«COMMERCIAL RADIO INQUIRY Report of the Australian Broadcasting Authority Hearing into Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Limited February 2000 Sydney ISBN 0 642 ...»
The Panel finds that, in the presentation of a current affairs program, Mr Laws presented material in a misleading manner by withholding a relevant available fact, namely the existence of a commercial relationship between himself and Foxtel Management Pty Limited.
The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.
Australian Bankers’ Association The Panel notes that Mr Laws was aware of the existence of his commercial relationship with the Bankers’ Association (see ‘Mr Laws’ Agreements and His On-Air Conduct‘ on page 47).
INTERVIEW WITH MR AVELING, 19 FEBRUARY 1999 Material Provided to Mr Laws On 16 February 1999 Mr Stewart, Director Public Affairs with the Bankers’ Association,
sent Mr Laws a memo which was entitled ‘Script for Unscripted Call to Laws’:
During the next week, the following scenario might be played out on air.
0910: John says, ‘Do you remember when I came back from holidays a couple of weeks ago?
There was a story in the news that day about our school children not learning enough about Australian history.
I’ve been thinking about that story and what I can do to turn around a disgraceful situation.
I’m thinking that we might have a regular segment in this program where we bring our history alive – make it fun, make it interesting and show just how fantastic and interesting history can be.
0955: Tony Aveling (ABA CEO) calls John, ‘John, I heard what you said about bringing Australian history alive through your program. The banks would like to help you do that.
We’ve been part of the action for 180 years, so we think it is very important that Australians know about this wonderful country and its people.
One condition – you have been telling us through your program for some time that we could do with some help explaining ourselves better. We want you to work with us telling Australians more about us.
John: Well you know I am not one of your biggest fans, so I’m not sure you can ask.
Tony: John, we want you to ask us the tough questions that only you can ask. If the answers are not good enough, then we can handle the criticism – that’s healthy provided it’s based on the whole story.
John: I tell you what, I like that … the whole story – that’s not a bad title for our series. The Whole Story. Here’s the deal – you tell your story and I’ll tell mine … but it’s got to be the whole story.
John: You know you people have got a hell of an image problem. We know you do a great job for shareholders, but … anyway, you can sit and whinge or you can do something about it.
Let’s do something about it.999 On the morning of the broadcast Mr Bob Miller sent Mr Laws a memo reminding him of the
A reminder that Tony Aveling of ABA will call you this morning between 9 and 10 am.
Prior to Tony’s call, you will be musing on-air about the fact that when you came back from holidays there was a lot of publicity about the way young Australians did not seem to know very much about their history.
BANK.0002.0321 You were talking about this at lunch yesterday with Bob Miller (who’s a First Fleet descendant himself) as we looked around Rose Bay and all the incredible development on the surroundings.
There are so many wonderful, interesting stories to be told about Australia in 200 years of European settlement here. It’s a great pity today’s young folk don’t seem to know the whole story of Australia’s development: the funny side as well as the serious side.
Tony Aveling will call you and remark that the Banks are the oldest established business enterprise in Australia and they have thousands of stories that never get told.
You will say, ‘I’ll get Bob Miller to go and see you to talk about the way that some of those interesting banking and business development stories could be told on the John Laws morning show.’ Tony will say that he’d welcome a chance to discuss the matter some time soon.
You will say you’ll look forward to talking to Tony again.1000 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws
On 19 February 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:
MR TONY AVELING: It’s Tony Aveling, here, from the Australian Bankers Association, John.
MR LAWS: Hello, Tony. This is a surprise, how are you?
MR AVELING: John, I’ve just been listening to what you’ve been saying about how our children should be learning more about Gallipoli and the rest of our history. And then how you’ve been talking with your friend Bob Miller, about how we don’t really understand the full story about many things, especially about our history, about people like Keith Perkins, the farmer from Crookwell.
MR AVELING: And I got to thinking about that and how banks have been part of that history for over 180 years and really what a terrific idea it is, of yours, that Australians should learn more about this great country of ours and its people.
So, John, the reason I’m calling is to say that we’d like to help you do that.
MR LAWS: Oh, well that’s nice, Tony, I’m not quite understanding how - you know me and the banks, Tony, I’m not quite sure how you can help me. I do understand your long association with Australia, and I do understand that you have been banking here for about 180 years, but I don’t quite understand how I can help, or you can help me.
MR AVELING: Well, there’s been a lot of stories that are involved with banking, there’s a lot of stories that we’ve been involved with, with people all over these years, and we think we can play a part in that.
But, John, I guess you’ve - there’s a note in your voice that’s perhaps a little bit of concern, so let me tell you, yes, I’m a banker so I’ve got a condition for you.
What we’d want to do is to help you with this program but you’ve been telling us through your program that we could do with some help in explaining ourselves better. Well, we’d like to work with you in telling Australia more about banks.
MR LAWS: Well, you kind of catch me on the hop because what you’ve said is right, I have said in the past that the banks could do with a bit of help and I haven’t been one of the biggest fans of banks for a while but I mean if the hard questions are asked, will they be answered?
MR AVELING: Well, John, I’d go so far as to say that you’ve been one of our toughest critics, so we want you to ask us those hard questions and if the answers we give you aren’t good enough then we can handle the criticism, I guess we’re pretty well used to it but provided its based on the whole story. Mind you, we could also handle a bit of praise now and again because banks do good things, too.
