Right-wing shock jock stoush reveals the awful truth about COVID, politics and media ratings


Denis Muller, The University of MelbourneA COVID-induced rancour that has broken out between Sydney’s commercial radio shock jocks and the Sky News night-time ravers over Sydney’s lockdown would be funny if it were not so serious.

It is mildly entertaining to see 2GB’s Ray Hadley excoriating his former colleague Alan Jones, now at Sky, for his “ridiculous stance” against the lockdown, with Jones calling New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian “gutless” for extending it.

Hadley went on to brand Sky’s Andrew Bolt a “lapdog” for agreeing with Jones, and Bolt retaliated by calling Hadley a “weak and ignorant man who panders to an ugly pack”.

It takes one to know one, of course, but behind all this spittle-flecked slanging there is a serious issue: the disproportionate political power of a small group of radio and television broadcasters in Sydney.

It is one factor that helps explain the procrastination and prevarication that have marked the premier’s response.

Long before COVID-19 afflicted the world, the shock jocks of Sydney commercial radio stations, particularly 2GB and 2UE, had created a successful business model built on outrage.

It is based on a political ideology that appeals to an older audience living in what Jones is pleased to call “Struggle Street”. It is not conservatism, as they like to claim, but rank reactionaryism.

In marginal electorates, largely in western Sydney, there are enough people who find this ideology attractive to make politicians nervous.

That is what has given these jocks political power incommensurate with their position in Australia’s democratic institutional arrangements.

They have become a kind of shadow government in New South Wales.

For example, in 2001, when Bob Carr, a Labor Premier, was about to appoint Michael Costa police minister, he sent Costa to Jones’s home to discuss law-and-order policy.




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In 2017, a former Director of Public Prosecutions in New South Wales, Nicholas Cowdery, QC, singled out Jones and Hadley, as well as the recently resurrected John Laws, as wielding disproportionate power over politicians and other policy-makers.

They hate, to differing degrees, independent statutory officers such as Directors of Public Prosecutions who speak out objectively on issues in criminal justice.

In more recent times, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has relied on Hadley to provide him with a friendly platform on which to propagandise.

The relationship between the two has been described as a “bromance”, although it had a temporary rupture in 2015 when Hadley tried to have Morrison swear on the Bible concerning any role he might have had in the demise of Tony Abbott as prime minister.

Scott Morrison often relies on sympathetic interviews on Hadley’s show to get his message across.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Berejiklian, as a Liberal premier, has also prospered in her commercial radio relationships, most notably from the benignity of Jones’s successor in the 2GB breakfast slot, Ben Fordham.

He was supportive of her even during the embarrassing disclosures about her relationship with the Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, who is the subject of an ICAC investigation.

So she had a stake in not rattling the shock jocks’ cages. That meant trying to hold the line against lockdowns.

However, that calculation changed abruptly last week after the latest Sydney radio ratings showed that for the first time in 18 years, 2GB lost the breakfast time-slot.




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The winners were the KIIS FM pair of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O, whose shtick involves penis pageants and a determination not to be “woke”.

Horrified fellow-travellers in the right-wing commentariat pounced on Fordham. Jones was especially vitriolic. His successors, he said, didn’t have the “balls” to stand up to “cancel culture warriors”. Government, media and big pharma seemed to be all in bed together, and the media were too ready to accommodate the left.

Management at 2GB were also aghast. The Australian reported they told Fordham to take a harder line with Berejiklian, and Fordham duly delivered. Three days after the ratings results had come out, he unleashed this on-air tirade against the Premier’s lockdown decision:

The virus hasn’t killed anyone this year, but the lockdowns, the extensions, the excuses, the mistakes, the missed opportunities, they are killing this city fast. And stop telling us it’s about the health advice!

By now Berejikilian was in a bind.

There was her own hubris, proclaiming her state doesn’t do lockdowns.

There was Scott Morrison’s hostility to lockdowns, exemplified by his repeated attacks on the Victorian Labor Government. Was she to be a source of further embarrassment to him over how the pandemic is playing out?

There was Morrison’s cosy relationship with the likes of Hadley, in which their reciprocal position on lockdowns was self-reinforcing.

And there was the demonstrated willingness by 2GB station management to go after Berejiklian in pursuit of better ratings for Fordham’s breakfast show.

In the circumstances, it is hardly a surprise that she has procrastinated and prevaricated.

If, as many epidemiologists are saying, the so-called “light” approach is condemning Sydney to a long lockdown and exposing the rest of the country to avoidable risk, the role of the jocks in creating the political climate in which Berejiklian is operating since the Delta strain took hold should not be underestimated.The Conversation

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Advancing Journalism, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Shoving a sock in it is not the answer. Have advertisers called time on Alan Jones?



More than 50 advertisers have so far withdrawn from Alan Jones’ 2GB radio show, buoyed by social media campaigns naming and shaming those who remain.
AAP/Paul Braven, CC BY-ND

Amanda Spry, RMIT University and Jessica Vredenburg, Auckland University of Technology

When Alan Jones encouraged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to “shove a sock down” the throat of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, it was not the first time he launched a broadside and lost advertisers.

This time, 52 advertisers have so far withdrawn from Jones’ 2GB radio programme, buoyed by social media campaigns by activist groups publicising a list of boycotting advertisers as well as naming and shaming those who remain, such as Virgin Australia.




Read more:
It will be money, not morality, that finally turns the tide on Alan Jones


Messing with the wrong person

When asked about Jones’ comment on a television morning news programme, Ardern said she didn’t engage and does not intend to respond because she doesn’t “have an opinion on every single person who says something about me.”

Ardern has risen to worldwide recognition, particularly following her empathetic response to the terror attacks in Christchurch. Her fans have been quick to call out slurs on her character such as Jones’ comments, as well as any associated brands.

In today’s interconnected and increasingly more accessible world, brands are recognising the potential damage of not responding to an incident like this. Brands are actually responding strategically by capitalising on the press attention, visibly and loudly disassociating themselves from negative events or scandals.

It is not primarily about the money. Between at least seven of the boycotting brands, the money they put towards Jones’ 2GB radio show accounts for less than 1% of their media budget. But the long-term reputational and financial risk avoided by dissociating from Alan Jones is significant.

A toxic affiliation, even when that accounts for only a small piece of the marketing budget and media exposure pie, can have disastrous effects on a brand.

When brands partner

Like Jacinda Ardern, Alan Jones is a brand. People are aware of who he is and his name evokes certain associations (rightwing, shock jock). When companies choose to buy advertising space within his talk show, they are engaging in a brand partnership.

Once partnered, brands gain exposure to each other’s audiences and trigger the transfer of associations between brands (for example, George Clooney’s global status can be transferred to an instant coffee brand). But when one brand attracts bad publicity, it is not the only one that suffers damage to their image. All affiliated brands are at risk.

Tiger Woods lost US$22 million in endorsement and sponsorship contracts after his 2009 sex scandal. Accenture, AT&T and Gatorade dropped Tiger Woods, and the scandal cost shareholders of brands such as Nike and Gatorade US$12 billion. Similarly, Sandpapergate saw some major sponsors cutting ties with the Australian cricket team in 2018 for fear of the negative associations with cheating that accompanied the ball tampering incident.

Partnerships mean that the brands involved are not completely in charge of their narrative. People encounter brands in various ways and each encounter shapes perceptions, despite not being curated by the brand.

While boycotting advertisers such as ME Bank, Chemist Warehouse, Koala and Volkswagen knew that audiences would be exposed to their brand within Alan Jones’ radio show, they can’t control what else is happening at that time and what they are being linked to by virtue of association.

Turning a negative into a double positive

Advertisers have not only mitigated the spillover of misogynistic and violent connotations to their images, they’ve used this boycott as an opportunity to drive up brand sentiment. Walking away from Alan Jones not only firewalls them from his brand of outrage but signals their brand as principled, virtuous and willing to take a stand.

The incident has also highlighted the fact that these companies actually sponsored the show in the first place – a show which was known for its controversial viewpoints before this particular incident. Paradoxically, righting this wrong by boycotting could enhance satisfaction with these companies more than if they had never advertised with the programme in the first place.

This is particularly meaningful in a climate where consumers want to buy from brands that share their own values and act on social and political issues. Yet consumers discern between brands that back up their messages through practice. They’re looking for brands to “walk the talk”.




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Credibility based on attractiveness, expertise and trustworthiness is key.

A recognisable brand is one of the most lucrative assets on a company’s books. The Apple brand, for example, is worth US$214 billion. Partnering with an entity with characteristics that boost a brand’s credibility will also increase brand equity, which captures the value of the brand name alone.

Brand equity starts with people’s knowledge of the brand – what comes to mind when they hear the name. By cutting ties with 2GB, the boycotting companies have made sure it’s not Alan Jones, sock-shoving and misogyny.The Conversation

Amanda Spry, Lecturer in Marketing, RMIT University and Jessica Vredenburg, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

It will be money, not morality, that finally turns the tide on Alan Jones



The perception of Jones’ power has led to him being courted by politicians, and so wielding actual power.
AAP/Joel Carrett

Denis Muller, University of Melbourne

Alan Jones’s political power is to a large extent based on a self-fulfilling prophecy: politicians believe he can shift votes, so they pay homage to him, which adds to the impression that he can shift votes.

