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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 66 ] --

For the following reasons the Panel finds that this advertisement has been presented as an ‘other program’, in this case a current affairs program:

♦ it has the characteristics and content of a current affairs program; and ♦ it appears to be concerned with matters relating to economic and social issues of relevance to the community, namely financial relief for flood victims.

The Panel finds that 2UE breached clause 3.1(a) of the Codes.

INTERVIEW WITH MR WHITLAM

Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 22 February 1999, Mr Laws broadcast the following:

MR LAWS: For our New South Wales and ACT listeners, I was talking earlier this morning about the NRMA card and benefits program which is about to start and I didn’t have full detail of it and I said I’d try and get some details of the other savings that could be made and I thought probably the best way to do it is to talk to the boss. President of the NRMA, Nick Whitlam on the line. Morning, Nick.

MR WHITLAM: Morning, John.

MR LAWS: This is a very good thing, isn’t it?

MR WHITLAM: Yeah, there’s no gimmicks or points to acquire or anything like that, you just use your NRMA card and get discounts at all sorts of interesting and exciting places.

MR LAWS: Well, I covered a few interesting and exciting places this morning, but not too many. But we were talking about the hiring of video, is that sort of thing included on this?

MR WHITLAM: Yeah, yeah, Video Ezy comes to mind, I think that’s the only video – although I’m sure it will work in such a way that other video shops will want to get in the system.

MR LAWS: Yeah. So, it’s not just things associated with motoring?

MR WHITLAM: No, there are a number of motoring – obvious motoring things, you know, car spare parts, and driving lessons, for example.

MR LAWS: Oh, that’s very good.

MR WHITLAM: Tyres, Bob Jane and Bridgestone and Beaurepaires Tools and the like at Repco. A lot of motoring things but the NRMA is more than motoring, these days.

MR LAWS: Well, it certainly is. And this is free, so when you become a member, or if you are a member, you automatically get the card.

MR WHITLAM: That’s right. That’s right. We’re actually creating a new look card, it will be a plastic card that all members will get over the next four months. But the old cardboard card works right now, just as the new plastic card will, for these benefits and the benefits program.

MR LAWS: Okay, so when will the NRMA members start to get the new plastic card? Over the next three month period?

MR WHITLAM: Yeah, it will be rolled out over the next four months and the reason we’re producing a new card, plastic card, is that you can put it in your wallet so much easier to use, frankly, on a daily basis for this sort of activity.

These benefits in the first instance but the card will become smarter and smarter and you’ll be able to use it probably as a plastic purse to cross the Harbour Bridge or pay tolls on the roadways and things like that, if you wish.

MR LAWS: So, this is really just the beginning?

–  –  –

MR LAWS: Pretty good. I’m just looking, here, at a further list, tyres, spare parts, motel accommodation, you can go to the Zoo – take your kids to the Zoo. Dubbo Zoo is included.

MR WHITLAM: Discounts there MR LAWS: Pretty good, isn’t it?

–  –  –

MR LAWS: Well, you’ve always said that, though, Nick.

MR WHITLAM: That’s right. In fact, an average family – I mean, it costs $46 a year to be a member of the NRMA and you get road service and everything else for that, wonderful stuff.

–  –  –

MR WHITLAM: But an average family, but using this card, if that’s what they wish to do, can get savings and discounts easily to the value of $300 a year.

MR LAWS: Big savings, isn’t it?

–  –  –

MR LAWS: Big saving. Well that’s terrific, good on you, I hope it works well, we’ll keep an eye on it, we’ll keep talking about it because it’s quite free to people who are already members of the NRMA and, of course, it’s another incentive for others to join, isn’t it.

–  –  –

MR LAWS: Bye. President of the NRMA in New South Wales, and that’s for our ACT and New South Wales listeners, Nick Whitlam telling you about this new benefit card, benefit program. But I’m looking further here, you can go to the Imax Theatre and get a discount.

Good deal, it doesn’t cost you any more, either.

Anyway, we’ll give you further details tomorrow.1126 Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing

Mr Laws made the following submission regarding this particular broadcast:

Finally, dealing with the interview between Mr Laws and Mr Whitlam on 22 February 1999, Mr Laws submits the purpose of this interview was to provide his listeners with interesting information about a new NRMA program which he considered was likely to benefit them.





Given many of his listeners were likely to be NRMA members or associated with the NRMA, this was not an unreasonable objective. Mr Laws accepts, as he must, that the interview could be characterised by the Authority as ‘advertorial’ – in which event, of course, there would be no breach of clause 3.(1)(a) of the Code as the listeners would have understood the material to be an advertisement.

The Panel’s Finding The Panel does not accept Mr Laws’ submission that the broadcast is not an advertisement.

The Panel finds that a substantial purpose of the broadcast was to promote the NRMA and a product of the NRMA in accordance with the agreement between Mr Laws and the NRMA.

