Monday, 28 February 2022

Rupert Murdoch and climate change

Last year I watched a documentary on media mogul Rupert Murdoch, called "The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty" (Roberts, 2020). I had always thought that Mr Murdoch was a pretty cut-throat business person, but the documentary made for disturbing viewing.

What made the documentary more disturbing for me was my reflection afterward on what I had seen, and what it might mean. You see, until 2020, Mr Murdoch owned almost all media channels in New Zealand, with the exception of the government national broadcaster TNVZ, and the minor independent journalism website, The Spinoff. The two main Murdoch mastheads were The Herald, and the Dominion. The Herald is still owned by NZME, who is owned by APN News & Media (ANM), which is owned by Here, There & Everywhere (HTE), which is owned by News Corp… aka Rupert Murdoch. The Dominion was a masthead of Fairfax Media, part of the 9 Network… and owned by Rupert Murdoch. 

However, in 2020, a Kiwi consortium purchased "Stuff"; the New Zealand media properties formerly owned by Fairfax Media (cf 9 Network; cf Rupert Murdoch). Since the change of ownership, Stuff has explored their own part in taking a racist, Pākehā-centric, colonialist, right-wing view of Aotearoa. The media company is trying to atone, and to take a more balanced approach to reporting facts... as opposed to the spin provided under the previous ownership. The Dominion is back, and politically active. And appears balanced, looking at BOTH sides of issues. Long may that last.

However, the NZ Herald remains under Murdoch control. 

Mr Murdoch appears to tentacle his way in everywhere, bringing significant influence to bear on his own pet projects. For example, he believes in meritocracy. He doesn’t believe in colonialism. He doesn’t believe in climate change. That latter element in the Roberts documentary (2020) particularly worried me, as Mr Murdoch's brief airing of his views on climate change, drawn from a 2014 interview to celebrate the anniversary of the Australian, appeared to lack a scientific base, was confused, and apparently dismissive of the current evidence for this phenomenon. 

Mr Murdoch's interviewer begins by proposing a false dichotomy with business as the antithesis to climate, asking "is the balance between environmental concerns - climate change concerns on the one hand, and the need on the other hand to maintain a competitive economy and to ensure that the costs don't escalate too much - what's the way one should approach this? What's the way Australia should approach this?" (Roberts, 2020, 42:24):

Mr Murdoch replies, "I think we should approach climate change with great skepticism. Ah: climate change has been going on as long as the planet has [been] here. And there will always be a little bit of it. [...] But how much are we doing with emissions and so on? Well, as far as Australia goes, nothing in the overall picture. China, perhaps. If you are talking about environment, and health, and smoke [...] in terms of the world's temperature going up, the worst... the most alarmist things... said maybe three percent. Ah, three cents. Ah, sorry, three degrees centigrade in a hundred years. At the very most, one of those will come from man-made [activities (a guess - very hard to hear)]" (44:06).

"Now, what it means is, that if the sea level rises six inches - it's a big deal, the Maldives might disappear or something - we've got to learn that we can't mitigate that. We can't stop it. We've just got to stop building vast houses on the sea shores, umm, and go back a little bit. You know, the world has been changing for thousands and thousands of years. It's just a lot more complicated today, because we are so much more advanced." (44:43)

Contrary to Mr Murdoch's figures, recent articles suggest a potential 20 metre sea level rise (Molyneux, 2020), not six inches (150mm); with a likely 800mm rise by 2050 (The Royal Society, 2020). 

I now wonder just how much influence - perhaps better termed "how much of a handbrake hold" - Rupert Murdoch has had on climate change views and discussion in the Aotearoa media. I now suspect that his views and control of editorial content may have cost us 30 years of climate change mitigation action.

It will be interesting to see how quickly our views shift here now that we have less bias - less pollution, less interference - in our media.


Sam

References:

  • Molyneux, R. (23 January 2020). CLIMATE CHANGE: Alarming map shows the devastation rising sea levels could cause in New Zealand. NewsHub. https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2020/01/alarming-new-map-shows-the-devastation-rising-sea-levels-could-cause-in-new-zealand.html
  • Roberts, J. (2020). The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty. https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/the-rise-of-the-murdoch-dynasty/episodes/s1-e3
  • The Royal Society (March 2020). 14. How fast is sea level rising?. https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/climate-change-evidence-causes/question-14/

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