17. October 2021
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News Corp global boss Robert Thomson to give evidence at Senate inquiry into media diversity

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News Corp global boss Robert Thomson to give evidence at Senate inquiry into media diversity

News Corp Global chief executive Robert Thomson will face questions about the company’s net zero climate campaign in Australia and his meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in New York last month when he appears before a Senate inquiry into media diversity next week.

Mr Thomson is scheduled to given evidence at a Senate hearing next Friday after News Corp chairman Lachlan Murdoch knocked back a request by the communications committee to appear last month.

News Corp global CEO Robert Thomson will give evidence to the Senate’s media diversity inquiry next week.

News Corp global CEO Robert Thomson will give evidence to the Senate’s media diversity inquiry next week.Credit:Reuters

“The committee will have serious questions for Mr Thomson about the organisation culture and business model that News Corp employs both in Australia and around the world given evidence we have heard about the treatment of women, the use of their platforms for character assassination of individuals and the COVID disinformation shared on Sky News that resulted in the broadcaster being banned from YouTube,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the committee’s chair, said.

She said the committee would also question the US-based executive about the company’s “Mission Zero” campaign series being run in its Australian metro tabloids, including The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun.

“This sudden change has come just weeks after Mr Thomson met with PM Scott Morrison in New York, a meeting that seemed to confirm the cosy relationship between Australia’s largest media corporation and our Prime Minister,” she said.

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News Corp Australia has been contacted for comment.

News Corp Australia launched its “Mission Zero” campaign this week, amid a standoff between the Liberals and Nationals over locking in a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November. Mr Morrison dined with Mr Thomson in New York last month before meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

The two-week editorial series, which began with a 16-page wrap around every tabloid on Monday and a website called “Mission Zero 2050”, marks a departure from the company’s long-held editorial hostility towards carbon reduction policies and its repeated attacks on various federal governments efforts to reduce emissions. The series focus on ways to reduce carbon emissions and features leaders such as Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and is led by News Corp columnist Joe Hildebrand.

Prominent tabloid and Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt said this week the series was “rubbish” and that the “global warming propaganda” provided political cover for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The role and impact of the Murdoch empire on Australia’s media landscape has been a key focus of inquiry, which was established last year by the Labor and Greens-dominated committee off the back of online petition by former prime minister Kevin Rudd calling a royal commission into Murdoch’s influence.

Mr Thomson will be the fourth, but most senior executive, from the News Corp stable to give evidence at the inquiry. Australian executives Michael Miller and Campbell Reid, and Sky News Australia boss Paul Whittaker have defended the company at previous hearings.

In an appearance last month, Mr Whittaker disputed claims the network had broadcast misinformation about COVID-19 after YouTube deleted 23 videos from Sky’s channel on the platform for containing a range of alleged misinformation. He asserted the network’s presenters were justified in airing views on hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin in 2020, saying there were worldwide studies into the drugs at the time.

Mr Rudd, who regards the Murdoch empire as “a cancer on our democracy”, has twice given evidence heavily criticising the company. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has also appeared, labelling the company “the most powerful political actor in Australia” and “utterly unaccountable”.

Executives from other media outlets, including Nine Entertainment Co, publisher of this masthead, Guardian Australia, and Australian Associated Press have also given evidence on the broader question of whether Australia’s media landscape is too concentrated.

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Mike Phillips


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