For the following reasons the Panel finds that this matter is an advertisement:

♦ it is calculated or designed to promote an organisation, the NRMA, by being solely concerned with the introduction of the NRMA card for savings and discounts, by making all comments during the interview regarding the NRMA and/or the NRMA discount card positive, and by mentioning the NRMA six times; and ♦ valuable consideration was provided to Mr Laws by the NRMA.

For the following reasons the Panel finds that this advertisement has been presented as an ‘other program’, in this case a current affairs program:

NRMA.0002.0154

♦ it has the characteristics and content of a current affairs program by being in the form of an interview. It can reasonably be assumed that an interview with the president of the NRMA could be part of a current affairs program; and ♦ it appears to be concerned with matters relating to economic issues of relevance to the community, namely the economic benefits of being an NRMA member and the holder of an NRMA discount card.

The Panel finds that 2UE breached clause 3.1(a) of the Codes.

Australian Bankers’ Association

STORY ON COMPETITION IN BANKING

Material Provided to Mr Laws

Mr Laws was provided with the following script by the Bankers’ Association:

I have had a few faxes recently from people saying that there is no competition in banking in Australia. One said, ‘They are all the same – they offer the same things, just with different names.’ Well, I put those complaints to the banks. ‘Show me the competition,’ I said.

You are going to be surprised at these figures, but I’m going to give them to you as they were given to me.

–  –  –

There are 25 banks offering retail transactions in Australia.

They compete with 22 building societies and 237 credit unions.

That’s nearly 300 financial institutions competing for your business.

–  –  –

There are more than 500 types of cheque accounts, 1,800 types of mortgages and 1,700 saving accounts.

More than 70 organisations offer credit cards – only a third of them are banks. And there are more than 200 different types of credit card products.

I think that’s enough figures for the moment, so I won’t go on.

But I tell you what I’ll do. Tomorrow I’ll have a look at some of the interest rates and account fees that are charged and see how much difference there is between them.

That’s the way we do it here – you ask and we give you The Whole Story.1127 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 13 April 1999 Mr Laws broadcast:

Announcer: …had a few faxed saying there is no competition in banking in Australia…I passed these faxes onto the banks…I think you will be surprised at the figures they gave us…25 banks offering retail transaction accounts in Australia…22 building societies…237 credit unions…1007 different savings accounts…70 organisations offering credit cards…only a third are banks.1128 Mr Laws’ Submission to the Hearing

Mr Laws made the following submission regarding the ‘Whole Story’ broadcasts:

the ‘Whole Story’ was a genuine presentation on commercial radio, as an advertisement. Such material was known to any thoughtful listener as an advertisement.

2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to 2UE’s general submission, 2UE also made the following submissions

regarding the ‘Whole Story’ broadcasts:

This broadcast follows a set format, occurring between the two halves of a pre-recorded historical story. This would allow listeners to interpret it as an advertisement.

There is insufficient evidence of the content of the broadcast because only a summary report has been produced.

The Panel’s Finding The Panel does not accept Mr Laws’ submission regarding the ‘Whole Story’ broadcasts that they were presented as advertisements and recognisable as such. In the opinion of the Panel the broadcasts are not readily recognisable as advertisements and, as the name implies, are presented as ‘stories’ with an historical, social, political or economic perspective.

The Panel does not accept 2UE’s submission that because a broadcast follows a set format it ‘allows listeners to interpret it as an advertisement’. The Panel believes that such a format gives no indication that a broadcast is an advertisement.

The Panel does not accept 2UE’s submission that there is ‘insufficient evidence of the content of the broadcast’. A Rehame Newsline summary was provided in which key phrases of the broadcast were recorded. The Panel is of the view that, in this case, these key phrases give sufficient indication of the content and presentation of the material.

–  –  –

For the following reasons the Panel finds that this matter is an advertisement:

♦ it is calculated or designed to promote the Australian banking industry and the organisation that represents it, the Bankers’ Association, by being solely concerned with a discussion on the amount of competition in the Australian banking industry and by making comments during the interview regarding the banking industry that were all positive; and ♦ valuable consideration was provided to Mr Laws by the Bankers.

The Panel also notes that in its submission, 2UE considered this broadcast to be an advertisement.

For the following reasons the Panel finds that this advertisement has been presented as an ‘other program’, in this case a current affairs program:

♦ it has the characteristics and content of a current affairs program, being mainly concerned with facts and figures regarding competition in the Australian banking industry; and ♦ it appears to be concerned with matters relating to social and economic issues of relevance to the community, namely the amount of competition in the Australian banking industry.

The Panel finds that 2UE breached clause 3.1(a) of the Codes.

CHEQUE CLEARANCE TIMES REDUCED

Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 29 April 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:

JOHN LAWS: 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.



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