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News Corp Australia won’t muzzle commentators as it ramps up climate coverage

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News Corp Australia has confirmed it will ramp up its company-wide coverage of climate change next month but says its stable of commentators won’t be “muzzled”.

The executive chairman of News Corp Australasia, Michael Miller, says the mastheads will cover “all views” and “not just the popular ones”, indicating the Murdoch empire may continue its pattern of climate science denial and ridicule towards climate action.

“All our commentators and columnists will be encouraged to participate, and their views will not be muzzled,” Miller told staff on Friday, several days after a report in the Nine papers claimed News was going to end its longstanding editorial hostility towards carbon reduction policies.

Miller denied Nine’s claim that conservative commentators would be expected to tone down and reframe their political arguments.

The Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt, who describes global warming as a “cult of the elites”, and the Daily Telegraph’s Tim Blair, who says the climate emergency is “bogus”, will apparently be free to continue to undermine the science.

Miller said the editorial campaign was just like other campaigns, including the recent one on vaccination, and was not in response to outside pressure such as advertiser concern.

“Our plans are not in response to any advertiser questions or concerns,” Miller said.

“No doubt other media and social platform users will try to take issue with our coverage and attempt to make News the story, however we have never been afraid of pushing boundaries and facilitating tough and uncomfortable conversations.

“We will endeavour to ensure that all views, not just the popular ones, are heard.”

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Miller said it was audiences from across the company’s 117 mastheads who said caring for the environment was a priority.

“They have told us that they are interested in the issues, the political and personal choices, as well as the costs and tradeoffs involved,” he said. “They also want to know more about how their choices can help make the planet a better, greener place.”

Two years ago the News Corp executive chairman, Rupert Murdoch, said “there are no climate change deniers around I can assure you”, after he was asked at the corporation’s AGM why his company gives them “so much airtime” in Australia.

But the declaration from the top did little to change the tone of the editorial coverage.

An op-ed by Prof Ian Plimer published in 2019 in The Australian was condemned as blatantly false by climate scientists.

It was later found to have breached standards by the Australian Press Council.

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Titled ‘Let’s not pollute minds with carbon fears’ it argued that there “are no carbon emissions. If there were, we could not see because most carbon is black. Such terms are deliberately misleading, as are many claims.”

Sky News Australia’s chief executive, Paul Whittaker, told a parliamentary hearing this week that the channel’s contribution to the editorial campaign would be a documentary on net zero.

Miller said the coverage would feature “leaders in the field, as well as a diverse range of perspectives”.

“I am personally supportive of a net zero target and I would like to reiterate that News Corp recognises climate change and acknowledges that it is having an impact,” he said.

“I am proud of the work News Corp Australia has done over many years to protect our environment and plan for the future.”

The company is going to restart an environmental initiative from 2007, 1 Degree, as part of an ongoing drive for the company to be carbon neutral.

The campaign will run from mid-October, in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

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