The former US President criticised the media mogul while speaking with former Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop at Sydney’s Aware Super Theatre on Tuesday night.
Mr Obama was discussing the divided state of America and said a major factor was ‘shifts in the media’ and how stories were told to viewers – before directly naming Fox News and also Sky News in Australia.
‘And there’s a guy you may be familiar with, first name Rupert, who was responsible for a lot of this,’ he said.
Barack Obama has fired a shot at Rupert Murdoch and Sky News after accusing the media mogul of helping ‘polarise’ western societies through his news coverage
‘But really he perfected what is a broader trend, which is the advent of cable [television], talk radio and then social media.
‘The dissolution of the monopoly of a few arbiters of the news and journalistic standards that came out of the post-world war two era.’
Mr Obama said there was now a ‘Wild West’ of media that was making people feel ‘angry and resentful’.
‘And if all you’re doing is, in America it’s Fox News, here I guess it’s Sky, whatever it is,’ he continued.
‘If all you’re doing is watching one source of news, and by the way, in America, you’re seeing that progressives say, ”well we’re going to have our own news and our own perspective”.
‘You no longer have a joint conversation and a shared story. And the economics of the media, the clicks, are now based on how do I attract your attention?
‘Well, the easiest way to attract attention without having to have a lot of imagination, thought, or interesting things to say, is just to make people angry and resentful and to make them feel as if somebody’s trying to mess with them and take what’s rightfully theirs.
The former US President criticised Murdoch (pictured with partner Ann Lesley Smith) over his media empire which he accused of making people feel ‘angry and resentful’
‘And if you throw in some good old-fashioned racism and xenophobia and sexism and homophobia, all of that, because now we’re in the realm of identity politics. And it’s very difficult to compromise around identity politics.’
The former president said he feared this would only get worse through the rise of artificial intelligence.
He said that because he was the first president of the digital age, he was at one point the most recorded person in history.
It also meant he has been the target of many deepfakes – a form of artificial intelligence that creates videos of fake events.
‘Today you can have me in just about any setting on a video, and certainly on a recording, say anything. And unless you’re [my wife] Michelle, you’re pretty confident it’s me,’ Mr Obama said.
During his speech in Sydney on Tuesday night, Mr Obama also touched on how Sydney was ‘one of the great cities’ and his thoughts on Western tensions in China and Russia.
He revealed he first came to the Australian city when he was just eight-years-old.
‘I was travelling from Indonesia where my mother was living at the time, to my grandparents in Hawaii and I was travelling unaccompanied,’ he said, describing his first trip.
‘We had to stop for a day for the connecting flight and Qantas stewardess took very good care of me.’
The ex-US President sat down with former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop in Sydney at the event
‘I had a big crush on her. I felt very sophisticated, very worldly, travelling on my own and so that’s my first association with Sydney.
‘And it just keeps getting better every time I come back.’
When quizzed by Ms Bishop on the rise of China, Mr Obama complimented President Xi Jinping on his ‘forceful and confident’ demeanour.
He said China began to change ‘after I left office’, with the country beginning to crack down on civil liberties after President Xi sensed that the next US leader – Donald Trump – would be more lenient.
‘With my successor coming in, I think he saw an opportunity because the US president didn’t seem to care that much about a rules-based international system,’ Mr Obama said.
‘And so as a consequence, I think China’s attitude as well, we can take advantage of what appears to be a vacuum internationally on a lot of these issues.’
He said that the relationship between the US and China is ‘significantly strained’ and that tensions aren’t ‘going to go away anytime soon’.
Tickets for the event started at $195 with the most expensive package at $895.
As well as the sell-out crowd, around 500 people tuned into the talk online, with tickets to buy a link to the stream selling for around $400.