Alan Jones

Alan Belford Jones AO (born 13 April 1941, or possibly 1942 or 1943) is an Australian radio broadcaster. He is a former coach of the Australian National Rugby Union Team and rugby league coach and administrator. He has worked as a school teacher, a speech writer in the office of the Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, and in musical theatre. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Queensland University, and completed a one-year teaching diploma at Worcester College, Oxford. He has received civil and industry awards.

Jones hosts a popular Sydney breakfast radio program, on radio station 2GB. Jones advocates mainly conservative views, and the popularity of his radio program has made him a highly paid and influential media personality in Australia. His on-air conduct has received adverse findings from Australia’s media regulators, and he has frequently been sued for defamation.

Defamation cases

Jones has been involved in numerous defamation cases arising from his outspoken comments on radio. These have included:

1990: Jones in his role with 2UE was ordered by a court to pay over $55,000 damages for defaming David Parker, a former councillor of the NRMA, the NSW Motorists’ organisation; 2UE was also ordered to pay $80,000. Parker was defamed during the NRMA election campaign in October 1986.

1994: Jones and 2UE were sued in November by Don Mackay, president of the NRMA, alleging that Jones made a false imputations against him.

1998: Jones claimed on-air that rugby league referee Bill Harrigan was biased. Harrigan sued Jones for defamation and, in 2001, was awarded damages of $90,000.

2002: Jones and 2UE settled out of court a defamation claim by Detective Chief Inspector Deborah Wallace, a NSW police officer. Jones defamed Wallace during five broadcasts in 2001.

2008: Jones was found to have defamed Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates in comments Jones made regarding Coates’ handling of an incident involving rower Sally Robbins’ performance at the 2004 Olympics.

2011: Jones was sued in December by health bureaucrat Terry Clout over comments made by Jones in March 2009.

Others involved in defamation proceedings with Jones have included Aboriginal woman Mary-Lou Buck, Lola Scott (previously the highest-ranking female NSW police officer), Rockdale mayor Shaoquett Moselmane, Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson, the rugby league judiciary, liquidator Ian Ferrier and his twelve partners, Racing NSW’s chief steward Ray Murrihy, rugby union chief John O’Neill (about $50,000), former Herald letters editor Geraldine Walsh (about $100,000) and QC Bob Stitt (about $50,000).

London incident

On 6 December 1988, Jones was arrested in an underground public toilet on Broadwick Street in the Soho area of London. He was taken to the Mayfair police station and charged with ‘outraging public decency’ and ‘committing an indecent act’. Jones’ friends rushed to his support, and when the case was heard in the Marlborough Street Magistrates’ Court the next day The Crown withdrew the more serious charge, with Jones pleading not guilty to the lesser charge of committing an indecent act.

The authorities ultimately did not present any evidence to support either charge, and the second charge was also later dropped, with Jones’ lawyers winning ₤70 in costs. Jones read a prepared statement when he first appeared back on his radio show on 16 January 1989, saying “I am and always was innocent of the charges levelled against me”. Jones has avoided talking about the incident ever since, although it is frequently raised by his opponents or those looking to highlight alleged hypocrisy in his comments.

Early contempt of court charges

In 1992, Jones was rebuked by the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption for attacking former State Minister Dr Terry Metherell during evidence in an inquiry relating to Metherell’s appointment to a government job.

Also in 1992, Jones and radio station 2UE were found guilty of contempt of court after the trial of former police officer John Killen was aborted following Jones’ interview with a former Drug Enforcement Squad officer. Killen was facing a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice when Jones conducted the interview and alleged that police had suffered from false accusations. The station was fined $77,000 and Jones $2,000.

