Another lot of ratbag comments from Alan Jones, another half-hearted apology.

Jones’ spray against Jacinda Arden has landed him another whacking with a wet fish from Macquarie Media management. As Nine’s Sydney Morning Herald reported on the weekend, “Alan Jones’ contract will be terminated if he makes any more remarks similar to his demand [that] Prime Minister Scott Morrison confront New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and ‘shove a sock down her throat'”.

That message came from Macquarie Media chairman Russell Tate. “Notwithstanding [Jones’] apologies, I have today discussed the matter with Alan and advised him that any recurrence of commentary of this nature will result in the termination of his contract,” he said.

This threat is not worth the air or paper expended to issue it. It’s all standard operating procedure for a Jones on-air atrocity: say something; try and ride out the reaction; and when it becomes too much, and advertisers start departing, come out with an apology (sometimes involving an appearance on Q&A). Round and round it goes.

Let’s take a look at the threat itself. The statement was issued on Saturday but is not on the Macquarie Media website. And, importantly, there were a couple of names and one company missing from his threat: Nine Entertainment, its CEO Hugh Marks, and Nine chair and Liberal Party elder Peter Costello.

Why were their absences from the comments important? As every report has pointed out, Nine is trying to mop up the minorities in Macquarie Media in a $113 million takeover launched earlier this month. That will be wrapped up later this year after a couple of vocal minority fund manager shareholders (such as Geoff Wilson and Matthew Kidman) have forced a small increase out of Nine to lift the $1.36 cents a share to around $1.45 to $1.50 a share. Hugh Marks worked hard to make sure Alan Jones was re-signed finally to two more years in the 2GB breakfast shift — it was vital to the success of the takeover. In that deal, Marks had the support of the Nine board. If Jones had not re-signed, Jones might have gone elsewhere, slashing the value of the Nine stake in Macquarie by sending the shares plunging. It was a high stakes set of negotiations.

But none of those reports pointed out that when the bid is done there will soon be no need for a chair for Macquarie and a board; once the takeover is done, Jones can once again offend with impunity because his masters will be Hugh Marks and Peter Costello and the Nine board.

To make Saturday’s statement from Tate effective and credible, it should have been co-signed by Marks and Costello (especially given his Liberal Party roles over the years and Jones’ febrile support of the right wing of the Liberal Party).

News Corp papers and other outlets reported the threat straight-faced but there was no matching threat from the various papers that carry his print bleatings, nor was there any comment or threat from Sky News and its CEO, the former editor-in-chief of The Australian Paul “Boris” Whittaker.

The latter’s absence is not surprising seeing it was in February this year that former PM Malcolm Turnbull went all legal on Jones (and, through him, Sky) when Jones called Turnbull a traitor to the Liberal Party. Jones’ apology was grovelling and abject but there was no warning or apology from Sky News or Whittaker.

Clearly, Jones doesn’t have much to worry about unless Marks and Costello are knocking down his door.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey