«COMMERCIAL RADIO INQUIRY Report of the Australian Broadcasting Authority Hearing into Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Limited February 2000 Sydney ISBN 0 642 ...»
And in that time, John’s handling it beautifully, retaining his own independence and credibility whilst presenting our side of the story.203 In evidence, however, Mr Aveling said that he made the statement ‘in the absence of radio station management’ in ‘a joking way’.204
In evidence, Mr Stewart said that:
Mr Laws has very high degree of credibility with his audience. He is also associated with very reputable products and what we might call blue chip identities, and, for that reason, I would see him as a very desirable person to have aligned with a product or a message.205 Findings
AUSTRALIAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATION (FORMERLY
KNOWN AS THE ROAD TRANSPORT FORUM)
Services to be performed by Mr Laws included:
♦ reading and embellishing radio commercials from scripts provided by the RTF;
Transcript, Mr Aveling, p. 100.
Transcript, Mr Stewart, p. 142.
Clause 4 (ATA.0001.0007).
♦ use of best endeavours to provide favourable publicity and informed commentary (including editorial coverage and personal support) about the RTF, the Australian road transport industry and issues identified by the RTF;
♦ updates on subjects relevant to the RTF through on-air talks with media personality Michael Whitney;
♦ support for RTF promotional campaigns and competitions; and ♦ encouragement of truck drivers to contribute to the Today’s Truckies campaign and to buy the products of companies who actively supported the RTF.210 Mr Laws was also required to use his best endeavours to ensure that 2UE placed any advertisements which were inconsistent with RTF objectives in other programs.211 The RTF undertook to provide Mr Laws with information that was both current and of public interest capable of being used by Mr Laws on the program.212 Events Subsequent to the Agreement At a meeting between the RTF and Mr John Fordham, Mr Laws’ manager and agent, in February 1998, the four main objectives identified for Mr Laws included lobbying government and regulators, and community education and relations. It was noted that ‘all hits should be in editorial format for credibility’.213 In a fax from Mr Michael Edmonds (National Manager Communications and TruckSafe, RTF) to Mr Fordham dated 22 July 1998, it was noted that the purpose of the RTF Campaign was ‘To use John Laws’ power and influence as a tool which influences key policy makers into decisions.’214 A plan for the next three months sent to Mr Fordham included the strategies ‘Influence the influential’, which was described as ‘0% advertising 100% editorial’ and ‘Community interaction’, which was described as ‘50% advertising + 50% contractual’.215
Termination of the Agreement
The agreement was terminated by consent in July 1999, following the ‘Media Watch’ program.216 Following the termination of the agreement, the Australian Trucking Association continued to send information to Mr Laws. As at 21 October 1999, it had not been used on air, although Mr Laws had spoken about the road transport industry, ‘from his own knowledge of an issue’.217 Clause 2.1 (ATA.0001.0007) Clause 7.1 (ATA.0001.0007).
Clause 2.2 (ATA.
JL.0002.0360. In his evidence, Mr Edmonds indicated that the phrase ‘0% advertising 100% editorial’ meant that editorial comment by Mr Laws would be used instead of paid advertising spots on 2UE (Transcript, Mr Edmonds, p. 182). Mr Edmonds also indicated that the phrase ‘community interaction’ referred to the interaction between Mr Laws and listeners who telephoned The John Laws Morning Show (Transcript, Mr Edmonds, p. 209).
Transcript, Mr Edmonds, p. 171.
Transcript, Mr Edmonds, pp. 172, 180.
