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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 67 ] --

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.1129 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.

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. 1130 2UE’s Submission to the Hearing In addition to 2UE’s general submission, 2UE has also made the following submissions

regarding this broadcast:

This broadcast is not an advertisement for the purposes of clause 3.1(a), because it did not arise out of any arrangement between the licensee and the third party.

The broadcast is not an advertisement merely because of the fact that it mentions a third party, even if the reference is favourable to that third party. It is an essential ingredient of an advertisement that it be broadcast at the request of a third party. For the Panel to find that a particular broadcast was an ‘advertisement’ the Panel must be satisfied that the proximate cause of the broadcast going to air was the request or wish of the third party. The evidence before the Panel does not permit it to make such a finding.

The Panel’s Finding

The Panel rejects 2UE’s submissions that this broadcast cannot be regarded as an advertisement because it did not arise out of any arrangement between the licensee and a third party and because it was not made at the request of a third party (refer to section entitled Definition of an ‘advertisement’).

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, it is mainly concerned with a discussion on the improvement in cheque clearance times, and all comments during the interview regarding the banking industry are positive; and ABA_DOCS.0001.0031 BANK.0002.0436 ♦ valuable consideration was provided to Mr Laws by the Bankers.

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 social and economic issues of relevance to the community, namely cheque clearance times.

The Panel finds that 2UE breached clause 3.1(a) 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:

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?1131 Material Broadcast by Mr Laws

On 14 May 1999 Mr Laws broadcast the following:

JOHN 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.

–  –  –

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.

It then goes on to say Mr Buttle said that ‘Some readers of the KPMG survey may have misinterpreted the following paragraph.’ It reproduces a section of the report. ‘This could explain why some reports suggested that the entire $10 billion 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 3% of the total income of banks.’ I mean, it was a hell of a mistake. It was a dreadful mistake.

Just one more bit I want to read. Mr Buttle said that the increase in banks fees is ‘consistent with the Wallace,’ - the 1997 Wallace financial system inquiry - ‘recommendations that crosssubstantiation between products by the banks that should be removed resulting in fees reflecting the costs of the bank of providing the service.’ I told you on Tuesday, again on Wednesday, that the stories were wrong. I worked that out by using a bit of common sense. The figures worked out to be more than $600 per customer and that was a total impossibility.

We talked to other people about it apart from the banks. 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 and I said at the time it was an outstanding example of why you need to get the whole story.

And I took a bit of flack because I was one of the only people saying that 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.

I mean, 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 into the bank-bashing bandwagon. I mean, I’m inclined to do it when I think it’s right and I used to do it a lot and that’s why we decided to get the whole story, simple as that.

I bothered to get the whole story and I’m delighted to say that the story was wrong. Simple as that, start and finish, wrong. W-R-O-N-G. Wrong.1132 The Panel’s Finding

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, it is mainly concerned with a discussion on the amounts earned by banks through fees and charges, and all comments during the interview regarding the banking industry were positive; and ♦ valuable consideration was provided to Mr Laws by the Bankers’ Association.

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 social and economic issues of relevance to the community, namely the amounts earned by banks through fees and charges.

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

Registered Clubs Association GENERAL COMMUNITY #1 Material Provided to Mr Laws

A live read script dated 23 March 1997 was provided to Mr Laws. The text read:



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