Sometimes you really have to wonder what sort of hick joint Australia
is. Can you imagine another developed democracy tolerating someone like
Alan Jones, let alone having him wield power in such an offensive way?

The Howard Government is known for its love of weak regulation, but
today’s opinion piece in The Australian
by David Flint sets a new low when the former Australian Broadcasting
Authority chairman wrote: “My admiration is based on the fact that
Jones is a principled and superbly effective communicator and a
successful radio identity.”

Principled? Remember the cash for comment scandal whereby Jones pocketed
millions of dollars from immoral corporates who participated in his racket by making secret payments in return for positive
coverage or an end to negative coverage. This wasn’t principled, it was utterly unethical.

Flint’s ABA held a public inquiry and it
concluded that 2UE, where Jones and John Laws worked together at the time, had breached the Commercial
Radio Codes of Practice 95 times. Jones should have been booted off the air and 2UE had its licence
suspended, but instead the Parrot just continued as if nothing
happened, the Prime Minister kept giving him interviews and using him
at Liberal Party fundraisers and he remained a highly paid fixer for the Packers, Australia’s most powerful family.

The Australian’seditorial
backing the ABC board today is driven by blind ideology. Surely any
assessment of Alan Jones should be governed more by morality – or the
lack of it. Remember the old saying – if
you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. In my opinion, Alan Jones is an
unethical broadcaster who has amassed a fortune of almost $50 million
in part by inappropriately exerting power for money through the publicly licenced airwaves.

This power has now even extended to being able to nobble the board of
our most important cultural institution, the ABC, and its finest
investigative reporter, Chris Masters.

And it’s not just John Howard who grovels to Alan Jones. Peter
Costello’s best mate, former ABC director Michael Kroger, has long been
a promoter of the Parrot’s interests. As an ABC director he tried to
nobble this Four Corners story by Masters on the Parrot in 2002.

However, the Howard and Costello forces have fought over who controls the ABC board. This extraordinary piece
by an ABC insider on Crikey in 2002 is thought to have been written by
someone sympathetic to the Costello-Kroger camp, although it arrived
anonymously so nobody knows for sure. Read it again for a fascinating
insight into the struggle for control of the ABC.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey