With his calls on Thursday morning for a boycott of Coles, Alan Jones has handed Peter Costello an exquisite dilemma. Does the Nine chair and Liberal Party elder continue to protect Jones from those at 2GB and Macquarie Media who reportedly want him out, or does he finally take action to bring the shock jock to heel in an effort to protect the bottom line?
The question is especially delicate because of the internal review that is supposed to be happening following Jones’ verbal assault on New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that saw dozens of advertisers, led by the Commonwealth Bank and Coles, abandon his breakfast program. Jones was forced to apologise, and was warned that a repetition of those types of comments would not be tolerated. But that didn’t stop him from complaining about activist “blackmail”, or yesterday telling his listeners to give Coles supermarkets and petrol stations “a very wide berth”.
“This is a two-way street,” he said. “We can both play the same game. It might be time I entered the ring and started playing that game. And good luck to you by the time I am finished.”
Subsequent media reports asserted there was a lot of support on social media for Coles, but the key reaction will be from the management and board of Nine. Jones is in the first year of a two-year contract, and obviously doesn’t care about the damage his comments do to company revenue. Coles is one of the country’s biggest advertisers, and spends heavily not only with 2GB, 3AW, 4BC and 6PR but with Nine’s free-to-air TV channels and newspapers as well.
If the supermarket chain were to suddenly close its wallet, it would cost Nine tens of millions of dollars (you can hear Seven and News Corp cheering silently for that to happen).
Would that be enough for Peter Costello to take action?