Advertisers chip in as News repositions on climate change

Readers and national advertisers joined with News Corp today in a unique effort expected to raise a million dollars for Australia's bushfire recovery.

Proceeds from advertising and copy sales of today's metro tabloids and tomorrow's Weekly Times have been pledged to recovery efforts, on top of millions donated by the company and by Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and their wives.

The Brisbane Courier-Mail I saw was boosted to 96 pages - unprecedented for a contemporary Tuesday edition - thanks to more than two dozen pages bought by retail and corporate advertisers, and a few more for the house ads of News and its subsidiaries.

A nice touch was a six-page supplement dedicated to readers' messages, including a neat parody on the Dorothea Mackellar classic most people know from its second verse, "I love a sunburnt country".

News says it expects proceeds from Tuesday's (and Wednesday's Weekly Times) advertising and copy sales to exceed A$1 million. No matter what that says about the profitability of weekday publishing across the group's highest-profile Australian papers; it's a sizeable sum, and with those of the group and its top executives, will bring donations to more than A$10 million.

Meanwhile there are signs that News Corp is moving from the climate change "denial" - which last week even brought criticism from Rupert's younger son James Murdoch and his wife Kathryn - to a more sustainable denial that climate change is wholly to blame for the fires themselves.

Everyone else from Murdoch senior down will tell you that News isn't a denier, more of a sceptic, while its publications focus on the short-term commercial cost of change... promoting the sort of inaction that has had Greta Thunberg and her younger generation screaming, "How dare you!"

The argument that the hotter climate - exacerbated by unseasonal extremes - is not the only cause of crisis-level fires is more supportable, with high fuel loads caused by changed government policies, neglect and arsonists among others.

And just as Australia's Reserve Bank is using the bushfire opportunity to set the scene for a move from super-low interest rates, it appears News has grabbed the chance to reposition itself from a stance on climate change which may finally have put it on the back foot. Given the media monopoly News still enjoys, that's no bad thing.

Peter Coleman

Pictured: Front page of Tuesday's Courier-Mail and a pledge from News Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller

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