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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 ...»

-- [ Page 36 ] --

MR COUSINS: We paid the Federal Government $800 million for a licence to build this second telephone network. They asked us to build it, we’re building it in accordance with a federal law and any suggestion that we are doing anything improper is quite wrong. We were asked to build the network and we built it under a federal law. Some of the local councils don’t like that because they like the idea that if you’ve got to put a fence in your backyard you go and draw a little plan and get their approval.

MR JONES: Yes, they want to be involved in everything, but I mean, you’d go berserk trying to establish a telecommunications empire and getting the permission and consent of every local council around the country, wouldn’t you?

MR COUSINS: You simply couldn’t do it. You would never have had the first telephone network and that, of course, is why the Federal Government – and this was supported by both political parties.

MR JONES: This was the Keating Government.

MR COUSINS: Yes, the Keating Government did it but supported by the Liberal Party at the time – why they wrote into this Act exemptions for people building this national – MR JONES: In other words, get on with it. It’s so important to battling Australians. So, in other words, if there is a slowdown in the installation of the overhead cables, there is going to be an equivalent slowdown in people’s access to cheaper local calls.

MR COUSINS: Exactly so. And indeed, even slowing things down puts our business at risk, to a degree, so we don’t want that and I don’t believe most Australians want it.

MR JONES: So you’ve got the Mayor of Manly – what would her mandate be? She’s actually complaining about all of this but isn’t it true to say that if Manly don’t make, for example, the Match of the Day, at any given weekend, under Optus Vision’s right to show rugby league on pay TV, you could see Manly play on Optus Vision pay TV so she’s got a constituency to which she’s trying to deny access to their capacity to see their own team on pay TV.

MR COUSINS: Absolutely. If we were excluded, say, from that area, then that would mean those people wouldn’t have access to the cheaper local phone calls, they wouldn’t be able to watch their team play half the time and, quite frankly, the residents of these areas, they want these services. It’s the councillors and a very small group of vocal people who are running around causing all of this trouble.

MR JONES: What are these dedicated community TV channels? You’ve got one, haven’t you? What is that?

MR COUSINS: What we’ve done – I think this is a terrific initiative – we’ve said that one of the great things about pay TV is it has a lot of capacity. We can devote a channel to one thing, which free to air can never do. So we’ve given to the community a channel called Local Vision. We’ve built a little studio which we give to the community, they can use it 24 hours a day and we’ll train them and any community groups can come in and make their own television programmes and put them on that channel.

–  –  –

MR COUSINS: We pay for everything.

MR JONES: The Chinese community have already made – MR COUSINS: We’ve got Chinese groups, we’ve got Rotary clubs using it.

MR JONES: This is Parramatta, is it?

MR COUSINS: This one at Parramatta. We’ve got one in Melbourne and a lot of the councils are using it and they like it very much. They can communicate with their local residents on it.

MR JONES: That’s story is never told, is it?

MR COUSINS: No, it isn’t and it just been an initiative from us. We haven’t tried to make a lot of publicity about it but I think it’s a tremendous benefit to the community.

MR JONES: You’re going to sponsor the Rugby League, the ARL Rugby League Premiership for the next five years.

MR COUSINS: We sure are. We are absolutely delighted to have it and very proud to have it called the Optus Cup, which is going to be called for the next five years and I’m looking forward to seeing a bit of play back on the paddock.

MR JONES: So are many other people. And Qantas will be sponsoring the finals as well but they’ll still be paying for the Optus Cup.

MR COUSINS: That’s correct.

MR JONES: Good to talk to you. Geoff Cousins. A totally different story. And they are not going to go away, pay TV chain, Optus Vision, but it’s a much broader picture and a much more generous picture than sometimes is ever acknowledged.772 Mr Jones Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by Mr Jones, Mr Jones also made the following

submission in relation to this broadcast:

It was not suggested to Mr Jones that his decision to conduct the interview would not have been made but for the Agreement, or that the manner in which it was conducted was influenced by the existence or terms of the Agreement.773 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by 2UE, 2UE also made the following

submission in relation to this broadcast:

Jones had been very publicly associated with Optus (through public appearances and advertising) for some years. This must condition his listeners’ expectations of the way in which he will deal with Optus and related topics whilst on-air.774 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that the broadcast of this interview is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on political and economic issues of relevance to the community.





The Panel finds the available fact of Mr Jones commercial agreement with Optus was withheld during the broadcast. The existence of Mr Jones’ commercial agreement with Optus was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds that this available fact was relevant because:

♦ the issue was of concern to Optus: it was an interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Optus Vision. During the interview, Mr Cousins says ‘slowing things down puts our business at risk, to a degree, so we don’t want that’;775 ♦ Mr Jones defended Optus’ position regarding overhead cabling. Mr Jones says ‘you’d go berserk trying to establish a telecommunications empire and getting the permission and consent of every local council around the country, wouldn’t you?’;776 and ♦ the broadcast was favourable to Optus.

Exhibit 86, p. 123.

Submission made by Mr Alan Jones, paragraph 205.

Submission made by 2UE – Alan Jones Broadcasts – Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, D2 Exhibit 86, p. 123.

Exhibit 86, p. 123.

The Panel considers that it is unnecessary for there to be evidence that the interview would not have been made but for the agreement or the manner in which it was conducted was influenced by the existence or terms of the agreement. The interview is favourable to Optus.

