James Murdoch Slams Family’s News Outlets for Fire Coverage

Gerry Smith

(Bloomberg) -- James Murdoch criticized the coverage of Australia’s wildfires by his own family’s news outlets, exposing a rift in the media empire built by his billionaire father, Rupert Murdoch.

In a statement originally reported by the Daily Beast, a representative for James said that he and his wife, Kathryn, have taken issue with climate coverage by the family’s businesses, including News Corp. and Fox Corp. Stories on the fires in particular have promoted the denial of climate change, the statement suggests.

“Kathryn and James’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,” the representative said. “They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”

James, 47, stepped down as chief executive officer of 21st Century Fox Inc. after it sold the bulk of its operations to Walt Disney Co. last year. The remaining business, now called Fox Corp., is run by his older brother, Lachlan.

James remains on the board of News Corp., which split from Fox in 2013 and owns newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, the Australian and the New York Post.

News Corp. declined to comment to Bloomberg News. The company said on Monday that it would donate A$5 million ($3.1 million) to Australian fire relief.

James has set out to build his own collection of businesses through an investment firm called Lupa Systems. He’s acquired stakes in varied companies, including Vice Media and the Void, which focuses on virtual-reality entertainment.

Along the way, he’s increasingly shown independence from the family business, including Fox News, which is known for its conservative commentary. At a conference in October, he praised Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg and said he doesn’t watch Fox News.

The Australian drew outcry for reports blaming the fire crisis on arsonists, rather than the effects of climate change. In an editorial last week, the newspaper said its coverage has acknowledged global warming and has been misinterpreted by publications such as the Guardian and New York Times.

“Right now, social media is driving a campaign of outrage in which an alleged right-wing conspiracy of climate denialism is framed as the key obstacle on the path to a better future,” the editorial read. “For all the clicks, this represents few people and no constructive ideas. We should not allow noise to deafen us to this opportunity for a serious conversation.”

(Updates with Australian editorial in final two paragraphs)

--With assistance from Christopher Palmeri.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerry Smith in New York at gsmith233@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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