This perception of power, in turn, gives him actual power.

Yet the author and social researcher Rebecca Huntley is reported as saying:

Fifteen years of research and I haven’t found Alan Jones to be that much more influential with voters than ABC Radio or The SMH. He is only powerful because politicians think he is.

So if evidence that he actually shifts votes is hard to find, how did this phenomenon develop?

Developments in media-political relations over the 34 years that Jones has been broadcasting give some pointers.

He was a pioneer in what has become known as the outrage industry. He rants and raves in extraordinarily fluent broadsides, captivating in their aural power and – to a listener of a certain type – intoxicatingly persuasive.

This listener is typically in the autumn of life and living in the western suburbs of Sydney, where a tough life has bred cynicism about politicians, bureaucrats and big companies.




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Early on, Jones tapped into this sentiment, becoming the champion of what he called “Struggle Street”, although he himself lived in an apartment overlooking Circular Quay and the Opera House.

His ratings rose and so did his perceived capacity to win over the hearts and minds of Struggle Street.

By the late 1990s, companies that were on the nose with the public, like Telstra and some of the banks, began to see that he might be able to change public attitudes towards them, if his commentary about them could be made to look like his honestly held opinion.

In fact these commentaries were paid for, but this was not disclosed to the audience, and so in 1999 Jones, along with several other high-profile talkback hosts, were caught up in what became known as the cash-for-comment scandal.

Despite adverse findings against him by the regulator at the time, the Australian Broadcasting Authority, belief in his power to sway audiences remained undiminished.

A few weeks after these findings were announced, he hosted an event for then Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, and dined with the NSW Labor Premier, Bob Carr, to discuss matters of government policy.

The following week, Carr sent his Police Minister-designate, Michael Costa, to discuss policing policy with Jones.

At Radio 2UE, where Jones was then working, the revenue generated not just by conventional advertising but by the cash-for-comment arrangements, had made Jones’s position there impregnable.

And when he switched to 2GB in 2002, he became an instant rainmaker for his new station, and equally impregnable there, free of management constraints and therefore in a position to play favourites and create enmities with whomever he chose.

His core audience – those on “Struggle Street – were then given special attention by the prime minister, and came to be known as “Howard’s battlers”.

For the entirety of his prime ministership, from 1996 to 2007, Howard made a point of cultivating Jones, and became a favourite. A former colleague of Jones, Mike Carlton, has been quoted as saying that there was allegedly an operative in Howard’s office dedicated to working on what were called “Jones issues”.

Whether this was true or not, Howard became a regular guest on the Jones program, saying it gave him a chance to speak directly to the Australian people rather than having his message filtered by sceptical journalists.

A prime ministerial imprimatur of this kind is calculated to increase perceptions of political power.

Then, just as Howard was departing office in 2007, the phenomenon of social media was gaining momentum in Australia.

It turbo-charged the outrage industry, and Jones was skilled up to take advantage of this new libertarian free-for-all.

He had already been found in 2005 to have breached the radio industry code of practice by inciting violence against people of Middle Eastern ethnicity in a series of incendiary broadcasts leading up to the race riots at Cronulla that year.

But as usual, the broadcasting regulator, now called the Australian Media and Communications Authority, contented itself with entering into a “dialogue” with 2GB.

Then, in 2012, he gave encouragement to the idea that Julia Gillard should be put in a chaff bag and dumped at sea. Once more there were no consequences.

And now, in 2019, he is encouraging Scott Morrison – already known as the 2GB Prime Minister – to shove a sock down the throat of the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Three strikes, but still not out.

Finally, however, there is a sign the 2GB management might have begun to ask themselves whether Jones has outlived his profitability.

They have warned him that one more rant like that and they will terminate his contract.

It cannot just be that a swag of big advertisers have abandoned the Jones program. This has happened in the past when he has committed some atrocity, but they drift back after the hue and cry has died down.




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However, last year Jones cost the station A$3.75 million in defamation damages, plus millions more in legal costs after he wrongly and persistently accused the owners of a quarry in the Queensland town of Grantham of causing the deaths of local people who died in the 2011 floods.

At the time of writing, Macquarie Media, which owns 2GB, is being purchased by Nine Entertainment, which already owns the Nine TV network and the big mastheads of the old Fairfax company, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review.

It may be that this takeover will add a reputational dimension to the assessment of Jones’s value to shareholders.

