Study Finds News Corp. Climate Coverage Is “Overwhelmingly Misleading”

A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that coverage of climate science by Fox News and the Wall Street Journal -- both owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation -- has been "overwhelmingly misleading," despite Murdoch's 2007 pledge that his media outlets will treat manmade climate change as “a fact.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed six months of Fox News coverage and found that 93% of representations of climate science were “misleading.” These segments either broadly dismissed the scientific consensus that manmade climate change is occurring, or drowned out accurate information on climate science with misleading claims.

These findings echo a 2011 study published in The International Journal Of Press/Politics which found that compared to other cable networks, “Fox broadcasts were more likely to include statements that challenged the scientific agreement on climate change, undermined the reality of climate change, and questioned its human causes.” This is no surprise considering that Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directed Fox News reporters in 2009 to cast doubt on the basic fact that the planet has warmed. Indeed, Fox regularly distorts climate research, cherry-picks stories to cast doubt on climate change, and turns climate change into a punch line.

UCS also examined the Wall Street Journal's opinion section and found that over the past year, 81% of the representations of climate science either cherry picked data, attacked individual scientists, or otherwise “attempted to broadly undermine the major conclusions of climate science.” This is consistent with the Journal's history of casting doubt on established science to undermine action on climate change, acid rain, and ozone depletion, as a recent Media Matters analysis found. In the last year the Journal published a op-ed by non-experts that misled readers on climate science, but declined to publish an op-ed by a physicist who studied the issue and re-confirmed the temperature record.

The report added that both outlets were guilty of “promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context.” Both outlets falsely claimed that the so-called “Climategate” controversy showed climate scientists deceitfully manipulating data to promote a political agenda. Fox continues to push this claim even though multiple investigations into “Climategate” found no evidence of wrongdoing by scientists. And when the hacker released more “Climategate” emails last year, both outlets distorted them again.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has called on News Corp. to conduct “a thorough examination of how its media outlets portray climate science and to develop standards and practices for communicating the subject to its audiences.” It added that “News Corp. needs to help its staff to differentiate between ideological beliefs and scientific facts.” The organization is circulating a petition that you can sign here.