Nine’s risk as advertisers drop 2GB’s Alan Jones

By Chris Pash | 19 August 2019
  • Major advertisers have dropped number one rating Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones after he attacked NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern on air.
  • Jones told his listeners that prime minister Scott Morrison should “shove a sock” down Ardern's throat over comments about climate change.
  • His employer, Macquarie Media, says a repeat of such abuse will result in the sacking of Jones.

Advertisers have started leaving Alan Jones after the number one rating Sydney radio broadcaster attacked NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

The broadcaster now says he has sent a private apology to Ardern for saying the Australian prime minister should shove a sock down her throat.

Scott Morrison described Jones's comments as "way out of line" and Malcolm Turnbull, the former prime minister of Australia, described them as a "misogynistic rant".

Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister of Fiji, said: "Easy to tell someone to shove a sock down a throat when you’re sitting in the comfort of a studio. The people of the Pacific, forced to abandon their homes due to climate change, don’t have that luxury. Try saying it to a Tuvaluan child pleading for help."

Russell Tate, chair of Jones’ employer, Macquarie Media, said: “I have today discussed the matter with Alan and advised him that any recurrence of commentary of this nature will result in the termination of his contract.”

Jones multi-million dollar contract was renewed for two years last month. Tate commented at the close of negotiations: “All of us at Macquarie are delighted that we will continue along for the ride with one of the Australian media’s most outstanding performers.”

Jones has dominated Sydney radio with 218 ratings survey wins, including 15 consecutive years at number one on 2GB.

ME Bank was the first to drop Jones on Friday, saying: "We have removed our advertising from the station and advised why. We take this very seriously and these types of comments don’t reflect our values."

Discount home electrical chain Bing Lee and bedroom furniture store Snooze followed.

Jones' latest on-air attack on an individual could be an asset value shrinking problem for major media group Nine which is in the process of taking full control of radio network Macquarie Media, including Jones’ station, Sydney’s 2GB.

Nine is paying $113.9 million, at $1.46 per share, for the 45.5% stake in the network which it doesn’t own. Jones himself is a beneficiary in this through his 1% holding in Macquarie Media, worth about $2.7 million.

The loss of Jones, now nearer because of the last chance ultimatum by the chairman, would cut the value of Macquarie Media substantially unless another number one rating broadcasters could be found.

The company is aware of the risks. In its latest annual report, Macquarie Media says a significant decline in ratings could “potentially impact our advertising revenue” and financial results.

Macquarie Media says: “We address this risk by employing well known and professional presenters in addition to the development of succession plans that capture and retain our target audience.”

Jones has been criticised in court for his lack of factual accuracy. The regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), has also pinged him 12 times in the past decade for failing to be accurate and breaching standards of decency.

Among the pings from ACMA was that Jones got the facts wrong about the cost of the NBN, using emotive language such as "white elephant" and "disaster".

In 2012, ACMA ordered Jones to undertake training on "factual accuracy and significant viewpoints". This was after Jones told a Sydney University Liberal Club function that then prime minister Julia Gillard's father "died of shame" because of his daughter's "lies".

The 2018 Macquarie Media annual report shows a charge of more than $3 million in 2018 for defamation proceedings. The report doesn’t link this to Jones.

However, in the financial year just closed, the Supreme Court in Brisbane awarded $3.75 million in damages against Jones and 2GB for saying a family was responsible for the deaths of 12 people in the 2011 Grantham floods when a quarry wall owned by the family collapsed. This liability is expected to be reported in the company’s 2019 annual report.

In that case, the judge, Justice Flanagan, told the court Jones used "intrinsically vicious and spiteful wording” and that the broadcaster had a “wilful blindness to the truth or falsity of the defamatory accusations".

In the latest incident, Jones at first explained his on air rant against Ardern as being misinterpreted. He had meant to say, he said, that Morrison should tell Ardern to “put a sock in it".

He has since changed that position, saying: ”The comments I made about the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were careless, avoidable and totally unacceptable. In the radio game you have to choose your words carefully and I didn't do that. There is no excuse. I have written privately to prime minister Ardern to sincerely apologise for what I said.”

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