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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 57 ] --

Laws’ comments occurred in responding to an issue raised by a listener. Laws clearly indicated that the responsive material had come from the banks. If there was any ‘persuading’ being done, the listeners knew the source of it.1014 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on issues of social and economic relevance to the community, namely the time taken by banks to transfer money and clear cheques.

The Panel notes 2UE’s submission that Mr Laws ‘clearly indicated that the responsive material had come from the banks. If there was any ‘persuading’ to be done, the listeners knew the source of it.’ However, the Panel does not accept that it was clear that the responsive material had come from the banks. Mr Laws says ‘Well, we followed it all up for you, Ken’, and ‘the banks involved have told me’.1015 The Panel is of the view that it is not clear who endeavoured to obtain the material.

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 banking industry. Mr Laws says ‘Anyway, the banks involved have told me that an electronic transfer was available but because it was from one bank to another, and it’s done in the overnight settlement period - if it had been from one branch to another of the same bank it would have been just minutes’;1016 ♦ Mr Laws defended the actions of the banks involved. Mr Laws says ‘But both banks involved say it would not have taken five days to clear that bank cheque if the person depositing the bank cheque had asked. As for the $10,000 in cash, I think St George did Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, G4 BANK.0002.0386 BANK.0002.0386 well to have that amount of cash available for you, Ken, not your wife, for you, to carry across the street’;1017 and ♦ Mr Laws relied on the script provided to him by the Bankers’ Association.

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.

CHEQUE CLEARANCE TIMES REDUCED

Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 29 April 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:

Just back to that good news from the banks, and it is good news. They are about to introduce a scheme which will cut cheque clearance times from five days to three. The banks have acknowledged that it has been us telling the whole story and you putting on the pressure that has caused this to happen. See, they are listening to what you say now. You wanted a quicker cheque clearance time, so you got them.

It was a very smart commercial move on the part of the banks as well. A couple of hundred years, banks have laboriously transported cheques from clearinghouse to clearinghouse. The sheer physical effort of moving so much paper took days and days and days, and that is what it was. That was the problem. But thanks to the advent of electronic commerce, and the banks of this area were a little slow to pick up on it. But cheques can now be transported in a fraction of a second when all the banks are on line. Money from a cheque banked on Monday will be available Wednesday. So, you have got the full story there.

I should tell you that the cheques are still in demand, but electronic commerce is rapidly taking over, understandably. Now, we currently issue about 80 million cheques a month in Australia.

But, today, there are also 50 million Eftpos transactions a month going in Australia as well. 50 million - 40 million credit card transactions - 50 million direct credits every month. So, there is a lot to deal with. You can understand the problems that they have.

While cheque transactions remain static for about the past five years, Eftpos and credit card transactions have about doubled. So, electronic banking is obviously the way to go. It is the simple way to go, and it seems to be the best way to go. So, there you are the whole story on faster cheques and better banking. You can thank yourself for getting it, because you did it.1018 Material Subsequent to the Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 29 April 1999 Mr Chris Stewart faxed Mr Laws the following:

Thank you for a great presentation of bank news today. Great read on The Whole Story and a great presentation of our scripted messages and the extra on cheque clearance.

BANK.0002.0386 ABA_Docs.0001.0031 I thought long and hard about it but didn’t give you anything on cheques because I didn’t want to stretch the friendship. I’d mentioned a week or so ago in one of your scripts that it was coming on 30 April.

We are very pleased that you decided to pick it up on your own, and thank you for the clear and precise explanation of what’s happened.

–  –  –

We’re very happy with the way things are going. Hope you are too.





I’ll fill you in on tracking research when we meet on 10 May.1019 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 particular broadcast:

There is no evidence that this topic was suggested or scripted by the ABA for Laws.1020 The Panel’s Findings The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on issues of social and economic relevance to the community, namely cheque clearance times and the increasing popularity of electronic banking.

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. Mr Laws stated, ‘Just back to that good news from the banks, and it is good news’ and, ‘it was a very smart commercial move on the part of the banks as well’;1021 and ♦ the issue was of concern to the Bankers’ Association. In the fax to Mr Laws after the broadcast, Mr Stewart said ‘I thought long and hard about it but didn’t give you anything on cheques because I didn’t want to stretch the friendship … We are very pleased that you decided to pick it up on your own, and thank you for the clear and precise explanation of what’s happened’.1022 The Panel notes 2UE’s submission that the topic was not suggested or scripted by the Bankers’ Association. The Panel is of the view that whether the Bankers’ Association caused or suggested that the material be broadcast is irrelevant in this context.

BANK.0002.0436 Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, G14 BANK.0002.0436 BANK.0002.0436 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.

FEES AND CHARGES

Material Provided to Mr Laws The following script, entitled ‘KPMG Media Release on $10 billion’ was provided to

Mr Laws by the Bankers’ Association:

Remember all the stories this week about banks earning $10 billion from fees and charges during the past year. Caused an incredible public backlash.

