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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 60 ] --

It’s no wonder the banks are keen to bump up ATM fees is it? The more we use them, the more the temptation grows to nudge up the charges a little bit all the time.

Now, I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t pay for the convenience of using an ATM – we won’t have much choice soon, the way they’re closing down branches – but this is all part of the bank’s tactics to make fees their major source of profit. Fees are what puts a smile on the face of every banker.

Don Argus, he’s the head of the National Bank,… he says he wants fees to contribute 50 per cent of the bank’s profit. Half their profits from fees. Now, let’s do a little figuring here. The National Bank made a profit of 2 billion dollars last year and they’ll do it again this year. So… half of 2 billion is 1 billion. That’s what the NAB wants to make out of you in fees – a cool one billion dollars profit. So whenever you have anything to do with a bank from now on, the first thing you have to ask them is ‘what about fees?’ You can get a RAMS Home Loan and they’ll charge you no on going fees whatsoever. Never have. Beats me why anyone would go to a bank for a home loan.1051 The Panel’s Findings A document entitled ‘RAMS Marketing & Advertising Report - Media Advertising Activity’ indicated that on 15 August 1997 Mr Laws broadcast the live read script entitled ‘ATM

usage’.1052 Mr Greg Jones of RAMS gave evidence that:

RAMS.0008.0129 (Emphasis in original) RAMS required that the scripts be strictly adhered to by the presenters. The advertisements which Laws read as live reads on his program, or recorded for use on other programs on 2UE or elsewhere, followed scripts which I prepared, or which were prepared by RAMS’ advertising agency.1053 The panel accepts that the above script of 15 August is an accurate record of the broadcast in question.

The Panel notes 2UE’s submission that this broadcast is a paid advertisement. However, the Panel does not accept 2UE’s submission that code 2 does not apply to advertising. Code 2 is intended to apply to news and current affairs programs. In this regard, the Panel notes clause 3.1(b), which provides that advertising programs must comply with all other relevant codes of practice. The Panel also notes in this regard its concern that advertising not be presented as news programs or other programs, as this would be a breach of clause 3.1(a).

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 closure of bank branches in favour of ATMs.

The Panel finds that the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial agreement with RAMS was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement with RAMS was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ the broadcast was critical of the banks. Mr Laws states ‘It’s no wonder the banks are keen to bump up ATM fees is it? The more we use them, the more the temptation grows to nudge up the charges a little bit all the time’;1054 ♦ the broadcast was favourable to RAMS. Mr Laws states ‘You can get a RAMS Home Loan and they’ll charge you no on going fees whatsoever. Never have. Beats me why anyone would go to a bank for a home loan’;1055 and ♦ Mr Laws was required to rely on the script provided to him by RAMS.

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 RAMS.

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

WESTPAC DOWN TO 16% Material Provided to Mr Laws The following live read script, dated 22 August 1997 and entitled ‘Westpac down to 16%’,

was provided to Mr Laws by RAMS:

RAMS.0005.0495 Exhibit 41, Statement of Mr Greg Jones, paragraph 10.

RAMS.0008.0129 RAMS.0008.0129 The banks must have hated reading the papers last week. In the Financial Review – and I guess all bankers would read that wouldn’t they? That’d be their Bible. In the Financial Review the headline read. ‘Westpac home loan share down to 16 per cent.’ And the article goes on to say Westpac went down from 18 per cent to 16 per cent market share in the past 12 months. The ANZ dropped. St George… and Colonial State… they dropped market share, too.

Now, some of that drop was taken up by the Commonwealth and the National Bank. But the big winners were companies like RAMS Home Loans. People are definitely shifting their preferences away from the banks aren’t they?

Remember that Morgan Research survey I talked about a few weeks back?…it was in Business Review Weekly. They asked people an interesting question: ‘Who would you consider going to for your mortgage?’ 22.6% said the NAB. 20.5% said RAMS…20.5%. 20.1% the Commonwealth Bank. It’s extraordinary isn’t it? RAMS has been around for what, 4 or 5 years? The Commonwealth Bank and Westpac for 90 or a hundred years or more? You’d think they’d be so much a part of the fabric of our lives that we’d stay with them forever.

That’s obviously what the banks think. That’s why they think they can get away with closing branches and sacking staff and charging you higher fees for everything while they go on their merry way making obscenely large profits every year. They’re relying on our loyalty and I guess, in some respects on our inertia. They’re hoping people won’t be bothered to look at the alternatives.





But Australians are very good at working out who is offering them a better deal and who they like doing business with. Who they prefer to go to for a home loan. And they’re picking up the phone and shopping around. Comparing interest rates and terms… and fees.

And judging by all these results, it looks like they’re picking RAMS.1056 2UE’s Submissions to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by Mr Laws, Mr Laws made the following

submissions in relation to this broadcast:

There is insufficient evidence of the content of the broadcast.

The broadcast, if it occurred, is a paid advertisement. Code of Practice 2 does not apply to paid advertising.1057 The Panel’s Findings A document entitled ‘RAMS Marketing & Advertising Report - Media Advertising Activity’ indicated that on 22 August 1997 Mr Laws broadcast the live read script entitled ‘Westpac

down to 16%’.1058 Mr Greg Jones of RAMS gave evidence that:

RAMS required that the scripts be strictly adhered to by the presenters. The advertisements which Laws read as live reads on his program, or recorded for use on other programs on 2UE RAMS.0008.0135 Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, H4 RAMS.0005.0495 or elsewhere, followed scripts which I prepared, or which were prepared by RAMS’ advertising agency.1059 The panel accepts that the above script of 22 August 1997 is an accurate record of the broadcast in question.

