Malcolm Turnbull accused Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp of eroding democracy in the United States and Australia by dividing people and undermining institutions with lies and right-wing populist ideology.
The former Australian prime minister said in a parliamentary inquiry that Donald Trump’s presidency was to some extent a creation of the media mogul and that the attack on the US Congress in January was a consequence of partisan campaigns led by Murdoch’s Fox News.
“What does Vladimir Putin want to do with his operations in America? He wants to divide America and turn Americans against each other, ”said Turnbull, an acerbic critic of Murdoch, born in Australia, whom he has known for 45 years.
“That’s exactly what Murdoch did: divide Americans against each other and undermine their faith in political institutions so much that a crowd of thousands, many of them armed, stormed the Capitol.
Turnbull, who blamed News Corp for its oust as Prime Minister in a Liberal Party coup in 2018, News Corp’s alleged media has been “totally free from the truth.” He also questioned whether Fox News’ relationship with Trump was comparable to that of state media in an authoritarian country, apologizing for and ignore his favorite government.
“I’ve been hanging around among billionaire media owners for a long time. I have never seen a politician as respectful to a media owner as Trump was to Murdoch, ever, in any country, ”he said. “Murdoch’s media in the United States had a symbiotic relationship with Trump.”
News Corp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Turnbull compared News Corp to a political party that was accountable to no one. He alleged that the group’s media in the United States and Australia encouraged climate denial, incited animosity towards minorities, especially Muslims, and peddled untruths, including that President Joe Biden had stole the election of Trump.
“If you don’t think this is a threat to American democracy and that it undermines the strength and capabilities of our most important ally, then, you know, you are wrong,” Turnbull told MPs.
The former Australian prime minister has been invited to testify as part of a parliamentary inquiry launched after a petition the call for an investigation into Murdoch’s media empire collected 500,000 signatures.
News Corp executives told the inquiry in February that the company had not engaged in a “character assassination” or told its editors what to post. Both charges were brought by Kevin Rudd, another former Australian Prime Minister and author of the petition.
Michael Miller, chief executive of News Corp Australia, dismissed claims that the company was too dominant in the country or had launched a “disinformation campaign” concerning deadly bushfires last year, which were partly due to climate change.
“[Murdoch] clearly, we are not climate change deniers. Climate change is real, ”Miller said.
News Corp has a 59 percent share of the metropolitan and national print media market in Australia and derives 40 percent of television revenue through its Foxtel pay-TV service, according to a report released Monday.
“News Corp’s dominance in multimedia contexts is unprecedented in liberal democracies,” said the report commissioned by GetUP, an activist group, and led by academics at the University of Sydney.
Turnbull told MPs that News Corp’s dominance allows it to put pressure on Canberra, citing the example of a controversial law who forced Facebook and Google to pay media groups for news on their platforms. “It looked like a shakedown,” he says.
“The most powerful political actor in Australia is not the Liberal Party or the National Party or the Labor Party, it is News Corporation,” Turnbull added. “And it’s totally irresponsible. It is controlled by an American family and their interests are no longer, if they ever were, coextensive with ours.