If you force Alan Jones off the air, of course it’s censorship

Opponents of Alan Jones have had a big win.

Owner Macquarie Radio Network has pulled all advertising from his 2GB breakfast show.

For those that don’t like him – or his callous comments about Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s father – it’s close to a victory, at least for now.

The question now though is where will they stop? Like the Sack Vile Kyle campaign which is still chasing 2Day FM’s Kyle Sandilands, is it only a win if he is never allowed an audience again?

alan jonesI note from the Sack Alan Jones Facebook page that supporters are being organised to demand that advertisers should commit now to not supporting  Jones’ show in 2013. In the comment thread, others are discussing how to target anybody who pays him to speak at events.

Can somebody hold views so unpleasant that, even if they break no laws, they should never be allowed to broadcast again? And let’s be clear, the nature of commercial radio is that without advertisers, somebody cannot broadcast even if there is an audience who wants to hear from them.

That’s where I start to get a little bit uncomfortable. What happens when we deny a living to anybody who expresses opinions that we disagree with?

And by the way, I dislike most of what Jones stands for. I suspect there are few political positions he holds that I agree with, I’ve only met him once, so I carry no brief for him. You may recall that it’s less than a month since we carried a guest post from David Gaines accusing Jones of being “a nauseating goblin”. But you may also recall that Gaines was not calling for Jones to be forbidden from having an audience.

Let’s remember, that when Jones speaks on air, he is regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Ultimately, if he breaks the rules, the station could lose its licence.

But I wonder whether one reason that campaigners have become so committed to going after Sandilands and Jones is that ACMA lacks sufficient immediate powers to punish. A hefty fine for behaving offensively on air, might give the public far more of a sense of closure than an intangible ruling about attaching conditions to a licence.

It may indeed be that this lack of immediate regulatory punishment for broadcasters is what makes the public feel that social media mob rule is the only justice available to them.

That, and the fact that both Jones and Sandilands appeared to be incapable of apologising properly.

There are many other organisational tools available. By all means make Jones look like the dickhead he often is, through the #destroythejoint hashtag.

And of course you’re perfectly entitled to tell brands what you think of their support of a particular show is. That’s your right.

But when you get organised to do so, you are exerting economic pressure to get him taken off the air. That’s also your right.

But let’s be clear: You are trying to force somebody off the air because you don’t like what he has to say.

Be sure to admit to yourself that you are acting in favour of censorship.

Are you sure you want to do that?

Tim Burrowes


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