The Panel notes 2UE’s submission that this broadcast is a paid advertisement. However, the Panel does not accept 2UE’s submission that code 2 does not apply to advertising. Code 2 is intended to apply to news and current affairs programs. In this regard, the Panel notes clause 3.1(b), which provides that advertising programs must comply with all other relevant codes of practice. The Panel also notes in this regard its concern that advertising not be presented as news programs or other programs, as this would be a breach of clause 3.1(a).

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 home loan market share trends and bank closures.

The Panel finds that the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial agreement with RAMS was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement with RAMS was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ the broadcast was critical of the banks. Mr Laws states ‘That’s why they think they can get away with closing branches and sacking staff and charging you higher fees for everything while they go on their merry way making obscenely large profits every year.

They’re relying on our loyalty’;1060 ♦ the broadcast was favourable to RAMS. Mr Laws states ‘But Australians are very good at working out who is offering them a better deal … And judging by all these results, it looks like they’re picking RAMS’;1061 and ♦ Mr Laws was required to rely on the script provided to him by RAMS.

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 RAMS.

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

ST GEORGE BROCHURE

Material Provided to Mr Laws The following live read script, dated 16 September 1997 and entitled ‘St George brochure’,

was provided to Mr Laws by RAMS:

I was talking last week about St George Bank and how they’ve sent their customers a leaflet on fees, it’s entitled … what does it say: ‘Why are fees necessary’. Should be a good read.

Exhibit 41, Statement of Mr Greg Jones, paragraph 10.

RAMS.0008.0135 RAMS.0008.0135 It says, in this little leaflet … it says, quite rightly, that in the past the bank’s services were subsidised by the margins they made on the interest they charged for loans. Now, this is true.

The banks used to make a lot of money, very easily, on the interest they charged for home loans. It’s always been a big part of their profits. Then, when companies like RAMS Home Loans came on the scene all that changed. They were forced to compete much harder. And now we’re enjoying lower home loan interest rates across the board.

The banks had to go looking elsewhere for their profits. They’ve been looking at fees and charges. Boy, have they ever. As we all know to our cost.

The problem as I see it is that the banks seem to have convinced themselves that they have a God-given right to make massive, billion dollar profits every year. And what they’re saying through all these helpful little brochures they’re giving out to their customers … what they’re saying is that fees are the way they’re going to keep the profits rolling in.

But who says a billion dollar profit is a fair profit? Not the customers, that’s for sure. The shareholders might think it’s wonderful. But the customers who have to pay those fees, sooner or later, they’re going to ask who sets these fees, how do the banks justify the dollar value of these fees, and is anyone keeping an eye on bank fees?

Well, the answer is ‘no’. Peter Costello, the Federal Treasurer, has washed his hands of it. No more government supervision of bank fees. Let the market keep the fees down. Well that’s a very courageous decision, Mr Costello. It’s a very brave man who expects the banks to do the right thin – to keep each other honest.1062 2UE’s Submissions to the Hearing In addition to the general submissions made by Mr Laws, Mr Laws made the following

submissions in relation to this broadcast:

There is insufficient evidence of the content of the broadcast.

The broadcast, if it occurred, is a paid advertisement. Code of Practice 2 does not apply to paid advertising.1063 The Panel’s Findings A document entitled ‘RAMS Marketing & Advertising Report - Media Advertising Activity’ indicated that on 16 September 1997 Mr Laws broadcast the live read script entitled ‘St

George brochure’.1064 Mr Greg Jones of RAMS gave evidence that:

RAMS required that the scripts be strictly adhered to by the presenters. The advertisements which Laws read as live reads on his program, or recorded for use on other programs on 2UE or elsewhere, followed scripts which I prepared, or which were prepared by RAMS’ advertising agency.1065 The Panel accepts that the above script of 16 September 1997 is an accurate record of the broadcast in question.

RAMS.0002.0216 Submission made by 2UE - John Laws Broadcasts - Breach of Clause 2.2(d) of Code of Practice 2, H6 RAMS.0005.0495 Exhibit 41, Statement of Mr Greg Jones, paragraph 10.

The Panel notes 2UE’s submission that this broadcast is a paid advertisement. However, the Panel does not accept 2UE’s submission that code 2 does not apply to advertising. Code 2 is intended to apply to news and current affairs programs. In this regard, the Panel notes clause 3.1(b), which provides that advertising programs must comply with all other relevant codes of practice. The Panel also notes in this regard its concern that advertising not be presented as news programs or other programs, as this would be a breach of clause 3.1(a).

The Panel finds that this broadcast is a current affairs program. It purports to concern matters focussing on social, political and economic issues of relevance to the community, namely bank fees and their lack of supervision by the Government.

The Panel finds that the available fact of Mr Laws’ commercial agreement with RAMS was withheld. The existence of Mr Laws’ agreement with RAMS was not disclosed in the broadcast.

The Panel finds the available fact was relevant because:

♦ the broadcast was critical of the banks. Mr Laws states ‘The problem as I see it is that the banks seem to have convinced themselves that they have a God-given right to make massive, billion dollar profits every year’;1066 ♦ the broadcast was favourable to RAMS. Mr Laws states ‘Then, when companies like RAMS Home Loans came on the scene all that changed. They were forced to compete much harder. And now we’re enjoying lower home loan interest rates across the board’;1067 and ♦ Mr Laws was required to rely on the script provided to him by RAMS.

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 RAMS.

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



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