I was horrified to learn that Rupert Murdoch had bought a controlling interest in that venerable institution, National Geographic. Jennifer Ouellette explains why this is such bad news.
What does Murdoch get for his $725 million? Under the terms of the deal, Fox owns 73% of the fledgling NPG, with the National Geographic Society controlling 27%. That’s…. a little worrying, despite the fact that each partner will have equal representation on the board and governance will be shared equally between them.
It didn’t take long for people to start voicing concern. Among other things, Murdoch is on the record as a hardcore denier of the fact that humans are causing climate change. Sure, he’ll insist he’s really more of a “climate change skeptic,” and not an outright “denier.” But he’s not fooling anybody, especially when he says stuff like this:
Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here… How much of it are we doing, with emissions and so on? As far as Australia goes? Nothing in the overall picture.
Naturally there is some concern that Murdoch and his minions might be tempted to put pressure on the magazine regarding its editorial coverage, particularly on politically controversial issues like climate change. On that score, National Geographic editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg is toeing the party line, at least in her public statements. She says she thinks the deal will be “great for the magazine” and insists she’s been assured that 21st Century Fox will not interfere with the magazine’s content. Fox CEO James Murdoch and National Geographic Society chief executive Gary Knell both echoed that sentiment, swearing that there had never been interference with the content of the TV channels and the same would be true of the magazine.
Having a science denier in charge is worrisome. But, you might argue, look on the bright side: a lot of NatGeo content has been sliding into the shit already, so it can’t get worse!
We only need to look at the programming on its cable TV channels to see how the association might have an adverse impact on content over time. Back in 2013, Michael Parfit — a regular contributor to NatGeo as both a writer and a maker of TV documentaries — wrote a pained Op-Ed in the Globe and Mail decrying the proliferation of programs dominated by “ghosts, UFOs, scary cultures, doomsday, booze” on NatGeo channels in the name of “It’s just business.”
Also, this time it’s personal. I have a copy of Pharyngula on Scienceblogs (I post just the science stuff there, so if you want Pharyngula without the atheism and feminism and most of the commenters, you know where to go). Scienceblogs is owned by NatGeo, and the driving force behind the establishment of FtB was the fact that NatGeo was going to impose new Standards & Practices on us, which meant that that atheism and feminism stuff would have brought down managerial…tut-tutting (they avoided the censorship word) upon our content.
NatGeo is now owned by Rupert Murdoch, so who knows what editorial changes may occur. With any luck, nothing: Scienceblogs has been ignored by the management there for a long time, so Murdoch may not know we exist.
Let’s keep it that way, ‘k? Nobody tell him that there are science bloggers under his thumb right now.
I’m not too worried that the existing Sciencebloggers will get much editorial advice — we’re living in an atmosphere of near-total neglect there — but I wouldn’t want him to start packing the joint with denialists. I’d have to run away.