Alan Jones didn’t take a backward step today on 2GB in Sydney, returning fire at the regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, over its finding that he breached rules governing racial vilification.

At the same time Russell Tate, a key director of Macquarie Radio Network, the company which owns 2GB and a right hand man of the major shareholder, John Singleton, quit as a director.

Russell Tate is a man Singleton has described as the smartest man he knows in the media and the reasons given, “his increased responsibilities as executive chairman of STW Communications Group Ltd” (the key company in the Singleton media empire) is curious as Tate was Singleton’s ears and eyes on the MRN board.

The real story is the WPP, the big UK based communications and advertising group controlled by Martin Sorrell, is stalking STW, having spent $31 million lifting its shareholding in the past month from 6.9% to 11.69%.

WPP is STW’s biggest shareholder and it is the partner in the ad agencies businesses of STW, Singleton Ogilvy and Mather and JWT. John Singleton owns 9.4 per cent of STW.

Singleton owns 58.79% of MRN and a company called PEC Nominees has a 12.91% stake. It is understood to be associated with director Mark Carnegie.

Jones has an agreement by which he earns the right to around 11 million options in MRN through his performance on his breakfast program in Sydney where he’s easily the most listened to person on radio. He is believed to be about halfway through that process.

AAP reported today:

MRN’s key personality, Sydney radio broadcaster Alan Jones, blasted the radio regulator over a ruling that comments made on his program more than a year ago had incited violence and vilified people of Middle Eastern descent.

Mr Jones went on the offensive during his morning program on 2GB, saying findings by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) were biased and based on complaints of people who do not listen to his show.

Speaking on his 2GB breakfast show this morning, Jones said his critics could “all get stuffed” if they think the latest finding will silence him.

Jones interviewed Macquarie Radio CEO Angela Clark on his show this morning. Clark has been leading 2GB’s defence of the allegations made against the announcer. Clark claimed there had only ever been four complaints about what Jones is alleged to have said, one of those complaints coming from West Australia.

Jones’ defence is that he never made the comments attributed to him in a report in The Sydney Morning Herald. The journalist involved later acknowledged his mistake said Jones, but by then AAP had distributed the story Australia-wide.

Jones said he has also been criticised for the content of three emails he read out from listeners. But he need never have done that and could have shown some judgment about their contents.

What Jones and Ms Clark neglect to point out (or avoid saying), is that Jones didn’t have to read the emails out on air; he could have avoided the problem by remaining silent. Instead he showed his true colours by reading the inflammatory emails out on air and giving the comments and views in them his implicit approval.
Jones once again showed his inability to control himself and his flawed character in that he often goes too far, a point expressed in the book Jonestown by author Chris Masters.

ACMA found that Jones broadcast comments likely to vilify people of Middle Eastern descent and encourage violence in the lead-up to the Cronulla race riot.

ACMA said Harbour Broadcasting Pty Ltd, licensee of commercial Sydney radio station 2GB, had twice breached Australia’s broadcasting code in the days before the December 2005 riot.

It said it would be writing to Harbour Radio (part of MRN) shortly and that any action taken would be announced publicly.

That action could include compliance measures ranging from suspending or cancelling 2GB’s licence to lesser penalties including fines and requiring staff to attend compliance training programs.

So is Jones talking as a radio broadcaster, optionholder/shareholder in MRN or …?

MRN’s interim profit in the half year December was down because of spending on new media, according to Chairman Max Donnelly in February.

But part of the reason was the higher spending by the company on legal costs for defamation actions (and the costs of dealing with ACMA as well on complaints) involving Jones and the station’s morning announcer, Ray Hadley, who has also had at least one run in with ACMA over the past year on a poorly handled complaint.

This story points out the duo have six defamation actions before the NSW courts involving them and 10 in total.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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