Mr Laws’ On-Air Conduct General Briefing Material Mr Laws was provided with extensive and detailed briefs by the RTF either to read or upon which to base his own editorial comment. These were sent to him pursuant to the agreement both before and after paid advertising was taken up with 2UE by the RTF. These briefs continued to be sent after the RTF began paying 2UE for advertising (from approximately
February 1998). They included the following memoranda:
♦ ‘Today’s Truckies Brief on Fuel Tax Indexation’ (undated) providing editorial comment in dot point form on the indexation of the fuel excise.218 ♦ ‘Team 2000-TruckSafe’, proposed for the week commencing 14 October 1996, providing in dot point form ‘a good news story about how serious Today’s Truckies are about professionalism and safety’. It includes a suggestion for a ‘Team 2000’ graduate to phone and talk about the scheme.219 ♦ ‘Today’s Truckies Brief’, dated 25 June 1997, on highway rest areas providing short background paragraphs and dot point comments, asking for truck drivers’ ideas on where and how rest areas should be placed.220 ♦ Undated ‘John Laws Briefing’ on diesel excise prepared by the Communications and Marketing Department of the RTF that sets out the RTF’s position on diesel excise.221 ♦ ‘John Laws Briefing’ on the National Drive for Safety campaign outlines the Christmas 1997 campaign and emphasises the RTF’s commitment to safety.222 ♦ ‘John Laws Briefing’ on the environment emphasises how important the road industry is in Australia and seeks to put environmental issues into this perspective.223 ♦ ‘John Laws Briefing’ on Road Transport Awareness Week 1997, which sets out the aims and themes of the Week.224 ♦ Fax from the RTF to Ms Brownlow (Mr Laws’ program producer) dated 27 October 1997 provides dot points for coverage of the Road Transport Awareness Week National Launch.225 ♦ Fax from Mr Edmonds to Mr Fordham dated 27 April 1998 outlines the RTF’s strategy for live reads, interviews etc. in the coming two weeks and provided dot-point ‘facts for John’ on road funding. The fax stresses the importance of this issue to the RTF.226 ♦ Fax from Mr Edmonds to Mr Fordham dated 2 July 1998 includes material on abolition of diesel fuel excise including ‘Our release. Proposed script.’227 ♦ Fax from Mr Edmonds to Mr Fordham dated 22 July 1998 suggests that scripts are reduced to 30-40 seconds so that ‘John can have quick hits a couple of times during the ATA.0004.0581.
week rather than one big item’. A plan for the next three months and three scripts on ‘worst roads’ (also submitted to 2UE) are attached. 228 The plan includes several distinct strategies including ‘Influence the influential’, which is described as ‘0% advertising 100% editorial’ and ‘Community interaction’, which is described as ‘based on 50% advertising + 50% contractual’.229 ♦ Script for the ‘Tar and Taxes Tour’ dated 11 August 1998 presses the RTF position on diesel fuel excise and gives dates for meetings on the issue.230 ♦ Fax from Mr Edmonds to members of the RTF with regard to the Senate inquiry into the environment notes that Mr Laws ‘is prepared with … a script in relation to this matter’.231 On some occasions Mr Laws made broadcasts closely conforming to scripts or other material supplied by the RTF. These included broadcasts on matters of current political controversy.232 In some cases these were comments based on material supplied to Mr Laws ‘for consideration’; in others it appears that this material constituted ‘live read’ advertisements booked through 2UE.233 Interviews with Members of Parliament Mr Scully – November 1997 Mr Laws interviewed Mr Carl Scully, New South Wales Minister for Road Transport, on Friday 28 November 1997 regarding road safety. During the interview, Mr Laws made a number of remarks that suggested that he was in favour of the RTF’s position on road safety.
During the interview, Mr Laws said:
Considering the importance of the work already done by the industry itself, and I know you applaud the work they’ve done, a 73 per cent drop in accidents caused by fatigue … Yeah, well surely, the best advice would come from people like the Road Transport Forum who talk constantly to their members and to people involved in the industry.
Because I say, I’ve looked at international comment on this and people do tend to say that our 90 km speed limit is outdated but also, can be considered to be dangerous because of the risks taken by other motorists …234 While no script for this interview has been produced, it seems clear that Mr Laws is promoting policies advocated by the RTF.235 JL.0002.0360-0367.
