let alone one controlled by his father – James Murdoch’s criticism is the latest in a number of pointed remarks directed at the media firm.

Earlier this month, The New York Times published an opinion piece titled ‘Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide’, in which its author, Richard Flanagan criticised Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to the crisis and the Rupert Murdoch-dominated media landscape.

Meanwhile, the Guardian Australia has been critical of The Australian and the wider News Corp titles, including the critique that they have been downplaying the scale of the bushfires and not dedicating front page space to the crisis.

In addition, News Corp commercial finance manager, Emily Townsend, denounced the ‘misinformation’ spread by News Corp titles The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun.

News Corp hit back this week, insisting its coverage of climate change and the bushfires had been “wilfully and ineptly misrepresented”.

Despite the divisive nature of James Murdoch’s intervention into an already contentious debate, News Corp independent director Peter Barnes said the comments have not yet been discussed by the board.

According to The Guardian, Barnes said the board “does not meet again until the middle of February”.

“As you would no doubt know, this board has quite a lot of international people,” Barnes is quoted as saying. “I understand from the papers that James has made a statement but I have no comment to make because I haven’t made contact with them [the other directors].”

It is not the first time James Murdoch has directed barbed comments towards his father’s sprawling empire, perhaps illustrating a rift which has seen older brother Lachlan play a more prominent role in the business.

In an interview with The New Yorker last year, James, formerly chief executive of 21st Century Fox before its merger with Disney, said he “really disagrees” with some views broadcast by Fox News.

“The connective tissue of our society is being manipulated to make us fight with each other, making us the worst versions of ourselves,” he was reported as saying.

News Corp co-chairman Rupert Murdoch

News Corp declined to comment on James Murdoch’s criticism of the company, and referred reporters to a statement from chief executive CEO Michael Miller in which he denied Newes Corp was a climate change denier.

“Contrary to what some critics have argued, News Corp does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat,” he said. “However, we – as is the traditional role of a publisher- do report a variety of views and opinions on this issue and many others that are important in the public discourse on the fires.”

Rupert Murdoch has previously told shareholders “there are no climate change deniers” at the company.


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