Alan Jones found to have breached radio rules after Star tower promotion

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Class action lawsuit could loom for Star Entertainment

A prominent Australian broadcaster has been found to be in breach of commercial radio regulations for promoting Star Entertainment’s proposed Ritz-Carlton development.

The Guardian reports that Alan Jones promoted the development six times on 2GB radio in 2019 without disclosing the radio station was being paid by the Sydney casino at the time.

The broadcasting watchdog found that the breach comes more than two decades after Jones, now a broadcaster on Sky News, promoted the major banks on his radio show 2UE without disclosing he was being paid to do so, sparking the landmark cash for comment inquiry in 1999.

That inquiry led to the establishment of the commercial radio current affairs disclosure standard, which requires the station to publish any commercial deals on its website and to tell listeners when a presenter is speaking about a corporation that is paying for good publicity.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found 2GB breached that standard on “multiple” occasions in 2019 while Jones’ breakfast show was broadcasting live from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Star had paid for part of the production and had sponsored the show at a time when Jones had shares in 2GB’s parent company, Macquarie Radio, ACMA said.

Jones’ opposition to the planning department’s recommendation that a $237 million hotel at the Star casino in Pyrmont be rejected was revealed by The Guardian, but it was not known what was driving the media pile-on.

Jones found to be campaigning for Ritz-Carlton tower

Three years later, ACMA found Jones was campaigning to have the state government’s decision overturned while 2GB’s parent company was being paid by Star between 2 September 2019 and 2 November 2020.

“You should oppose the recommendations over the Ritz-Carlton and get on and build the damned thing,” Jones said in one broadcast.

Jones’ other comments included “there are thousands of jobs available if it wasn’t for bureaucrats and greenies”’ “every numbskull has had his two cents worth as to why the development can’t be done” and “we’ve got this battle over the Ritz-Carlton, another infantile argument at Darling Harbour, another infantile argument indicating that we are an international backwater”.

The six statements over four days “directly promoted an issue which was directly favourable to the sponsor” and “a disclosure announcement was required at the time these statements were broadcast”, ACMA said.

“The ACMA considers that for each of the statements it would have been clear to a reasonable listener that Mr Jones directly promoted the issue,” the authority said.

“While the language was mostly framed in the negative, it would have been clear to a reasonable listener that Mr Jones’ statements were effectively promoting a different approach and/or outcome to that suggested by the department’s assessment.”

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the rules existed so that audiences were properly informed and were able to make up their own minds about what they hear on commercial radio.

“Licensees and presenters must let their audience know if a sponsor has a commercial interest in material being broadcast that is directly favourable to the sponsor,” O’Loughlin said.

“Commercial radio disclosure rules have been in place since 2000, and it is disappointing that 2GB failed to meet their obligations during these broadcasts.”

As a result of the breaches, Nine will require relevant staff including presenters, producers and commercial and sales staff to undertake formal training on the requirements of the disclosure standard.

The six-star hotel with a scaled-down tower block was approved in December 2020.

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