MR LAWS: Yeah, all right, Tony, well what about - let me just mull that over and I’ll get hold of Miller again and Miller and I will go and have another lunch and discuss this. It’s very interesting and I appreciate the fact that you caught up with what I’m saying about telling the whole story because I do think it’s important and I’m pleased that you agree with that and maybe you’re right, maybe we haven’t heard the whole story, not only as far as history is concerned, and as far as farming is concerned, and as far as Australia is concerned, but maybe we haven’t heard the whole story as far as banking is concerned.
MR AVELING: That would be terrific, we look forward to seeing Bob, any time.
MR LAWS: Okay, and I’m not putting you off, we will get back to you, we’ll think about it.
MR AVELING: Okay, thank you very much, then, John.
MR LAWS: Thank you for listening, Tony, and thank you very much for your call, I appreciate it. Bye.1001 Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing
Mr Laws made the following submission in relation to this broadcast:
It is submitted that, in context, this was a clever and acceptable introduction of the Bankers’ Association to 2UE listeners as a 2UE advertiser. Just because it was scripted does not mean that the speakers were not genuine in what was said. To genuinely adopt a script is not to mislead the receiver of the information. It is submitted that a bit of light theatre (‘the theatre’) was acceptable.
Further, it was not ‘the calculated result of the Laws agreement’. That assertion overlooks that the subject discussed between Laws and Aveling was expressly the whole story series which
was about to run on-air as an advertisement fully paid to 2UE. Why seek to leap to a conclusion that it occurred only because of John Laws personal agreement?1002 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on social and economic issues of relevance to the community, namely banking and the role that it has played in Australian society and history.
The Panel finds that the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial agreement with Australia Street Consulting to promote Bankers’ Association was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement was not disclosed in the broadcast.
The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:
♦ the broadcast was favourable to the Bankers’ Association. During the interview, Mr Aveling was given the opportunity to promote the profile of banking in Australia.
Mr Aveling says ‘Well, we’d like to work with you in telling Australia more about banks … Mind you, we could also handle a bit of praise now and again because banks do good things, too’;1003 ♦ the issue was of concern to the Bankers’ Association. A script for the call from Mr Aveling had been sent to Mr Laws from the Bankers’ Association three days prior to the broadcast. In addition, on the morning of the broadcast Mr Bob Miller from Australia Street Consulting sent a memo to Mr Laws reminding him of the impending call from Mr Aveling and outlining some of key points that were to be incorporated in the discussion and immediately prior to the discussion;
♦ Mr Laws relied on the script provided to him by the Bankers’ Association; and ♦ a memo to the banks from Mr Aveling entitled ‘2UE – John Laws Program’ and dated 5 March 1999 reveals that Mr Aveling regarded the interview as having taken place as a result of the agreement with Mr Laws. In this memo Mr Aveling gave a progress report on the effect that this agreement was having. Under the heading ‘Additional Positive
Airtime’ he noted that:
… since 19 February when we confirmed our agreement with him, Mr Laws has also given a further 6.5 minutes of positive airtime to banks, including two additional on-air discussions with me … In the first of these I made a public offer that the banking industry would like to support the historical series on condition that he told ‘The Whole Story’ about banks.1004 The Panel finds that, in the presentation of a current affairs program, Mr Laws presented material in a misleading manner by withholding a relevant available fact, namely the existence of a commercial relationship between himself and the Bankers’ Association.
The Panel finds 2UE to be in breach of clause 2.2(d) of the Codes.
Submission made by Mr John Laws – Australian Bankers’ Association, p. 13. (Emphasis in original) BANK.0003.0591 BANK.0002.0389 INTERVIEW WITH MR AVELING, 22 FEBRUARY 1999 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws
On 22 February 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:
MR LAWS: 13 13 32, our telephone number, if you’d like to call us. Hello.
MR TONY AVELING: Good morning, John, it’s Tony Aveling from the Australian Bankers’ Association.
MR AVELING: Yes, this is a bit much. Like you, we’ve been following the bushfire disaster around Crookwell and today we’ve been talking to the banks about what they’re doing to help out.
So let me say the banks are well used to the situation and probably for 180 years they’ve been supporting their customers through droughts and floods and bushfires and other disasters.
So what I’d like to do is just urge any bank customer to contact their bank if they’re facing financial difficulty as a result of these terrible bushfires and banks have assured us that they will be taking a sympathetic approach and that they will be happy to discuss deferring repayments or additional loan funds where this is needed.
MR LAWS: Well that’s terrific. So the bank manager will sit down like they used to in the good old days and have a yarn to the fellow who’s got his problems.
MR AVELING: Yes. I mean, you’ve got to look at this on a case-by-case basis but the main thing is a sympathetic approach and some people will want to suspend repayments, others will want to restructure their loans. Banks will waive establishment fees in certain circumstances...
in this very difficult time for the farmers.
MR LAWS: Well, that’s terrific, Tony. You’ve got me twice in a week. And that’s really good news and that’s the kind of bank story...
... he’s spoken to all his member banks and they’ve all agreed to help those farmers who have been burnt out by that fire at Crookwell. The banks will do things like deferring repayments and give additional loan funds and restructure loans and what else did he say? Postpone credit card payments or increase credit card borrowings and each branch manager will sit down and have a look at each case.
The banks are very, very keen to help and that’s pretty good news. You can’t ask for much more than that.
... resolve the problems that you do have. 1005 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on social and economic issues of relevance to the community, namely the role that banks could play in assisting those affected by bushfires.
Exhibit 75; BANK.0003.0594 The Panel finds that the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial agreement with Australia Street Consulting to promote Bankers’ Association was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement was not disclosed in the broadcast.
The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because: