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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 37 ] --

♦ the issue was of concern to Optus: it was an interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Optus Vision. Mr Cousins says ‘I think that’s what competition is all about and what that will mean is that people of Australia will get … a better and better deal’;780 ♦ Mr Jones defended the position of Optus regarding overhead cabling. Mr Jones says ‘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’;781 and ♦ the broadcast was favourable to Optus.

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 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. 131.

Exhibit 86, p. 131.

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, 9 OCTOBER 1996 Material Broadcast by Mr Jones

On 9 October 1996, Mr Jones conducted the following interview with Mr Cousins:

MR JONES: Geoff Cousins, true to form, the boss of Optus Vision served notice yesterday that they are not going to hand over Rugby League to the private interests of Rupert Murdoch.

Whatever the merits of the Super League proposal it is utterly unacceptable to anybody in sport that a private outfit should run a major national sporting event, and if it is Rugby League today what next.

Can Mr Murdoch, for example, buy up all our athletes and our swimmers? Are we seriously saying this is the way sport should be run? Because there is no structure within any Super League proposal for giving any say in the running of the game to representatives of the grass roots of the game, and that is central to any sporting administration, whether it is tennis, or soccer, or netball, or whatever.

Optus Vision said yesterday they would kick the can, with some conditions, for the ARL.

Clubs will be given until Friday to indicate where they stand. If they sign up with the ARL they will get a $2 million up front payment and $3 million a year. This is conditional upon the High Court appeal being pursued, the ARL contracted players remaining loyal to the ARL, and there being a sufficient number of clubs to form a viable competition remaining loyal to the ARL.

One interesting comment was made by Super League about this proposal yesterday and it said this will reduce the ARL to a Sydney based competition with one team from South East Queensland, whereas Super League will be national and international.

I have never believed that Rugby League has an international audience and I doubt it has even got a national one. When Rugby League was a Sydney based competition it was one of the most successful Rugby League competitions in the world, successful sporting competitions in the world.

You see, what is going to happen is this, Super League are now going to have to make all their teams equal, players told where to go so that Adelaide and Perth can be competitive. You will have the suspicion amongst supporters that games and scores are being set up to make them look close in order to pretend that the competition is strong and of equivalent strength. So the problems of the future are not all on the one side.

The boss of Optus Vision is on the line. Geoff Cousins, good morning.

MR COUSINS: Good morning, Alan.

MR JONES: So what have you done yesterday?





MR COUSINS: We have given some substantial support to the ARL. The exact details of that I think are a matter between us and the ARL. But obviously we agree with your proposition that business shouldn’t run a sport, and I want to make it absolutely clear that whatever support we give to the ARL we don’t have any plans whatever to be involved in running the game and we never have had.

MR JONES: Your support is conditional upon the High Court appeal being pursued. Have you any indication from the ARL whether that will happen and any indication from the lawyers as to the likelihood of an application to go to the High Court being successful?

MR COUSINS: Yes, the lawyers are very confident that they are going to get leave and they are very confident that they will win in the High Court. We therefore certainly want to see the ARL continue and succeed. I know John Quayle said yesterday that down the track whether two codes are the ideal situation has to be questioned.

MR JONES: Two competitions.

MR COUSINS: Two competitions, yes, and maybe that is right.

MR JONES: Yes, but that is down the track. What you are saying is ARL contracted players must remain loyal to the ARL, that is a condition as well, and then there being sufficient number of clubs to form a viable competition. Has the ARL, or in your discussions with John Quayle and Ken Arthurson, have they had an indication from those ‘loyal clubs’ that they will be staying?

MR COUSINS: I think they have from quite a number and quite a number have rung us also, but I don’t to speak for the clubs. Again I stress that those things should really be a matter between the ARL and the clubs. We don’t want to get in the middle of all that. We regard ourselves as buyers of television rights, not as people who run sporting games.

MR JONES: As buyers of television rights is it a weakness or a strength or it doesn’t matter that you would be running a Sydney based competition, is that a concern, or is Rugby League perhaps a tribal sport which doesn’t have the king of international appeal that some people think it has got?

MR COUSINS: Certainly the second. I mean I can’t imagine that having a club that is artificially created and then sent to another state is going to fascinate anyone. It is the tribal support of these clubs that has made Rugby League a great game, just the same as it makes AFL a great game.

MR JONES: Does it worry you that if this doesn’t bed itself down the game itself may lose support?

MR COUSINS: No doubt about it. Look, it’s no different to watching two great tennis players play an exhibition match. When there is nothing much at stake and there is no great passion in the thing who wants to watch it? Nobody. I am not in the least concerned by the concept that Super League might have some artificially created club here playing another artificially created club playing in the UK or Papua New Guinea or somewhere else.

MR JONES: You are happy to allow Rugby League to return to the tribal support that it has enjoyed in Sydney in the sixties and seventies?

MR COUSINS: Absolutely. It has been an enormously successful sport on that basis and I don’t see why it can’t continue in that way. I don’t suggest that means any club from Queensland or anywhere else ought to be excluded, don’t get me wrong, but it is the great club followings that matter and I think, for instance, it would be a tragedy if a club like St George was uprooted and went to Melbourne. I mean who is going to be following St George in Melbourne, they couldn’t care less about Rugby League in Melbourne.

MR JONES: Good point. Well, we will wait and see how it develops. Thank you for your time, as always.

–  –  –

MR JONES: Geoff Cousins making a lot of points. The matter is far from being resolved, but the ARL are back in the fight.782 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.783 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.784 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.

Exhibit 86, p. 136.

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, D4 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:

♦ the issue was of concern to Optus: it was an interview with the Chief Executive Officer of Optus Vision. In order to secure television rights to Rugby League, Optus Vision is prepared to pays Rugby League Clubs $2 million up front and $3 million per year.

Mr Cousins says ‘We regard ourselves as buyers of television rights, not as people who run sporting games’;785 and ♦ the broadcast was favourable to Optus. Mr Jones allows Mr Cousins to advocate Optus’ position and does not challenge any of Mr Cousins’ statements.

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.

–  –  –

STRENGTHENING COMPETITION IN

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Material Broadcast by Mr Jones

On 22 June 1998, Mr Jones broadcast the following:

One of the big issues in public debate will be this Telstra privatisation and with it, the need for the Howard Government to strengthen competition in telecommunications if we’re going to give the battler a go … Cabinet … is going to address this issue in Canberra. There’s talk that there will be increased penalties on Telstra for failing to fix their faults on time. The big issue, as I’ve said many times, is local telephone calls.



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