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«COMMERCIAL RADIO INQUIRY Report of the Australian Broadcasting Authority Hearing into Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Limited February 2000 Sydney ISBN 0 642 ...»

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Commonwealth Bank





Rockdale Council Educating The Elderly In The Use Of Electronic Banking

Interview Of Paul Tissot Regarding Colonial State Bank Branch At Coles Supermarket Dee Why


Interview with Mr Cousins, 14 March 1996

Interview with Mr Cousins, 27 June 1996

Optus Sports Vision

Mobile Phone Call Drop Out

Optus UpDate

Half-Yearly Result

Local Calls





Wollongong Insurance Claims

Interview with Mr Whitlam


Story on Competition in Banking

Cheque Clearance Times Reduced

Fees and Charges


General Community #1

General Community #2

It Has a Big Effect

Keep the Money Local

Big Tax Increase



Public Meetings

Tar and Taxes Tour


xiii Interest Rate Cut

Fees are Good For You

Social Contract Broadcast

ATM Usage

Westpac Down to 16%

St George Brochure

Bank Fees

Soaring Bank Fees


Licence Requirements

Australian Bankers’ Association

Registered Clubs Association of New South Wales

Road Transport Forum

Foxtel Management Pty Limited



Notes to Radio Program Standard 8


Mr Jones’ Contracts With Sponsors

Mr Laws’ Contracts With Sponsors



Finding Number 1 can be found on page 36 Finding Number 22 can be found on page71

–  –  –

xv Acknowledgements The Panel wishes to acknowledge the work of the staff of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Government Solicitors office in the conduct of the hearing and the preparation of the report. In particular, the Panel wishes to thank Mr Marcus Bezzi and Ms Suzie Brown of the Australian Government Solicitors office, and Mr John Corker, Mr Leon Atkinson-MacEwen, Mr Gavin Bowman, Ms Patricia Murphy and Mr David Smith of the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

The Panel also wishes to acknowledge the work of counsel assisting the Authority, Mr Julian Burnside QC, Mr Stephen Gagelar and Mr Geoffrey Kennett.

–  –  –

The report examines, in turn:

♦ the background to the hearing ;

♦ the relevant Commercial Radio Codes of Practice and the principles which underpin them;

♦ the contractual arrangements entered into by Mr Alan Jones, the effect of those contractual arrangements on the on-air conduct of Mr Jones, and whether there was any breach of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice and / or 2UE’s licence conditions as a result;

♦ the contractual arrangements entered into by Mr John Laws, the effect of those contractual arrangements on the on-air conduct of Mr Laws, and whether there was any breach of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice and / or 2UE’s licence conditions as a result; and ♦ the extent of the licensee’s knowledge of the existence and effect of these contractual arrangements, and whether there was any breach of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice and / or 2UE’s licence conditions as a result.

The report concludes with a brief summary of findings and with recommendations for further action by the Authority.

February 2000

–  –  –

The Parliament intends that different levels of regulatory control be applied across the range of broadcasting services according to the degree of influence that different types of broadcasting services are able to exert in shaping community views in Australia.

Object 3(g) of the Act states:

to encourage providers of commercial and community broadcasting services to be responsive to the need for a fair and accurate coverage of matters of public interest and for an appropriate coverage of matters of local significance.

The Explanatory Memorandum to the Act records:

… the reference in this object to a fair and accurate coverage of matters of public interest recognises that for most people broadcasting is a major source of information on issues and events in the world … It is intended that, in the reporting of events and the presentation of issues, providers of broadcasting services will report the facts and facilitate the presentation of the range of views on any particular issue. This does not mean, however, that broadcasters will be required to give equal time to every view on any particular subject.

THE HEARING Talkback radio is an influential medium, and 2UE was probably the most listened-to talk format radio station in Australia during the 1990s. Mr Alan Jones and Mr John Laws are its most successful presenters. During this period, they were often the top-rating and arguably the most influential talkback radio hosts in Australia.

On 12 July 1999 the ABC program ‘Media Watch’ broadcast a story concerning an alleged financial agreement between 2UE presenter Mr John Laws and the Bankers’ Association.

The ‘Media Watch’ story received widespread media coverage.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority (the Authority) announced on 15 July 1999 that it

would be using its formal powers under the Act to:

♦ conduct an inquiry into the issues raised by the ‘Media Watch’ program, and ♦ determine whether the allegations, if correct, involved breaches of the Act, of 2UE’s licence conditions or of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice (the Codes).

After further allegations appeared concerning financial arrangements between 2UE’s breakfast program presenter Mr Alan Jones and commercial interests, the scope of the Authority inquiry was widened to include other 2UE presenters and other radio stations.

On 6 September 1999, as part of the inquiry, the Authority announced it would conduct a

hearing into:

♦ the nature and operation of Mr Jones’ and Mr Laws’ agreements;

♦ whether these contracts had had any effect on the content of programs; and ♦ whether this involved any breaches by 2UE of the conditions of its licence under the Act, or of the Codes.

For the purposes of a hearing, the Authority is constituted by a panel. The Panel for this hearing comprised the Chairman of the Authority, Professor David Flint, and Mr Michael Gordon-Smith. It was later reconstituted on 8 November 1999, following the Chairman’s inability to continue with the hearing. The Panel then comprised Mr Gordon-Smith as presiding member, Ms Kerrie Henderson and Mr Ian Robertson.