The banks said straight away that the figure was wrong. But no one wanted to listen.

Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, despite being told by the banks that the figure was wrong, went public and called fees and charges outrageous and in need of regulation.

The Australian Consumers Association, despite being told by the banks that the figure was wrong, has continued to use the $10 billion figure and call for immediate re-regulation of banking.

Several major newspapers around the country, despite being told by the banks that the figure was wrong, have continued to quote it.

Some radio commentators have repeated the figure and demanded stern action.

In Parliament, the Opposition demanded action even though Financial Services Minister Joe Hockey tried to tell them the figure was wrong.

Well guess what? The figure was wrong.

The accountancy firm KPMG – the firm that issued the report that started all the outrage has

just now released a statement. I’ll read the important bits:

‘Following the release of KPMG’s Financial Institutions Performance Survey on 10 May 1999, there has been widespread media coverage of bank fees and charges claiming that Australia’s five major banks have collected more than $10 billion from Australian customers.

The Chairman of KPMG’s Financial Services Industry Group, Mr John Buttle, said today that ‘These claims are not correct.’ It goes on to say that the $10 billion referred to ‘non-interest income’ which includes not only fees, but overseas income, and revenue from insurance, superannuation and funds management

activity and a whole stack of other things. It then goes on:

‘Mr Buttle said that some readers of KPMG survey may have misinterpreted the following paragraph … It then reproduces the a section of the report … ‘This could explain why some reports suggested that the entire $10 billion of non-interest income came from fees and charges on personal transaction accounts. To the contrary, it is estimated that revenue from fees and charges on Australian personal transaction accounts would not exceed $1.5 billion, which is less than three per cent of total income of the banks.’

–  –  –

‘Mr Buttle said that the increase in bank fees is consistent with the Wallis [the 1997 Wallis Financial System Inquiry] recommendation that cross subsidisation between products by the banks should be removed, resulting in fees reflecting the cost to the bank of providing the service.’ Now, I told you on Tuesday, and again on Wednesday that the stories were wrong. I worked that out by using common sense. The figure worked out to be more than six hundred dollars per customer.

All I had to do was ask the banks to check it and I had the answer I expected – the $10 billion figure was wrong. I said at the time it was an outstanding example of why you have to get The Whole Story.

I took a bit of flack because I was one of the only people saying the story was wrong. But, I haven’t let that stop me before, and I’m not going to let it get in the way now.

There are plenty of people with egg on their face over this. I wonder how many will be as fast to admit their mistake as they were to jump on the bank bashing bandwagon?1023 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 14 May 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:

MR LAWS: Just while we’re on the subject of the banks, you might remember all the stories this week about banks earning $10 billion from fees and charges during the past year and it caused an incredible public backlash.

I think it was Monday it came out. Was it Monday? Or Wednesday. I was at my other office it was Monday, I think - and we all went into shock because here we are trying to explain the whole story and all of a sudden you hear $10 billion from fees and charges over a year and people were faxing me from all over the place, particularly one bloke from Armidale saying, ‘How are you going to explain that?’

–  –  –

The banks said straight away the figure was wrong but nobody wanted to listen. The Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett, despite being told by the banks that the figure was wrong, he went public and called fees and charges outrageous and in need of regulation. I don’t think he’s withdrawn it.

The Australian Consumers’ Association, again despite being told by the banks the figures were wrong, they continued to use that $10 billion figure and called for immediate re-regulation of banking.

A lot of major newspapers around the country, again despite being told by the banks that the figure was wrong, they have continued to quote that figure.

–  –  –

Some radio commentators have repeated the figure and demanded stern action which is like their hide because the figure was wrong. That’s all.

I mean, it’s just as simple as that.

In Parliament, the Opposition demanded action even though Financial Services Minister Joe Hockey tried to tell them that the figure was wrong.

But some people just like to hear bad news and they certainly then like to run with it especially those who are hysterical on such issues. But the figure was wrong. I mean, it’s just as simple as that.

The accountancy firm KPMG, the firm that issued the report that started all the outrage has now released a statement and I shan’t read it all but I’ll read the important bits and this is probably important for - was that fellow’s name Steve, in Armidale that sent me the hot fax?

Anyway, I deserved it because we all believed the figures were right. But the figures were wrong. That’s the point.

And here is a statement issued by the people who incorrectly listed the figures.

‘Following the release of KPMG’s financial institutions performance survey on 10 May 1999 there has been widespread media coverage of bank fees and charges claiming that Australia’s five major banks have collected more than $10 billion from Australian consumers. The Chairman of KPMG’S Financial Services Industry Group, Mr John Buttle said today, ‘These claims are not correct.’’ It goes on to say that the $10 billion referred to non-interest income which includes not only fees but overseas income - that we were talking about, my last net noter was talking about revenue from insurance, superannuation funds and a whole stack of other things.



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