If Jones does finally come to grief, it will be because of considerations like these, not because of any damage he does to the social fabric.The Conversation

Denis Muller, Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for Advancing Journalism, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: The uncivil Mr Jones


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The row over shock jock Alan Jones and what will be displayed on the Sydney Opera House sails about The Everest horse race involves two sets of issues.

One is around whether it is appropriate to use this Sydney icon as an advertising hoarding.

The other is the appalling, but typical, behaviour of Jones and the weak, but probably not surprising, capitulation of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to the pressure of the racing industry, which had its arm strengthened by this bullying presenter from 2GB.

The details of the row are now familiar. Racing NSW wanted a full ad for The Everest’s Tuesday barrier draw on the lit-up sails; the Opera House resisted, saying it would only show the jockeys’ colours; Jones abused Opera House CEO Louise Herron on air on Friday; the Premier later that day overrode Herron and gave Racing NSW and Jones most of what was being demanded.

The broad question of ads on the Opera House seems to me less important than Jones’ behaviour and the state government’s abject falling into line with the demands made by Racing NSW.

Some people have no problem with the Opera House being used for advertising. They don’t subscribe to the view that it’s low rent to turn this World Heritage structure to commercial purposes, nor do they comprehend the fuss about having it as part of the promotion of a particular (mega rich) horse race – as distinct, say, from an Australian national team.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said on Friday that “people should chill out a bit. The fact is that this race is beamed around the world. People do associate Sydney with the Sydney Opera House”.

On a unity ticket with “Albo”, “ScoMo” doesn’t understand “why people are getting so precious about it”. For the man remembered for the “So where the bloody hell are you?” campaign, this is “just common sense”.

“This is one of the biggest events of the year,” Morrison said on Sunday. “Why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has? These events generate massive economic opportunities for the state, for the city.”

There may be room for argument about the promotional issue but not about Jones’ interview.

The full horror of that tirade has to be heard to be believed – with its haranguing, denigration, abuse and threats.

Jones, with close personal connections to the racing industry, injected into it maximum nastiness and minimum civility. Herron probably should have told him to call back when he’d found his manners and hung up. But she didn’t.

It was of course Jones displaying one aspect of his trademark. He and others of his ilk use insult and aggression as part of their “brand”, whether in interviews or in commentary.

Over the years, Jones has got away with an extraordinary amount –
although recently a court caught up with him when he and 2GB lost a
huge defamation case
over claims he made about the Wagner family being responsible for deaths in the 2011 Grantham floods.

Imre Salusinszky, who was press secretary to former NSW premier Mike Baird, has written about how the shock jocks and the tabloid media wield their power at NSW state level.

The Howard government felt it had to manage Jones as best it could (as does the present NSW government). There was a Howard staffer whose remit included dealing with the Jones demands and complaints.

I recall a minister who’d been in that government later telling me how he’d given in to Jones on a certain matter just to get him off his back (after checking with advisers that to do so wouldn’t create any harm).

Jones insulted Malcolm Turnbull when the latter was communication minister, but Turnbull fought back and then refused to go on air with him. Until the 2016 election campaign, that is – when then prime minister Turnbull felt he had to have a brief rapprochement with his bete noire.

By her action on Friday, Berejiklian reinforced the perception that the politicians are scared of a bully who rages from his studio pulpit.

But according to social researcher Rebecca Huntley, they have less to fear than often thought. “15 years of research and I haven’t found Alan Jones to be that much more influential with voters than ABC radio or the SMH. He is only powerful because politicians think he is, ” she tweeted.

Berejiklian on Sunday defended the outcome, saying it was “at the back end of the decision-making process” – Racing NSW had earlier reportedly wanted to drape banners from the Harbour Bridge – and a “good compromise”.

The NSW government claims that Friday’s decision was not a reaction to Jones’ diatribe but the culmination of negotiations that had been underway for some while.

Nevertheless, it represented the premier’s cave-in to Racing NSW and came across as a victory for Jones’ bullying.

Now that a discussion of “bullying” in various situations is the flavour of public debate, isn’t it time that the media who run Jones’ programs (2GB is majority owned by Fairfax) imposed some standards and the politicians who listen to him grew some spine?The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Alan Jones & the Social Media Fightback


Australia: Alan Jones just Another Media Troll


The link below is to an article reporting on the latest pathetic rhetoric coming from one of Australia’s ‘leading’ media personalities. His comments can only be described as disgraceful, whether you are a fan of our Prime Minister or not.

For more visit:
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/politics/alan-jones-has-no-shame-20120930-26t5d.html