Cash for comment affair

In July 1994, Media Watch highlighted Jones’ on-air promotion of Optus. Between 1999 and 2000, the Cash for comment investigation was conducted. Jones had been accused of contracting to have personal commercial support in exchange for favourable “unscripted” comments, principally for Telstra and Qantas, during his radio show. The independent Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV show, Media Watch, was heavily involved in exposing these practices.[62] The Australian Broadcasting Authority finally decided that disclosure had to be made, hence the “Commercial Agreement Register” at the Jones portion of his station’s web site. (Jones was investigated along with John Laws from 2UE).

In April 2004, another scandal broke after it was revealed the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Authority, David Flint, who had headed the cash for comment inquiries, had sent a stream of admiring letters to Jones. This called into question the impartiality of Flint, and the then Federal Minister for Communications, Daryl Williams, was embroiled in media speculation as to the future of Flint. With an inquiry imminent, Flint resigned. In an appearance on the ABC’s Enough Rope, John Laws accused Jones of placing pressure on Prime Minister John Howard to keep Flint as head of the ABA, made comments that many viewers took to imply a sexual relationship between Jones and Flint and broadly hinted that Jones was homosexual like Flint, who is openly gay.

Cronulla riots

In December 2005, in the lead-up to the Cronulla riots, Jones used his breakfast radio program to read out and discuss a widely circulated text message that called on people to “Come to Cronulla this weekend to take revenge… get down to North Cronulla to support the Leb and wog bashing day”. Media commentator David Marr accused Jones of inciting racial tensions and implicitly encouraging violence and vigilantism by the manner of his responses to callers even while he was verbally disapproving of them taking the law into their own hands.

On 10 April 2007, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that the broadcaster 2GB and Jones had broadcast material (specifically comments made by Jones between 5–9 December 2005) that was likely to encourage violence or brutality and to vilify people of Lebanese and Middle-Eastern backgrounds on the basis of ethnicity.

During his on-air rebuttal of the ACMA findings on 10 April 2007, Jones stated that by referring to his show as “Breakfast with Alan Jones”, the ACMA had little credibility as his show was actually known as “The Alan Jones Show”. However, the 2GB website prior to this broadcast clearly showed the Jones program as being “Breakfast with Alan Jones”, this was changed after the broadcast of Jones’ rebuttal to be “Alan Jones Show”.

David Flint again defended Jones by appearing on Jones’ morning show “to support his friend and to condemn the process that found him guilty. He told 2GB listeners that the vigilante movement existed at Cronulla long before Jones began broadcasting and that the ACMA findings amounted to a classic case of shoot the messenger. He said the complaints process was flawed because, unlike the Press Council, Jones could not face or question his accusers”.

The NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal upheld a complaint of racial vilification against Jones and 2GB on 21 December 2009. The tribunal said:

His comments about “Lebanese males in their vast numbers” hating Australia and raping, pillaging and plundering the country, about a “national security” crisis, and about the undermining of Australian culture by “vermin” were reckless hyperbole calculated to agitate and excite his audience without providing them with much in the way of solid information. Jones appealed the decision, but in October 2012 the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal dismissed his appeal, and upheld his conviction for inciting hatred and for vilification of Muslims.

Jones apologised on-air for his remarks on 6 December 2012. However, on 12 December the Tribunal ruled that this apology was “an inadequate statement of wrongdoing” and ordered him to make another on-air apology during the week of 17 December, this time prescribing the words he was to read:

On 28 April, 2005, on my breakfast program on Radio 2GB, I broadcast comments about Lebanese males, including Lebanese Muslims. The comments were made following a Channel Nine television current affairs show about the conduct of young Lebanese men in Hickson Road at The Rocks. The Administrative Decisions Tribunal has found that my comments incited serious contempt of Lebanese males, including Lebanese Muslims. Those comments were in breach of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act. I apologise for making those comments, which I recognise were unlawful. I also apologise on behalf of Radio 2GB.

Contempt of court charges

Jones was found guilty of breaching the Children’s (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW), by broadcasting the suppressed name of a juvenile witness in a murder trial.

The deputy chief magistrate, Helen Syme, criticised Jones for not issuing an on-air apology to the boy he had named, and said that Jones’ offence was “serious”. The magistrate placed Jones on a nine-month good-behaviour bond and fined him $1000.

