Media Analysis

Murdoch unlikely to stop climate fibs despite $1.2 billion cost of lies

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Rupert Murdoch, pictured with sons Lachlan (left) and James (right), has paid over a billion dollars for spreading lies (Screenshot via YouTube)

After paying a massive legal settlement for lies over the 2020 Presidential Election, Fox News isn't likely to stop spreading climate misinformation, writes Steve Bishop.

THE FAILURE of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News to tell its viewers and readers it had repeatedly lied to them about claims the 2020 U.S. Federal Election had been stolen from President Donald Trump signals that his Sky News Australia is unlikely to stop lying about climate change science.

On Wednesday, it was announced by Delaware judge Eric M Davis that a settlement had been reached between Dominion Voting Systems and Fox News on Dominion's claim that Fox had published false and defamatory statements of fact about it.

Court documents note that Dominion had argued that people at Fox, including Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and Fox hosts, knew at all relevant times that the allegations of Dominion “rigging the Election” were false and baseless.

Judge Davis said it was crystal clear none of those statements was true.

Why did Fox lie to its viewers and readers?

The court documents give the answer:

‘...in response to intense backlash from viewers after the Election and declining ratings and profits, Dominion asserts that Fox chose to “straddle the line” and publish the Statements to win back viewers.’

In other words, rather than present facts, Fox chose to lie in order to preserve ratings and profits.

Major newspapers and television stations such as the New York Times, CNN and even Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, Sydney's Daily Telegraph and The Times all featured the story.

But could it have been a continuing fear of losing viewers and readers that resulted in Fox displaying no apology on its news pages for having lied on many occasions that the 2020 Election was stolen from President Trump?

All that anyone accessing news from Fox would have learned from a 160-word story on its news pages was that some of Trump's allies:

‘...including members of his legal team, made false and unsubstantiated claims against Dominion Voting Systems.’

There was no mention in the story that Fox had repeatedly aired those claims despite knowing them to be lies.

The lies cost Fox AU$1.2 billion in the settlement but that does not mean Murdoch is going to stop Sky News Australia lying about climate change.

Whereas in the USA Judge Davis found Fox had defamed Dominion, Sky News does not name the world's climate scientists it accuses of fraud. And who would have the resources and inclination to sue?

Both stations serve evening diets of conspiracy theories — in the USA that the 2020 Election was stolen from Trump and in Australia that climate science is a hoax

Pollster PRRI found in 2021, 82% of Fox viewers say ‘the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen from Donald Trump’ compared to around three in ten Americans (31%).

Emails revealed in court documents show Rupert Murdoch was personally involved in decision-making at Fox for many weeks and could have intervened had he chosen to do so.

Why would he intervene to stop the lies on Sky when it thrives on its climate lies? He would not want to alienate viewers by suddenly admitting that the world's climate scientists are right and his scientifically illiterate deniers are wrong.

In Australia, the News and Media Centre at Canberra University found that 35% of Sky viewers don't think climate change is important whereas only 18% of the general public feel that way.

The survey reported:

‘Commercial AM, Sky News and Fox News consumers are more likely to think climate change is not a serious problem. These brands are known for their high-profile presenters who challenge the scientific consensus on climate change.’

When the international Institute for Strategic Dialogue examined in 2022 the way in which the world's media reported climate change it carried a special “in-depth case study” of Sky News.

It found:

The channel provides a platform for many of Australia’s most significant climate delayers and those representing fossil fuel interests, including industry associations like the NSW Minerals Council. Other fringe figures and climate deniers use content from Sky News Australia to make their case — this includes Patrick Moore, Norwegian climate denier Per Strandberg and UK-based “libertarian” James Delingpole...

 

This forms part of a broader system of content production and distribution, along with News Corp papers, to promote scepticism of climate science and fear or confusion around mitigation efforts.

How blatant are the lies?

Rowan Dean states as a fact on Sky [3.33 into video]: “...there is still no evidence” of “anthropogenic [human-induced] global warming” despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finding in 2013:

‘It is unequivocal that anthropogenic increases in the well-mixed greenhouse gases have substantially enhanced the greenhouse effect and the resulting forcing continues to increase.’

And there is no attempt on Sky to question absurd statements made by guests.

Far from it. When United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly lied that most of the USA’s hottest years on record had occurred in the 1930s and that only two U.S. states have had their hottest years this century.

One of the presenters, Chris Kenny, commented:

“We need to get Craig in the schools of Australia.”

To which co-host Rita Panahi added:

“Just teaching facts like that.”

Steve Bishop is a journalist and author. You can read more from Steve at stevebishop.net

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