News Corp. Sets 'Green' Goals

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. joins the growing list of corporations that want to go green. It wants to be "carbon neutral" by 2010. News Corp. is using its entertainment products (movies and TV shows) to push a green message.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's follow up now, on some media news. Rupert Murdoch's News Corps said this spring it wants green. The company wants to be carbon neutral by 2010.

Many companies have set similar goals, but Nate DiMeo reports the difference is News Corps' ability to promote a green message.

NATE DIMEO: When Rupert Murdoch announced News Corp.'s environmental plans, he made it clear that his ambition stretched far beyond getting his own house in order.

Mr. RUPERT MURDOCH (Chairman; CEO, News Corporation): Our audience's carbon footprint is 10,000 times bigger than ours. That's the carbon footprint we want to conquer.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

DIMEO: At the production offices of the animated program "Futurama," News Corp. Corporate is meeting with News Corp. Creative. Every service is cluttered with the action figures, old magazines and trans fat-filled snack food that seem to constitute the favorite decor of the nation's television writers.

(Soundbite of crowd chatter)

DIMEO: Meetings like this one have become regular fairs in Hollywood. Lately, three News Corp. employees and an Earth scientist they have in tow, have been flying from headquarters in New York to talk to the staffs of all the Fox's television programs. They're basically just brainstorming sessions. The company wants the writers and producers to know that corporate wants more content about energy conservation and climate change in its entertainment programs.

Rachel Webber(ph) is part of the New York contingent.

Ms. RACHEL WEBBER (News Corporation, New York): It doesn't necessarily have to be about the lead character, having a whole plotline about rising sea levels and the insurance rates on his beach property home.

DIMEO: She says it could be a product placement. It could just be a joke about saving paper. It could be just about anything, but she says it's definitely not a mandate. No one in News Corp. will tell anyone at Fox that Dr. House must identify this week's mystery illness using a solar-powered CAT scan. But she says if they can all going to come out with creative ways to weave environmental information into its content, then people might change the way they think about energy use and News Corp.

(Soundbite of "The Simpsons" animated TV show)

Ms. NANCY CARTWRIGHT (as Bart Simpson): And then I had this dream that my whole family was just cartoon characters, and that our success had led to some crazy propaganda network called Fox News.

Professor JOE PRIESTER (Business, University of Southern California): I think this could be one of the most brilliant strategic moves I've every heard of.

DIMEO: Joe Priester is business professor at USC. He says that a lot of News Corps audience feels alienated by the content of its conservative and often aggressively anti-environmentalist Fox News network.

Prof. PRIESTER: They already have won over sort of a more politically conservative camp. And there's nothing that they can probably do to really alienate themselves from that camp.

DIMEO: Now, he says, by taking on a traditionally liberal issue in a real way, that might win over some formerly hostile consumers. Some longtime critics are not there yet. For instance, groups including the Sierra Club are calling for boycott of Home Depot as long as that company continues to advertise on Fox News.

Mr. JON COIFMAN (Spokesman, Natural Resources Defense Council): You know, is a company, you know, really going to do what they're going to say they're doing or they're looking to green themselves up.

DIMEO: Jon Coifman of the Natural Resources Defense Council says that, so far, his organization's impressed with how comprehensive News Corp.'s strategy appears to be.

Mr. COIFMAN: This is something that is going to speak, not only to the culture at large, but also to thousands of employees. Now, if that something that drives Billy O'Reilley or Sean Hannity a little crazy knowing that their boss is taking global warming seriously, well that's so much the better.

DIMEO: News Corp. insists that while the operation of its news divisions will go green along with the rest of the company, there is not and will be no effort to force changes in the editorial content of its news programs.

USC's Joe Priester says research suggests that, ultimately, entertainment can work better anyway when it comes to influencing audiences.

Prof. PRIESTER: They'll take in the ideas less defensively and it actually can be - have greater consequence overtime if it's presented in entertainment rather than the news.

DIMEO: This suggests that next season, you might see "24" super agent Jack Bauer defuse a bomb and then recycle it.

For NPR News, I'm Nate DiMeo.

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