Further setbacks for Murdoch and News Corp and why it’s a climate issue

Climate Economy

Further setbacks for Murdoch and News Corp and why it’s a climate issue

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His media empire — a mega climate obfuscator for decades — pays out millions in U.S. defamation settlement, and quietly drops its suit against Australian publisher.

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have seen the Murdoch settlement of $787.5 million with Dominion Voting Systems and the sacking of Tucker Carlson at Fox News. But did you know that Lachlan Murdoch just backed down in his legal challenge to a small and feisty political media outfit in Australia called Crikey

Crikey.com, and its political editor Bernard Keane are celebrating the recent news that the Murdochs have decided to drop a defamation case they brought last August against the news site for an incendiary story that infuriated the media moguls.

The story’s headline, “Trump is a confirmed unhinged traitor. And Murdoch is his unindicted co-conspirator,” and a gutsy decision to purchase a full-page advertisement in the New York Times inviting the Murdoch’s to sue them received worldwide attention — and a Murdoch slander suit. The Crikey team hoped that a legal cause would require disclosure of all of the details of the outlet’s behind-the-scenes decision-making during the U.S. Capital attack. 

See our related story “The world’s most dangerous predatory climate delayers

As the months dragged on and other cases took precedence, Crikey took the opportunity to bring fresh information from the Dominion case to its amended defence, while Murdoch’s lawyers bleated that doing so would prolong the trial.

The rope-a-dope legal strategy worked. Last week, Murdoch dropped the case. It’s quite a PR setback for the world’s most powerful media empire. 

Former Australian prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have criticised the Murdoch media’s heavy hand in Australian elections.

It may also reflect a new willingness to challenge the world’s greatest media bully. In Australia, it’s not just Crikey that has expressed deep concern about Murdoch’s subversion of democracy. A new Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation found Murdoch’s Sky News inaccurately reporting on climate change after more than 80 complaints were submitted by former Australian prime minister and now Ambassador to the U.S., Kevin Rudd.

The ACMA found four episodes of Sky’s program Outsiders that aired in late 2021 failed the media regulator’s code of practice “around accuracy and clearly distinguishing” facts from commentary in the show’s coverage of climate change. The network now has four months to undertake an internal review and report back to the regulator with its findings. Time to bring in more lawyers.

Another former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a strong advocate for climate action during his tenure, was outspoken after the decision saying the network systematically spreads lies. Best coverage of the media watchdog’s climate crackdown? A freshly empowered Crikey, or course.

The public criticism of two former Australian prime ministers across the country’s two major political parties of the Murdoch media’s heavy hand in Australia’s elections is damning. Turnbull told an Australian Senate inquiry that he blamed News Corp for being a key player in his removal as prime minister in 2018. He called News Corp a threat to the country’s democracy and “utterly unaccountable.”

All this matters in the global climate fight. No media empire has done more to cast doubt on the science, question the intentions of those pushing for a transition from fossil fuels and personally attacked the reputations of climate campaigners than the global media outlets owned by Murdoch.

As “Crikey’s core business [is] holding the powerful to account,” Bernard Keane wrote after Murdoch dropped the case. “Perhaps Murdoch assumed we’d roll over…Instead we worked out a battle plan, called on our subscribers and took our case public.” 

No media empire has done more to cast doubt on the science, question the intention of those pushing for a transition from fossil fuels and personally attack climate campaigners…

Perhaps it’s time for media large and small everywhere in the world to follow Crikey’s example. 

Fearless independent media is a crucial element of any global climate solution. So too is finding new sources of revenue for independent media that have seen a near collapse of their business model since the rise of Google, Facebook and free online media.

Calling Murdoch’s bluff is a great step forward. Now, it’s time to look for new ways to ensure a growing independent media ecosystem at a time when freedom of the press has never been more important to the issue of climate change and, frankly, everything else.

Featured photo: Crikey via Twitter

Written by

Blair Palese

Blair Palese is co-founder and managing editor at Climate & Capital Media. She is also director of philanthropy at Australia's oldest ethical financial adviser. Previously she co-founded 350.org Australia and was CEO for ten years. She was head of PR for The Body Shop and communications director at Greenpeace internationally and in the US. Blair has worked for media outlets including Greenpages Magazine, the Washington Monthly and ABC in the U.S.