Rupert Murdoch's younger son James has called out his father's media empire for "denial" of climate change, calling it a disappointment in light of wildfires in Australia.

The Daily Beast reported that James Murdoch and his activist wife Kathryn had harsh words for his family's company, which operates US-based Fox News, as well as newspapers in the US, Britain and Rupert Murdoch's native Australia through its News Corp.

"Kathryn and James' views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known," the report quoted a spokesperson for the couple as saying.

"They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary."

James Murdoch has largely disengaged from the media empire built by his father, which began with a newspaper group in Australia.

He has launched his own private holding company called Lupa Systems, which among other things has taken a stake in Vice Media.

The rebuke comes amid bushfires in Australia that have killed at least 28 people, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and burned ten million hectares (100,000 square kilometres) of land - an area larger than South Korea or Portugal.

The Murdoch family's News Corp Australia publishes eight of the top ten newspapers in the country and operates the 24-hour multi-platform Sky News Australia.


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Meanwhile, bushfire smoke disrupted the Australian Open build-up for a second straight day to deepen concerns about the fate of the year's first tennis Grand Slam, but a cool change late in the day raised hopes of rain soaking the blazes.

The toxic haze that descended on Melbourne, where the Australian Open is due to begin next week, drifted down from out-of-control fires that have endured for months in eastern and southern Australia.

Pollution levels were at "hazardous" with residents wearing face masks while dozens of flights were cancelled at Melbourne airport because of poor visibility.

Australian Open organisers pushed ahead with qualifying rounds yesterday.

But dramatic scenes of players dropping to their knees and choking, and one retiring due to the smoke, led to complaints about them being forced to stay out on court.

Dustin Brown of Germany receives medical attention in his match against Dennis Novak of Austria  

With the air still tasting and smelling of smoke, organisers suspended qualifying rounds until later today.

Then thundery weather swept in across the city, bringing heavy rain that forced play to be cancelled for the day, but it also raised expectations of clearer air for tomorrow.

There were also hopes that the rain would extend to other parts of southern and eastern Australia where dozens of fires are still raging out of control and threatening to devastate many more rural towns.

Some bushfire and drought-hit areas could see 50-100mm of rain, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

However, it said the "hit and miss" nature of thunderstorms meant it was difficult to predict exactly where the heaviest rain would fall.

The fires have dominated headlines around the world and led to an international outpouring of aid for victims, as well as animals that have been injured in the blazes.

About one billion animals may have died in the fires and driven many species closer to extinction, according to environmental groups.

Australia's koala population has taken an "extraordinary hit" and could be listed as endangered for the first time, Environment Minister Sussan Ley has said.