See Transcript, Mr Edmonds p. 183.
ATA.0004.0659 This script was broadcast on 12 August 1998: Transcript, Mr Edmonds p. 189.
2UE.0020.3805; 2UE.0020.3798; 2UE.0020.3796; ATA.0004.0659; Transcript, Mr Edmonds pp. 183, 189.
Transcript, Mr Edmonds pp. 189-193.
Mr Scully – March 1998 A fax from Mr Edmonds to Ms Brownlow and Mr Fordham dated 4 March 1998 provided background information and suggested questions for an impending interview with Mr Scully.236 The Panel does not have evidence to determine whether this interview took place.
Mr Vaile – August 1998 Two faxes dated 18 August 1998 from Mr Edmonds to Mr Fordham and Ms Jodee Borgo (Mr Laws’ personal assistant) proposed that Mr Mark Vaile call in at a given time for a ‘snappy interview’ on the new tax package involving GST and reduced diesel tax, and
provided suggested ‘questions’.237 Some of the points said:
… for instance halving the diesel excise … now that’s a big step forward … because the more efficient Today’s Truckies run the better the country runs … cheaper groceries … improved exports … a boost to local industry and of course jobs, jobs, jobs … have I heard right?
… But is the remaining 18 cents going to find its way back into roads …238
This interview went ahead.239 During the interview, Mr Laws said:
Yes, well you see, that’s the thing because if the efficiency of Today’s Truckies is improved and they run better then everything runs better. It means things like cheaper groceries, I guess, improved exports, boost to local industry, plenty of jobs, if it works the way we all hope it’s going to work.
… There’s going to be, what, 18 cents left as the levy on diesel … Is that 18 cents going to find its way back onto roads?240 Messrs Howard and Costello – August 1998 On 13 August 1998, Mr Edmonds sent a fax to Mr Fordham attaching the RTF’s ‘10 industry questions’ suggesting that some could be asked when Mr Laws interviewed Messrs John Howard or Peter Costello.241 Mr Fordham forwarded this fax to Ms Borgo. The text of the questions was similar to the text of questions proposed for Mr Vaile,242 with the addition of questions specific to Mr Costello’s portfolio.243 It is not clear whether these questions were used by Mr Laws.
ATA.0004.0661 (Ellipses in original).
Other Promotional Work An e-mail from Mr Fordham to Ms Borgo on 8 November 1998 relayed a request from Mr Edmonds that Mr Laws travel to work in a truck on 11 December and take a call from a nominated truck driver ‘so he can pass on road safety for the holiday season’.244 It is not clear whether this took place.
A memorandum from Mr Bill Barrington (Sky Radio Network) to Mr Laws on 17 March 1999 advised that 60 second spots concerning road safety from a ‘truckies perspective’ were to be recorded at 2DU Dubbo by a truck driver, Mr Rod Hannifey.
Mr Hannifey had been advised that ‘he would need the support of the RTF before Sky Radio would consider promoting his cause to Australian Radio’.245 This fax was sent from Mr Laws’ office at 2UE to Mr Mike Edmonds RTF with a note from Mr Fordham dated 7 April 1999.246 Attitude of the Australian Trucking Association to the Performance of the Agreement During evidence, Mr Edmonds said that, in evaluating the benefit of the return on investment for Mr Laws, the RTF ‘weren’t talking about advertising; we’re talking about newsworthy issues’.247 Mr Edmonds gave evidence that the RTF had assessed the value of air time that Mr Laws would give to the RTF. Mr Edmonds said that the contractual payment of $100,000 to Mr Laws was worth the equivalent of a twelve week advertising campaign (that is, $590,000).248 Conclusions It appears that Mr Laws used on-air opportunities to support the position of the RTF and that, in doing so, Mr Laws used the talking points and ‘questions’ provided by the RTF as a basis for interviews he conducted on his program.
Transcript, Mr Edmonds, p. 170.
Transcript, Mr Edmonds, p. 178.