The existence of the agreement with Optus is a relevant available fact which should have been disclosed.

The Panel notes 2UE’s submission that the interest of the interviewee is clear and hence listeners know who is persuading them. The Panel does not accept this submission. While the interviewee’s position is declared, Mr Jones’ interest is not. Mr Jones has a financial agreement with Optus, but there is no disclosure of it.

The Panel notes 2UE’s submission that Mr Jones had been ‘very publicly associated with Optus (through public appearances and advertising) over some years’, and that this must condition listeners’ expectations regarding his disinterestedness or otherwise. However, clause 3.1(a) provides that advertisements must not be presented as news programs or other programs. To the extent that the presentation of any live read advertisement is capable of causing confusion in listeners’ minds with the editorial comment of Mr Jones, the Panel would be concerned that those live read advertisements may have breached clause 3.1(a).

Further, listeners should not be required to be aware of the public appearances of Mr Jones for Optus, which are external to the matter broadcast. Mr Jones’ public appearances for Optus are not, in the Panel’s view, sufficient disclosure of a commercial relationship between him and Optus, which encompasses on-air editorial conduct.

The Panel therefore does not accept the submission of 2UE in this regard.

The Panel finds that, in the presentation of a current affairs program, Mr Jones presented material in a misleading manner by withholding a relevant available fact, namely the existence of a commercial relationship between himself and Optus.

The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.

INTERVIEW WITH MR COUSINS, 27 JUNE 1996 Material Broadcast by Mr Jones

On 27 June 1996, Mr Jones conducted the following interview with Mr Cousins:

MR JONES: Today is an historic day in Australia’s telecommunications history, the first time the Government monopoly, Telstra, has had a competitor in the local calls market. Optus will today announce its plans which, at the least, will mean cheaper local calls. Some suggest Optus could be charging between 15 and 20 cents per call as against Telstra’s 25 cents. The only problem would seem to be that if you decide to go with Optus you will have to get a new phone number, although Optus is saying it will provide a device which will tell callers of your new number, but it’s a fairly historic day and the culmination of many years of hard work for the people at Optus Vision. Geoff Cousins has done phenomenal job there and he’s the boss and he’s on the line. Geoff, good morning. How will you persuade people they should change from Telstra to you?

MR COUSINS: We’re going to give them a whole new deal, Alan. We’re going to give them better service, we are going to give them new features on the telephone and we’re actually going to cut the price of a 25 cent local phone call for the first time in the history of this country.

MR JONES: And, of course, you are going to be very coy and you’re not going to tell me till eleven o’clock this morning. Don’t worry about that. I understand, Geoff, I understand.

MR COUSINS: Even if we cut it by one cent, Alan, it would be an absolutely historic day because it’s been going up and up and up, year after year.

MR JONES: I might add, for the benefit of our listeners, the argument being ventilated yesterday was that if Telstra were to cut to match Optus their calls by one cent, they would lose on every cent $100 million a year, so it’s a very profitable industry. If someone after today, Geoff, wants to go with Optus for local calls, how do they go about it?

MR COUSINS: If a cable is in their area then we’ll be contacting them and we will come along, we’ll actually make the installation, we’ll give them a new handset and we’ll have them hooked up just as fast as we can. In the early months, frankly, we’re going to have trouble keeping up with the demand because I think there is going to be overwhelming demand.

MR JONES: So all those local government people who are racing off to court to stop the cables going up were people who effectively were trying to stop cheaper local calls.

MR COUSINS: I think most of those people have now swung round, Alan, as they’ve realised that there are very major benefits coming from this and we’re getting very good support from them now.

MR JONES: So how much of the market do you expect to capture?

MR COUSINS: I think we’re going to get a very decent share of the local call market. As I say, it will take us a little while to hook everybody up, because this is a physical connection. A truck has to roll to every home, we actually go and make the installation. Once we’ve done that, we maintain the line and if those people don’t want to do business with Telstra ever again they don’t have to. We will give them a complete telephone service now. Local calls, long distance, the whole lot.

MR JONES: And then when you serve, as you will today, a few Sampras-style aces, no doubt Telstra will try to return at about one minute past eleven.

MR COUSINS: That would be terrific. That doesn’t bother me. I think that’s what competition is all about and what that will mean is that people of Australia will get –

–  –  –

MR JONES: And the battlers, exactly. Good to talk to you. We’ll see you at eleven o’clock.

That’s Geoff Cousins. There will be a big announcement today at eleven o’clock. He’s the boss of Optus Vision. But a whole new day in the history of Australian telecommunications.777 Mr Jones Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by Mr Jones, Mr Jones also made the following

submission in relation to this broadcast:

–  –  –

It was not suggested to Mr Jones that his decision to conduct the interview would not have been made but for the Agreement, or that the manner in which it was conducted was influenced by the existence or terms of the Agreement.778 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by 2UE, 2UE also made the following

submission in relation to this broadcast:

Jones had been very publicly associated with Optus (through public appearances and advertising) for some years. This must condition his listeners’ expectations of the way in which he will deal with Optus and related topics whilst on-air.779 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that the broadcast of these interviews are current affairs programs. They purport to concern matters focussing on political and economic issues of relevance to the community.

The Panel finds the available fact of Mr Jones commercial agreement with Optus was withheld during both broadcasts. The existence of Mr Jones’ commercial agreement with Optus was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds that this available fact was relevant because:



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