In February 2008, Jones lost an appeal against his conviction, but Jones’s criminal conviction was quashed the following month. The judge presiding over the appeal, Judge Michael Finnane, said: “While it was no excuse from liability in law that Mr Jones relied on The Daily Telegraph, the fact that he did, to some extent ameliorates the seriousness of the offence.” The judge confirmed Jones’ guilt but dismissed the charge and annulled the conviction, saying it was “an honest mistake”.

Kovco comments

In October 2007, NSW State Coroner Mary Jerram considered referring Jones and The Daily Telegraph to the NSW Supreme Court for comments about the inquest into the death of Private Jake Kovco.[81] Jones said that assisting counsel John Agius had tried to persuade Kovco’s mother into refusing a jury inquest, comments which Jerram said could prejudice the inquest. No charges were brought against Jones.

Military trial commentary

An episode of ABC’s Media Watch was devoted to Jones’ pre-trial comments on the charging of three Australian soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The commentators believed that if the case had already been convened, Jones’ comments would have been in contempt of court. The charges against the soldiers were eventually dismissed at a pre-trial hearing.

Breach of radio standards

On 25 November 2011 the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that Jones had breached the commercial radio code of practice in his reporting of environmental issues. His reporting was found to lack accuracy and failed to allow other viewpoints to be heard. A decision on the penalty for this breach was reserved.

Climate change commentary

On 15 June 2012, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) found that Jones had breached the commercial radio code of practice in his reporting of environmental issues. This related to his claim that “human beings produce 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”. ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said that the watchdog was not penalising the licensee of 2GB, but was working with it to improve procedures. On 18 October 2012 ACMA ordered Jones to undergo factual accuracy training and employ a fact-checker.

Jones responded to these claims on 19 October 2012 claiming that he had mistakenly claimed the 0.001 to be of all “carbon dioxide in the atmosphere” where it should have been “all gases in the atmosphere” and that he had repeated the correct and undisputed figure of 3 percent numerous times later that week and offered a correction.

Jonestown: The Power and the Myth of Alan Jones

Jonestown: The Power and the Myth of Alan Jones (Allen & Unwin) is an unauthorised biography of Jones by Australian journalist Chris Masters. Masters began Jonestown in 2002 after profiling Jones for an episode of the current affairs program Four Corners. The book won the Australian Book Industry Awards, Australian Biography of the Year 2007. It reported on Jones’ term as Senior English Master at The King’s School, Parramatta and an incident in London in 1988 for which charges were ultimately dropped.

“Died of shame” controversy

In a September 2012 speech at a Sydney University Liberal Club social function, Jones stated that Prime Minister Julia Gillard was a liar, and as a consequence her father had recently “died of shame”. The remarks relating to Gillard’s father were condemned from all sides of the political spectrum by politicians, media and social media outlets. Jones held a press conference and said he “got it wrong”, and wanted to apologise to the Prime Minister both publicly and in person. Julia Gillard refused to receive a call from Jones for an apology, and there was considerable media speculation regarding his sincerity. Both the Prime Minister’s Labor colleagues and Liberal figures including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott criticised Jones for his remarks.

Labor Party figures sought to associate Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party with Jones’ remarks, leading to counter accusations that they were seeking to “gain political capital” from the affair. Many sponsors pulled advertising from Jones’s show, followed by lobbying campaigned through social media to have the remaining advertisers boycott the program. On 7 October Jones’ employer, the Macquarie Radio Network, announced that it would suspend all advertising on the Alan Jones show on 2GB to protect its advertisers from pressure being applied through social media activism. Jones called the campaign “cyber bullying”. More than 80 sponsors boycotted Jones’ program, including Telstra, Woolworths, Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Coles. Macquarie Radio estimated the boycott cost the station between $1 million and $1.5 million, and some advertisers said they will never return.

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