News coverage of Australian bushfires highlight Murdoch family rift on climate

(Reuters) - The younger son and daughter-in-law of News Corp Executive Chairman and Fox Corporation Co-Chairman Rupert Murdoch took aim at both organizations’ coverage of climate change, widely viewed as a contributing factor to the Australian bushfires, in a statement to The Daily Beast on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: James Murdoch, the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and his wife Kathryn arrive for a reception to celebrate the wedding between Rupert Murdoch and former supermodel Jerry Hall in London, Britain March 5, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

“Kathryn and James (Murdoch’s) views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” a spokesperson for the couple told The Daily Beast, and later confirmed the statement’s accuracy to Reuters.

“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial (of the role of climate change) among the news outlets in Australia, given obvious evidence to the contrary.”

Bushfires have raged in Australia since September, claiming the lives of 28 people, destroying more than 2,500 homes and wiping out forests and farmland the size of Bulgaria.

Critics of News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, say it has participated in the spread of misinformation about the fires and has downplayed the impact of climate change on them.

James Murdoch sits on News Corp’s board and is chief executive of private investment company Lupa Systems. His older brother Lachlan is co-chairman of News Corp and chief executive of Fox Corporation.

Kathryn Murdoch has, in the past months, become more vocal about her decade-plus work as a climate activist.

A News Corp spokesperson declined to comment on James and Kathryn Murdoch’s statement to The Daily Beast.

Addressing News Corp’s coverage of the wildfires, he directed Reuters to a Jan. 11 editorial in the News Corp-owned newspaper The Australian, which said:

“In our coverage, The Australian’s journalists report facts about how to tackle bushfires and about how to deal with the impact of climate change. Second, we host debates reflecting the political division that exists in Australia about how to address climate change without destroying our economy.”

“However, our factual account of bushfires, climate change and the remedies, as well as our editorial commentary on these issues, have been wilfully and ineptly misrepresented by The New York Times and Guardian Australia as climate denial.”

Reporting by Helen Coster; Editing by Bernadette Baum