Media Watch host Paul Barry tells 2GB’s Ben Fordham to ‘hard’n up’ over Man Shake segment

Ben FordhamRadio 2GB Drive host Ben Fordham has fired back at the ABC’s Media Watch program accusing it of misrepresenting his advertising on behalf of weight loss product the Man Shake, which his brother has a stake in.

Fordham spent 15 minutes during his broadcast yesterday criticising Media Watch’s segment from Monday night, accusing them of running a “mishmash” of clips designed to “make it sound like I was handing out endless free publicity for the Man Shake.”

Media Watch host Paul Barry responded to the criticism telling Mumbrella this morning: “I think Ben needs to Hard’n Up. Media Watch raised perfectly legitimate criticisms and dealt with him in an entirely appropriate manner. Fordham’s claims that we misled viewers are 100 per cent wrong.”

During Monday night’s program Media Watch criticised Fordham’s ads for the Man Shake noting instances where guests commentators Jason Morrison or Darryl Brohman “The Big Marn” had ad-libbed around the ads, claiming that had created confusion for listeners around what was editorial and advertising.

Barry cited the radio codes of practice which state: “Advertisements broadcast by the licensee must be presented in such a manner that the reasonable listener is able to distinguish them, at the time of the broadcast, from other program material.”

He added: “We certainly had trouble knowing which was which… The problem, we reckon, is that Ben’s testimonials … and those comments from Jason Morrison and The Big Marn … blur the line.”

Fordham yesterday dismissed the critique saying: “They just ran a mishmash of me talking about the Man Shake on various dates. They wanted to make it sound like I was handing out endless free publicity for the Man Shake. It was grossly misleading.

“The big story Media Watch was fishing for was whether I’ve got a financial stake in the Man Shake. That was their first question. No, I told them. So the story they were dreaming of didn’t really pan out. So the second question was are you being paid to endorse the Man Shake. No, Media Watch I don’t have a financial interest in it and I’m not being paid to promote it.”

The Media Watch program also noted that Fordham’s brother, Nick Fordham, did had a 10 per cent stake in the company which owns Man Shake, and argued that this interest should have been declared to 2GB listeners.

“So instead they dragged my brother into it,” said Fordham in his reply. “He has a small stake in it and announced it on his own website when that deal was done… Media Watch thinks I should be prevented from endorsing a company my brother has a 10 per cent interest in. They believe this is should be off limits. My brother a 36-year-old adult should have special restrictions placed on him when it comes to advertising on 2GB.”

The codes of practice do not specifically cover whether family members of the host have interests in the company being advertised, but most radio broadcasters require hosts to declare when they have an interest in the company being spoken about.

Paul BarryBarry today dismissed Fordham’s complaints saying: “Ben’s suggestion that we misrepresented the nature of his broadcasts, that is just nonsense and entirely without foundation.

“There are two issues that Media Watch dealt with in the program: Was it ethical for Fordham to plug a product in which his brother has a financial interest? And was there a conflict of interest that should have been disclosed

“Was Fordham in breach of the Commercial Radio Code of Practice which requires that a reasonable listener can distinguish between ads and editorial?

“Listening to Fordham’s plugs for the Man Shake we were NOT clear which bits were scripted and paid for by the advertiser and which bits were unsolicited personal endorsements or editorial comments from Ben Fordham and his guests. So we asked him and 2GB to tell us which was which.

“In fact, Fordham and 2GB couldn’t agree on one of the excerpts  – which kind of proves our case. We did make it clear in the program that 2GB had assured us that Jason Morrison and The Big Marn’s comments were not ads but ‘spontaneous program comment’. I really don’t think Fordham or 2GB have any cause for complaint.”

Fordham in his broadcast dismissed this interpretation arguing that listeners could tell the difference between editorial and advertising.

“Just like the other (advertisers) Man Shake is a full paying client on 2GB with ads that go to air during my show and during others. From time to time Man Shake has been mentioned outside of the ads, during my show, the same as many other advertisers, but my listeners know the Man Shake is an advertiser because they hear me reading ads for them on sometimes a daily basis,” said Fordham.

“Last night Media Watch suggested that our listeners can’t tell the difference between what is an ad and what’s not. This is despite me giving them the facts after they emailed me specific questions and examples. I answered every question they asked and told them the majority of the examples they were citing were in fact paid ads – not free plugs – that’s the way commercial radio works.”

Nic Christensen 

Nic Christensen is a former employee of Radio 2GB.


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