Jones’ Breach Finding: Is Free Speech now under attack? | radioinfo

Jones’ Breach Finding: Is Free Speech now under attack?

Monday 01 June, 2020

Opinion from Brad Smart

So, here we all are, having waved 2GB’s Alan Jones goodbye for the last time. No doubt, some may have had a tear in their eye; others will have thought ‘it’s not a minute too soon.’

As Jones rode off into the sunset, my thoughts went to the recent ACMA investigation into the veteran broadcaster.
Frankly, I was disappointed with the outcome. In finding Jones breached, ACMA seemed to me to be saying ‘censorship.’
Between the lines, there appeared to be a warning that the regulator is ready to reign in outspoken and opinionated media commentators.
ACMA has made some very odd calls in its radio findings of late, and I think this is one of them.
In the Authority’s finding, Chair Nerida O’Loughlin claimed that Jones’ comments did not meet contemporary community standards.
Well, they may not when viewed from ACMA’s Ivory Tower, but the statement itself smacks of political correctness.
It may be unintentional on ACMA’s behalf, but it gives a victory to those ideological fringe groups, hell-bent on removing anyone from the media that does not support their particular viewpoint.
Many of these people have been baying for Alan Jones’ blood for years.
To me, this is dangerous.
Don’t take this to mean that I agree with any or all of what Alan Jones has had to say as a radio commentator, but I passionately believe he should have had the right to say what he said.
I’m of the opinion that living in a free democratic country means that you defend every person’s right to be able to stand-up and promote their ideas, no matter how abhorrent or offensive you may personally find them.
It’s what free speech is all about. It’s the price we pay.
Of course, there have to be sensible exceptions for hate speech, defamation and inciting people to civil unrest or physical violence, but society should never try to outlaw ideas simply because some groups don’t agree with them.
Sure, as an anti-climate activist, Jones was inaccurate with his on-air claims on the definition of biomass.
Anyone who’s seen Planet of the Humans knows it’s not the burning of fossil fuels, it’s the burning trees, and perhaps, that difference may have been great enough for him to have been brought to heel.
I suspect had he been a climate change advocate and stated that inaccuracy, nothing would have ever been said.
But, I don’t think anybody with half a brain seriously considered Alan Jones comments that Scott Morrison should ‘shove a sock down New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s throat’ or ‘give her a backhander’ were genuine threats of violence or intended to be taken literally.
Most reasonable people would have seen Jones’ statements as figures of speech - colorful metaphors used to dramatise an otherwise lack-lustre editorial.
For anyone to seriously suggest they were implied threats of violence is simply nonsense, except apparently, in the world of bureaucracy.
Back in the 1960s, those with Far Left views were the bastions of free speech.
This was a time when the conservatives supported strict censorship in radio, movies, television and books – anything creative.
In recent times, like the U.S., we’ve seen a major polarisation in the politics of this country. People are choosing sides, and many on each side want to silence voices from the other.
Conservatives keep rabbiting on about the ABC and what they perceive as its left-wing commentators.
These days, when conservatives hear a commentator on a radio station putting forward views they don’t agree with, they either turn the radio off or change stations. Most of them don’t want to make a fuss.
But, the censorship baton seems to have changed hands.
Now, activists on the Far Left, who would once have taken to the streets with banners to support the rights of free speech, actively campaign to have commentators they don’t agree with, sacked, and on occasion, even demand that the offending station should lose its licence.
Alan Jones’ comments about Jactina Ardern may have been offensive out of context, but really they were just par for the course in the cut-and-thrust world of political commentary.
You can hear far more stinging insults thrown around in the Australian Parliament from all sides on a daily basis.
If Jones had suggested that the New Zealand Prime Minister shove a sock down Scott Morrison’s throat, I believe nothing would have been said about it, and many of those who complained so vocally, would have fallen about in fits of laughter.
This really has been a partisan issue.
Jactina Ardern, to her credit, wasn’t hiding behind the misogynist card. She’s got better things to do.
The protesters took the offence on board for her, because it suited their agenda.
They seemed to be saying that Jacinda Ardern, as a woman, is just a wallflower, who can’t look after herself and needs their protection.
Am I alone in believing that this presumption was a slap in the face to modern-day feminism.
C’mon let’s face it.
Jactina Ardern is far from a shrinking violet or any sort of wallflower, who needs to be protected from anyone. She’s more than capable.
The woman is the leader of a major political party and the Prime Minister of an important western democracy.
Nobody gets to that high office without, metaphorically, claiming a lot of scalps along the way and making ruthless political decisions on a daily basis. In short, I think you’ll find Jactina Ardern, behind that smiling exterior, is one tough lady.
The Jones’ comments would have been like water off a duck’s back to her. She probably gave them no more than a moment’s notice.
This doesn’t mean they weren’t very pointed and hurtful.
But, those who have been ideologically opposed to Alan Jones, John Laws, Ray Hadley, Neil Mitchell, Howard Sattler or Derryn Hinch over the years, have always looked for opportunities to score points against them and pull them down.

