activism

Extinction Rebellion takes aim at UK newspaper distribution and the Murdoch empire

An XR activist during the protest at a UK news distribution center. Photo credit: Extinction Rebellion / Gareth Morris,

By Anders Lorenzen

The climate grassroots protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) earlier this month launched a set of direct actions aimed at disrupting media mogul’s Rupert Murdoch’s news organisations, accusing them of climate change untruths and denial. However, climate advocates are warning that XR’s actions could be counterproductive.

Delaying the delivery of newspapers

Last week nearly 80 XR activists blocked the roads to the distribution centres of News UK, the publisher of The Sun, The Times and the Telegraph near London and Liverpool. These centres also housed the Daily Mail and The London Evening Standard. 

XR are blaming the right-wing news outlets for a lack of urgency in their coverage about climate change and accused them of a negative bias in their coverage of the UK’s immigration policy, the rights and treatment of minority groups and dozens of other issues. XR activist, Gully Bujak added: “You cannot have a functioning democracy with a mainstream media that is ruled by a small, unrepresentative sect of society, who are in bed with politicians and the fossil fuel industry. The climate emergency is an existential threat to humanity. Instead of publishing this on the front page every day as it deserves, much of our media ignores the issue and some actively sow seeds of climate denial”.

Could be counterproductive

But not everyone agrees. Richard Black, former BBC Environment Correspondent and founder of the climate communications watchdog The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) explained in a Telegraph article that in the UK the Murdoch press are progressively moving away from their climate-denying views and argued the XR action could be counterproductive as they actually stopped climate news being delivered.

Murdoch’s do not agree about climate coverage

Many would argue though that XR are raising valid concerns that the Murdoch organisation as a whole are funding climate denial and aims to sow doubt about climate science. Earlier this year Rupert Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch, once destined to take over the leadership of the news conglomerate, resigned due to their ongoing climate denial, particularly in Australia where the Murdoch newspaper, The Australian played down the role of climate change in the catastrophic and devastating wildfires. And based on previous Rupert Murdoch statements, there is be little doubt that he holds climate denialist views. 

The protest group had a clear message for Murdoch senior: “To Rupert Murdoch, we say: we are not sorry for disrupting your business. Stop suppressing the truth about the climate crisis and profiting from the division your papers create.” 

Meanwhile, the Murdoch-backed Conservative government condemned the actions with Home Secretary Priti Patel going as far as to say the group should be classed as a criminal organisation. 

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