How Murdoch’s Aussie Papers Cover Climate Change – NCPR News from NPR
Bacon, a professor of journalism at the University of Technology in Sydney, commissioned researchers and graduate students to examine six months’ worth of every article, feature piece, editorial and columns in 10 leading Australian papers on a proposal by the governing Labor Party to tax carbon emissions.
“What our study showed is that the majority of Australians are not getting a balanced or diverse view on a policy which was designed — at least in a small way — to tackle this problem,” Bacon said.
Seven of the 10 papers studied were part of News Corp.’s Australian newspaper arm, News Limited. The overwhelming majority of newspapers sold in the country are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s company. With such dominance of the press, the Murdoch papers draw careful scrutiny of how they cover sensitive issues.
Influence On Public Opinion
During my time in Australia, journalists said the Murdoch papers, to varying degrees, are receptive to those who question the science underlying projections of climate change.
That holds true from the populist tabloids to the respected, if combative, national newspaper The Australian — even if the Oz, as it’s commonly called, has more nuanced and extensive coverage. (News Limited’s paper in the Tasmanian state capital of Hobart, where residents are more liberal, is seen to take a more pro-environmental tack.)
Bacon said she wanted to see if those papers’ coverage fit or disproved that anecdotal impression. The study found News Limited exceeded it. Researchers were told to characterize stories as neutral if there was any doubt about their thrust, and a sizable number were characterized that way. Still, negative articles about the proposed carbon emissions tax in Murdoch’s newspapers outweighed positive ones 82 percent to 18 percent.
The remaining papers were more balanced, with the two papers from rival Fairfax Media offering slightly favorable coverage overall. But much of the coverage was based on slight sourcing and conveyed the sense that there was a scientific debate over climate change — not just a political one over what, if anything, to do about it.