After a career punctuated by scandals, 2GB’s Alan Jones could be limping to the end of his radio dominance.
He holds a 19% share of the breakfast radio ratings, but almost half of that is made up by listeners older than 64 — quite clear looking at the advertisers on the show, which include retirement villages, funeral homes, arthritis medication, financial advisors for superannuation, funeral plans and share portfolios, and meal-replacement shakes. Jones himself is 75, with increasingly frequent hospital stays after his back surgery two years ago.
Sydney Morning Herald columnist Peter FitzSimons led his column yesterday with the matter of Jones’ contract, up for renewal next year:
Current 2GB management does not want to renew it. There are a variety of reasons, but first and foremost is that Jones has in recent times gone from being the biggest asset the station possesses — and the greatest generator of profits — to being a massive liability … He has, in sum, lost the confidence of the management, and they want him gone.
Citing the most recent defamation payout Jones lost and repeated and well-publicised cases of “racism, bigotry and bullying”, FitzSimons also says advertisers are deserting the program.
Macquarie Media, which owns 2GB and is majority-owned by Fairfax, has responded to the column with an “exclusive” in News Corp’s The Australian today. Chairman Russell Tate said the delay was down to Nine’s takeover of Fairfax, still yet to be formalised. “Obviously, given the size of Alan’s audience, his show is a significant contributor to our earnings,” Tate said.
The size of Jones’ audience is one thing, but given its age, it might not be the audience that Nine will want in its new radio network.
And Jones is unlikely to change his style given that court action, defamation suits, public outcry and criticism from Fairfax colleagues have all failed to have an impact in the past. This year, he said the n-word on-air (which he eventually apologised for), and bullied Sydney Opera House boss Louise Herron for turning down a projection for The Everest horse race. While he may still hold sway over some politicians, the public response on these issues could be starting to cut through.
Tate also suggested that Jones might be ready to retire on his own terms — the breakfast program requires a 2.30am wakeup call, and Jones also has a Sky News program and frequently commentates on other programs.
Jones is not commenting on his future, but it may very well be that his reign over talkback radio is coming to a close. Perhaps he’ll go the way of his cash-for-comment peer John Laws, who now hosts a radio program for the little-known 2SM, and grants increasingly eccentric interviews to 7.30‘s Leigh Sales. Fair warning though: it would mean he’d also have more time for side-projects with Mark Latham.