Malcom Turnbull has argued the social media attacks on Alan Jones have given the shock jock a "dose of his own medicine", and has used the backlash to highlight the need for increased media freedom.
Turnbull, the Opposition Minister for Communications and Broadband, refuted Jones' claims that he is a victim of "cyber-bullying" and said the personal attacks were giving the famed broadcaster a taste of his own medicine. Turnbull was lecturing at Alfred Deakin University yesterday.
"Jones has complained that he has been the victim of social media bullying saying that 'if it happened anywhere else in society, this kind of bullying or harassment or intimidation or threatening conduct, the police would be called in.'
"But it is difficult not to believe that he is getting a dose of his own medicine. After all, Mr Jones has waged more than a few onslaughts against individuals and businesses and encouraged more than a few email campaigns of his own."
"Mr Jones believes his association with certain products will encourage people to buy them. But if other people take the view that an association with Mr Jones will lead them not to buy those products, why are they not able to tell the advertiser of their view and encourage others to do the same?"
Jones' breakfast show has been indefinitely stripped of all advertising by Macquarie Radio Network (MRN) as an attempt to protect its sponsors from the public pressure and threats of boycott. MRN executive chairman Russell Tate bolstered Jones' argument that he and his sponsors were victims of bullying, deeming the backlash a form of "21st century censorship via cyber-bullying".
Turnbull also used the lecture to rally against the Gillard government's proposed increased media laws. He said the social media campaign's effect on the network's sponsors had been more effective than regulatory bodies, which may have dismissed Jones' remarks.
"In this case, the effective response to Mr Jones was not regulation, or less media freedom, but rather the use by thousands of people of the enhanced freedom afforded them by the social media.
"Thousands of Australians spoke for themselves, unedited, unmediated, via the social media. The names and email addresses of Jones’ advertisers were circulated via the social media so that they could be urged directly to stop advertising on his program. And it worked. The main stream media felt they had to react, in a sense the popular outrage evident in the social media liberated them to say what they really thought.
"And the consequence has been without precedent. His advertisers have walked away. His Mercedes Benz has been recalled. The management of 2GB have announced his show will be run henceforth without any advertisements at all. For the first time Alan will have something in common with the ABC.
"Even if Mr Jones had made his remarks about the Prime Minister’s late father on air, I doubt ACMA would have found a breach of the code. Mr Jones has frequently urged the Prime Minister be thrown out to sea in a chaff bag and no breach of the code was found.
"Jones has sought to lead 'people’s revolts' for many years. But this was indeed a popular revolt against vicious and destructive public discourse. And while the thousands of tweets would not have affected Mr Jones’ sunny equanimity, they had a marked impact on his advertisers."
Jones' comments that Julia Gillard's father "died of shame" because of her political "lies" resulted in a barrage of Twitter and Facebook attacks against Jones and the brands associated with the network. The Change.org petition leading the outrage, which urged people to get in contact with the network's sponsors, saw over 70 brands end association with the network.
Jones, who has since apologised for the remarks, made them at Sydney University's recent Young Liberals' fundraising dinner.
MRN could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.
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