Dec 17th 2020

New research reveals massive scale of News Corp climate scepticism

The data is in: News Corp produces and amplifies climate scepticism on an industrial scale.

Lies, Debates, and Silences: How News Corp produces climate scepticism in Australia is an explosive new report, commissioned by GetUp, that reveals the staggering levels of climate scepticism peddled by major News Corp newspapers.

Read the full report here.

At the recent News Corp AGM Rupert Murdoch told shareholders, “There are no climate change deniers around [in News Corp], I can assure you.” 

But the evidence from this investigation proves him wrong. News Corp are relentlessly negative towards climate action, minimising climate damage, ridiculing people who care, questioning science, and sowing doubt and confusion. 

The exhaustive study analysed 8,612 pieces of news, opinion, editorials and letters mentioning climate change across four News Corp publications – The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, Courier Mail, and The Australian – between April 2019 and March 2020, covering the worst bushfire season on record and the massive School Strike 4 Climate protests.

It found that an astonishing 45% of all News Corp climate coverage expressed scepticism in the reality of climate change. 65% of opinion pieces were sceptical towards climate science. Of the 55% of stories that accepted climate science, there was negligible reporting of the findings of climate scientists or the impacts of climate change.

It also found:

  • Coverage of existing or potential policies to combat climate change was overwhelmingly negative. Items discussing climate action policies were more than twice as likely to be negative (57%) than positive (27%)
  • Andrew Bolt, a prominent sceptic, accounted for 12% of all climate coverage (news, features, editorials, and opinion) in the Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph, and *Courier Mail***combined**, with 405 opinion articles. In the Herald Sun alone, Bolt was responsible for 32% of all articles mentioning climate change
  • Politicians, fossil fuel companies and men were the vast majority of sources in articles about climate change. Only 6% of all sources across four News Corp publications were scientists of any kind, compared to 47% for political figures. News Corp is more than twice as likely to quote a politician than a scientist on climate change topics
  • News Corp silences and marginalises anyone that questions its narrative. News Corp's climate change coverage quotes predominantly male political voices and silences scientists, women, First Nations people and impacted communities. Just 0.2% of stories quoted First Nations sources. Only 4% of stories quoted civil society groups, compared to 18% for business sources. And just 24% of all sources across climate change stories were women.

Read the full report here.

GetUp National Director Paul Oosting said:

"The findings in Lies, Debates, and Silences are staggering, but they're not surprising. For years now, News Corp has waged a sustained, organised campaign of denial and misinformation that deceives the public, drowns out the truth and acts as a handbrake on climate action in Australia.

"The bushfires last summer were a horrific moment in our history. But even as the country was burning, News Corp newspapers were blaming the fires on arsonists and environmentalists. 

"That was the catalyst for our commissioning this report. People around the country were furious that a major media company would sow disinformation and falsehood during such a tragic event, and seek to mislead people as to the factors that helped cause it.

"As we enter another season of increasingly extreme weather events, News Corp continues to peddle misinformation, conspiracy and anti-climate interests, all while silencing scientists, civil society groups and First Nations communities fighting for climate action.

"The report lays it all out in black and white. Andrew Bolt alone produces 12% of climate coverage across News Corp's three largest tabloid newspapers. In the Herald Sun, 82% of all opinion pieces were negative towards climate change action. Half of all News Corp's news and features on climate either had just one source, or no source at all.

"No one should be in any doubt that, when it comes to climate change, News Corp acts as a PR machine for the fossil fuel industry. Governments, businesses and everyday Australians that want real action on climate change should treat them accordingly."

Investigative journalist, former Professor of Journalism at University of Technology Sydney and report co-author Wendy Bacon said:

"It is extraordinary that Australia's biggest news company chooses to produce a huge amount of inflammatory and abusive material against warnings about climate change from the world's leading scientists.

"News Corp claims to promote debate about climate change, but what we found is that rather than engage with the issues, News Corp silences and abuses scientists and those advocating for policy change, and mobilises readers against effective action to reduce carbon emissions.

"As fires burned out of control in many parts of Australia last summer, our research finds that News Corp Australia actively sought to confuse the public by campaigning against clear scientific findings that climate change is linked to more extreme weather including bushfires."

Social researcher and report co-author Arunn Jegan said:

"Our research shows that News Corp Australia publications actively produce ignorance about climate change among their readers.

"As the UN and climate scientists warn us of a climate emergency, News Corp Australia continues to downplay, lie about, and encourage negative sentiments towards climate action. 

"It begs the question, how much of a role has News Corp's editorial strategy had in the Australian government's inadequate policy response to climate change? How can Australians make informed choices if their media lies to them about climate change?"

Full report available here.

Media contact: Alex McKinnon 0411 829 334

Spokespeople available for interview:

Paul Oosting, National Director at Getup
Wendy Bacon, investigative journalist, former Professor of Journalism at University of Technology Sydney and report co-author
Arunn Jegan, humanitarian aid coordinator, social researcher and report co-author