The Panel sat and heard evidence and submissions on 19-22 October 1999, 25October 1999,8-12 November 1999, 17-19 November 1999 and 2-3 December 1999, a total of 19 sitting days.

The Act requires the Authority to report on hearings. This report is a report of the Authority as constituted by the Panel. It sets out the findings of the Panel as a result of the hearing, and the Panel’s recommendations to the Authority.


The Authority sought documents from relevant persons and companies for the period between 5 October 1992 (the date of commencement of the Act) and 20 July 1999. During that period, Mr Jones and Mr Laws had agreements with a range of commercial entities, some of which were not examined in the hearing.

The following agreements of Mr Jones were examined in some detail:

♦ Optus Administration Pty Limited (Optus);

♦ QANTAS Airways Limited (QANTAS);

♦ State Bank of New South Wales (State Bank);

♦ Walsh Bay Finance Pty Limited (Walsh Bay); and ♦ Walker Corporation Limited (Walker Corporation).

The following agreements of Mr Laws were examined in some detail:

♦ the Australian Bankers’ Association (Bankers’ Association);

♦ the Australian Trucking Association (formerly the Road Transport Forum);

♦ Foxtel Management Pty Limited (Foxtel);

♦ NRMA Limited (NRMA);

♦ Optus Administration Pty Limited (Optus);

♦ QANTAS Airways Limited (QANTAS);

♦ RAMS Home Loans Pty Limited (RAMS);

♦ the Registered Clubs Association of NSW (Registered Clubs); and ♦ Star City Entertainment Pty Limited (Star City).

All of these agreements included terms relating to the on-air conduct of the presenters.

The Panel has concluded that the existence of these agreements, and the conduct of the presenters in giving them effect, has influenced the content of programs broadcast by the presenter – in some cases, directly.


CODES) AND THE ACT Neither the Codes nor the conditions imposed on licensees under the Act specifically address commercial arrangements entered into by presenters.

The stated purpose of Code 2 is ‘to promote accuracy and fairness in news and current

affairs programs’. Clause 2.2(d) of the Codes provides:

In the preparation and presentation of current affairs programs, a licensee must ensure that:

–  –  –

Under sub-section 42 (2) (together with Clause 4 of Schedule 2) of the Act, it is a condition

of all commercial radio licences that:

If a broadcaster broadcasts political matter at the request of another person, the broadcaster must, immediately afterwards, cause the required particulars in relation to the matter to be announced in a form approved in writing by the Authority.


–  –  –

The Panel is of the view that listeners are entitled to assume that there are no significant commercial arrangements between presenters and persons who are the subject of broadcasts unless such arrangements have been disclosed.

The agreements entered into by Mr Jones and Mr Laws with corporations and associations which oblige them to provide services on-air have contributed to a substantial failure by the licensee to comply with the conditions of its licence and with the standards of conduct required by Codes 2 and 3.

The Panel has formed a preliminary view that remedial action is necessary to ensure 2UE’s compliance with the Act and the Codes and, in particular, to ensure the effective disclosure of the commercial agreements between presenters, their producers and sponsors.


The Panel has recommended that the Authority considers the imposition of two additional conditions on 2UE’s licence. These are proposed to commence operation on 3 April 2000 for three (3) years.

The proposed first condition would require on-air and off-air disclosure of relevant commercial agreements and requires the Licensee to develop and implement a compliance training program.

All staff of the Licensee must at least twice in the first year of the condition and at least once every year thereafter undertake a training program concerning the obligations imposed on the Licensee by the Act, each code and the new disclosure condition. This acknowledges that the Panel has found breaches of Code 2 and 3 and breaches of clause 4(2) of Schedule 2 to the Act. Clause 4(2) of Schedule 2 to the Act requires the name and address of the person who authorised the broadcasting of political matter to be disclosed at the time of broadcast of the political matter.

The proposed on-air requirement is that a Disclosure Announcement be broadcast at the time

of and as part of the broadcast of any material:

–  –  –

The proposed off-air disclosure obligation would require 2UE to maintain a public register of the commercial agreements of presenters and producers, and provide this register to the Authority. This register must be available on 2UE’s website.

The second proposed condition would require the Licensee to ensure that paid advertisements are readily distinguishable from other program matter. This is to ensure that listeners are able to clearly distinguish paid messages from other messages.

1 Background to the Hearing


On 12 July 1999 the ABC program ‘Media Watch’ broadcast a story concerning an alleged financial agreement between 2UE presenter John Laws and the Bankers’ Association (an organisation representing the major Australian banks). Briefly, the arrangement was said to have involved Laws making positive on-air comments about the banks over and above paid advertisements, and also involved the airing of a segment concerning banking issues called ‘The Whole Story’. The program also stated that prior to this agreement Mr Laws had been a strong critic of the banks.

The ‘Media Watch’ story received widespread media coverage. The Australian Broadcasting Authority (the Authority) announced on 15 July 1999 that it would be using its formal powers under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act) to conduct an inquiry into the issues raised by the ‘Media Watch’ program. The inquiry was constituted in order to determine whether the allegations, if correct, involved breaches of the Act, of 2UE’s licence conditions or of the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice (the Codes).

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