If you’re a flack for a major Australian company, can you express a truly private viewpoint in public? It’s a question raised by a letter in today’s SMH, criticising Mike Carlton’s piece about Jonestown in Saturday’s paper. Carlton argued:

The gay Jones is a subtext. The ethically bankrupt Jones is the over-arching theme. The author of Jonestown, Chris Masters – yes, I declare he is a mate of mine – has built that arch brick by solid brick.

Dishonesty? It was Jones, supposedly the battlers’ friend, who secretly trousered millions of dollars from the big end of town on the explicit contractual understanding that he would push its commercial and financial barrows to those battlers.

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Reader Rod Bruem from Surry Hills took exception:

Although I don’t always agree with him, I always enjoy reading Mike Carlton’s Saturday commentary. My estimation of him dropped considerably this week as he used the opportunity given to him by the Herald to put the boot into his breakfast rival.

It reeks of hypocrisy for a commercial radio professional like Carlton to pretend somehow that he’s above the sponsorship arrangements that are the lifeblood of the industry. And to join the chorus of those who seek to vilify Jones for his s-xuality is disgusting. What seems to irk Carlton most is that Jones is more successful than him and (dammit!) he happens to be homos-xual as well.

As a successful public figure, no doubt Jones has exhibited some unpleasant character flaws. But to somehow seek to attribute Jones’s flaws to his s-xuality and to feel free to publicly crucify him for it in 2006 seems inappropriate.

For Jones to have risen to the pinnacle of the broadcasting and sporting spheres at the time he did – despite his s-xuality – is something he’d be lauded for by the gay community and its supporters, if he didn’t also happen to choose to be so conservative and private.

What Bruem doesn’t mention is that he is also a Telstra spokesperson and chief editor of the company’s nowwearetalking blog.

Given that Telstra is one of radio’s big sponsors – and in the past, Telstra provided sponsorship to Alan Jones’s program although the deal has since concluded – it’s arguable that this information is relevant, particularly when Bruem criticises Carlton for pretending “that he’s above the sponsorship arrangements that are the lifeblood of the industry”.

And as Bruem himself writes on his blog: “You may recall Telstra was at one stage at the centre of the ‘cash for comment’ controversy, yet at far as I’m aware Chris Masters never even approached the company to seek out background on that episode.”

So it’s hard to believe Bruem’s private views on radio sponsorship aren’t informed, to some extent, by his public views. Bruem is also Treasurer of the Aids Council of NSW.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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