ACMA finds 2GB failed to disclose commercial ties with The Star

Alan Jones has caught the ire of yet another Australian Communications and Media Authority investigation over his time at 2GB, despite having left radio more than a year ago.

The ACMA found that 2GB and Jones breached broadcasting rules during multiple broadcasts of his former breakfast show by not disclosing a commercial agreement with The Star Entertainment Group.

On multiple occasions in September and October, 2019, Jones discussed the Ritz-Carlton development, a project commissioned by The Star, but failed to disclose the aforementioned commercial agreement. At the time 2BG was owned by and under the operational control of Macquarie Media, which was then wholly acquired by Nine Entertainment Co in November 2019.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the comments breached the Commercial Radio Current Affairs Disclosure Standard.

The standard requires that disclosure announcements must be made as part of, the broadcast. The licensee must also publish specified information about current commercial agreements on an online register on its website.

O’Loughlin said: “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.

“These rules exist so that audiences are properly informed and are able to make up their own minds about what they hear on commercial radio.

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

The latest comments come over two decades after ABC’s Media Watch broke the original cash for comment scandal, which revealed that Jones (at that time on 2UE) and fellow host John had been paid to give favourable comment to companies including Qantas, Optus, Foxtel, Mirvac and major Australian banks, without disclosing commercial agreements to listeners.

At the time, the ABC estimated the value of the arrangements at $18 million, and ruled Laws, Jones and 2UE had breached the industry code 90 times.

In 2010, the ACMA ran a review into regulations for how radio presenters disclose their commercial affiliations to listeners. This followed Laws breaching the code again in 2009, for which he was fined $360,000.

As part of the review, which Mumbrella at the time reported that only 13 people turned up to, reps for 2GB and The Communications Council suggested that radio was being “demonised” for something that happened ten years prior.

As a result of the latest breach, the ACMA has given 2GB a remedial direction which will require relevant staff to undertake formal training on the requirements of the Disclosure Standard.

2GB must report back on processes and changes it makes as a result, and if it fails to do so, the ACMA will consider seeking civil penalties.

In the lead up to his departure from 2GB in 2020, Jones was ruled to have breached broadcast decency rules over comments about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in which he suggested Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison could “be fully briefed to shove a sock down her [Ardern’s] throat”.

The ACMA received 127 complaints about the segment in question.


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