4.5 Attitude Towards Climate Action/Efforts
In this section we are reporting on how the four News Corp publications approached policy and action to address climate change. These findings need to be considered in light of the high level of scepticism about climate science presented in the previous section.
Articles were interpreted and coded as to whether they were positive, negative, neutral, or ‘N/A’ towards climate action/efforts. To establish this, the following identifiers were used to categorise policies and actions to address climate change.
- Policies and actions that aim to reduce carbon emissions by limiting fossil fuels and transitioning towards the use of renewable sources of energy including wind and solar.
- Activism, campaigns, and movements in support of action on climate change and reduction of carbon emissions.
- Climate change policies where the individual consumer is the priority and the global humanitarian imperative of emissions reductions are not ignored.
- Energy related policies which are a part of climate change policies to reduce emissions.
In our study, 13% of items about climate change did not relate to climate action of any kind, leaving 7,497 items, which are the focus of this section.
Fifty-seven percent of items were negative towards climate action/efforts, with only 27% positive, and 17% were coded as neutral. The most negative was The Daily Telegraph with only 22% of items communicating a positive attitude towards climate change efforts.
When types of items are analysed, it is clear that reportage (news and features) is more likely to be more positive or neutral than commentary (opinion, editorials and letters).
In fact, opinion pieces were more than twice as likely to be negative towards climate action than news stories, and news items were twice as likely to be positive than opinion pieces.
These findings suggest that News Corp’s news reporters are more balanced in their approach to action to address climate change. For example, despite tirades by opinion writers against Extinction Rebellion protesters (Section 6.4), some junior reporters doing live reporting at protests included quotes from protesters about the reasons for their attendance.
The features were more positive (54%) with only 20% negative and 26% neutral. Many of these were smaller profiles in which interviewees expressed positive sentiments towards action on climate change. For example, in the Arts section of the Courier Mail, Indigenous actor Lisa Maza was asked, in an interview promoting the Brisbane Arts Festival, to name the most pressing issue facing the community. She replied, ‘Global warming and the destruction of our planet. The fact that so many of our leaders think money is more important than human beings is a problem’ (‘Centre Stage’, Courier Mail, 14 September 2019).
Negative commentary drives the coverage
Scepticism and negative commentary about climate policy issues and action to address the problem overwhelms the more balanced reportage. Publication design and cross promotion between News Corp columnists and videos from Sky After Dark strengthen the cumulative impact on publications. There is a strong interaction between opinion and letters, creating an impression that readers are being mobilised to defend assaults on their ideas and values. Audience engagement is heightened by the use of emotive and abusive labels applied to the columnists’ targets (see Section 6.4).
The patterns of negativity were broadly similar across the publications. However there were differences:
- The Daily Telegraph (81%) and the Herald Sun (83%) were even more biased in their opinion pieces against action to address climate change than the other publications.
- The Daily Telegraph (86%) also had the highest proportion of negative letters. Only 9% were positive and 5% neutral.
- The Australian (83%) had a higher proportion of negative letters than the Courier Mail or the Herald Sun.
- The letters in the Herald Sun stood out as less biased than The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, and Courier Mail with 57% negative, 33% positive, and 10% neutral.
4.6.2 Is negative bias stronger in some themes than others?
Where relevant, we compared the attitude towards climate action varied across different reporting themes already discussed in Section 4.3.
Of 1,308 items where an attitude to business was relevant, 43% were positive to action on climate, 37% were negative and 20% were neutral. This was the only topic group in which items were more likely to be positive than negative. The majority of these items were in The Australian, of which 45% were positive, 33% were negative, and 22% were neutral.
These findings will be further explored in Section 6.3.
Climate change protest and movements
Of 1,648 items where an attitude to protest and movements was relevant, 70% were negative, 13% were neutral, and 18% were positive. Items were four times more likely to be negative than positive.
Of 369 items in The Daily Telegraph, 77% were negative, compared to 14% positive, and 9% were neutral. The Daily Telegraph was the most biased against protest and movements to address climate change, and was over three times more likely to be negative than either neutral or positive. This was driven by opinion pieces, as news tended to be more balanced with 39% negative, 33% positive, and 27% neutral.
These findings will be further discussed in Section 6.3.
Of 2,843 items with a political theme where an attitude was relevant, 59% were negative, 21% were positive, and 20% were neutral. The items were more likely to be negative than either positive or neutral combined. The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun were most negative (63% each) towards action to address climate change in their coverage of politics.
These findings will be further discussed in Section 6.4.
Of 3,029 items with a policy theme where an attitude was relevant, 57% were negative, 16% were neutral, and 27% were positive. Once again The Daily Telegraph was the most negative publication on policy with 62% negative, 22% positive, and 16% neutral.
Coverage of policy issues was strongly connected to political coverage and had a focus on national domestic politics. Many of these articles were both sceptical on the science and negatively biased on policy issues.
- Overall, the four publications were more likely to be negative towards action to address climate change than either neutral or positive.
- Reportage was more balanced than commentary.
- With its powerful, emotive tone, prominence and promotion, opinion tends to overwhelm the news.
- Features was the only category that was comprehensively more positive.
- As with scepticism, the negativity is driven by commentary in opinion pieces, editorials and letters.
- The Daily Telegraph is the publication that is most biased against action on climate.
- Business coverage (which mostly appears in The Australian) is more balanced than other coverage.
- Coverage of protest and movements calling for action on climate change.