It was harder twenty years ago, but now they have social media and instant access to a world of followers. A small, but vocal group can quite easily sound like an uprising of public outrage.
I’ll bet many of those who took to social media with attacks over the Jacinda Ardern comments hadn’t even heard the offending remarks before they posted.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram have a lot to answer for when they provide a platform for extremists, from all sides of politics and ideological viewpoints, to launch destructive campaigns against those they don’t like.
While I agree that those social media warriors should have the right to free speech so they could logically argue and air their views against Jones’ comments, they should be required to do it under their real names on any media.
Some of these social media outlets have given a forum to menacing, vindictive trolls to mount vengeful campaigns against radio commentators, and more recently, the advertisers who support them.
In the ‘real’ business world, we have strict consumer laws protecting against secondary boycotts.
Unfortunately, these laws are virtually powerless when it comes to attacks via social media, because their authors are usually hiding in the shadows under pseudonyms.
The long-running and destructive campaign against Alan Jones’ sponsors heavily impacted 2GB’s advertising, and jeopardised its viability.
The trolls’ actions proved very effective.
They put at risk the employment of people working at the radio station and even those working for the various advertisers’ businesses.
Clearly, their threatened boycotts and manipulation of legitimate Australian businesses, both 2GB and its advertisers, to try to coerce Jones’ removal, were little more than Mafia-style stand-over tactics.
In anyone’s language, it was commercial extortion.
Unfortunately, I believe that, even unwittingly, ACMA’s findings have implicitly pandered to, and to some degree, vindicated the sinister campaign waged by these social media trolls.
I haven’t necessarily supported Alan Jones’ opinions over the years, but he and 2GB should have always had the right to air those views in a nation, like Australia, where we boast that our free speech is protected.
With its recent Jones’ finding, all that ACMA has demonstrated to me is where it sits on the scale of political correctness.
Some may applaud the regulator for it, but I see it as empowering those who do not want to hear, or let anyone else hear, opposing viewpoints from their own.
Unfortunately, in modern-day Australia, we often go too far down the path of political correctness so we don’t offend others.
However, we have serious problems ahead.
Tensions are mounting between our country and China, we’re just starting to come out of the horror period of COVID-19, and no doubt, there’s more financial pain lying ahead for the radio industry and for those who are employed in it. I think it’s time for all of us to come down from that Ivory Tower and get a grip on reality.
In these troubling times, we’re going to need commentators from both sides of the political divide to stand up and say the things that need to be said.
They certainly don’t need to be gagged.
It may be that the majority of us won’t always agree with everything they say, but those who are making the comments need to be free to express their views, no matter how passionately they do it.
Only by having access to views from all sides can everyday Australians properly assess how they’ll feel about those issues that will confront us in the months and years ahead.
Censorship of any viewpoint is not the answer. 

About the Author

Brad Smart previously owned and operated the Smart Radio Network through regional Queensland.

He sold his stations to Macquarie Radio Network, now Macquarie Media Limited.

He has been a journalist, broadcaster and film producer for over 30 years.

Brad's articles and podcasts are also available through his website 





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Anthony The Koala
1 June 2020 - 4:58pm
The author says that in the 1960s that the 'left' were the bastions of free speech while the conservatives were 'for' censorship. Conversely he said that the conservatives were advocating speech.

When it comes to figures of speech that the ACMA report said were words of violence is the new more (pronounced moray) of today. Sure phrases like "...shove a sock down your throat..." and "...put it in a chaff bag...and set it out to sea..." and "...put a ni%%er in the woodpile..." may have been acceptable when Alan Jones was growing up.

They were most likely to be harmless and did not encourage violence. However such expressions have not been used for a considerable time. I find the last expression to be offensive in any era because historically slaves were hiding under piles of wood.

Those unused expressions today are offensive today. They don't endear a like for the person uttering them and they are violent if not racist.

In addition I don't like the idea of shouting and bullying at interview talent because they did not implement the 'policy' of the presenter. In this case, the Opera House's CEO's policy not to advertise a horse race on the Opera House's sails.

Former Prime Minister, The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull correctly said that he "...did not take dictation..." from Alan Jones.

If Alan Jones did not like a particular policy, as I said elsewhere on this site, he should criticise the policy not attack the person. There are constructive and eloquent ways of saying the policy is wrong without resorting to insults.

Ironically Alan Jones was never sacked for calling Prime Minister The Hon. Julia Gillard "Juliar" while Arch Tambakis (RIP) called the opposition leader in 1989 Mr John Howard a liar (Arch was sacked within one week).

By the way, have media commentators ever influenced big policy matters? For example have commentators such as Eric "this I believe" Baume, John Pearce, Ormsby Wilkins and Alan Jones been influential to change major government policy?

Perhaps Alan Jones may have changed policies in a minor way such as advertising a horse race on the Opera House's sails and the construction of pipelines and two dams (one dam was to increase the capacity of the Wyangala dam) in NSW as mentioned during his interview with the Water Resources Minister, The Hon. Melinda Pavey.

However, whether you like it or not, no member of parliament has ever undertaken the grand projects of Alan Jones: of diverting the rivers of Northern Queensland, the Bradfield Scheme, OR undertaken to build a high efficiency low emission (HELE) coal-fired power station.

Interestingly, the current Prime Minister The Hon. Scott Morrison said that he was not going to build a HELE plant and frequently returned to Alan's show and the PM was never hounded on every interview.

Again, what I said above and elsewhere on this site does not negate the well-researched and consistent narrative of Alan Jones. I also used the analogy of the snakes and ladders game that whatever foibles Alan had, such foibles should not be the "snakes" that diminish his acheivements.

Thank you,
Anthony of thinking Belfield
jack shit
3 June 2020 - 3:14pm
jeez that article laboured a small number of points over a great many paragraphs! i'll make one: the first name of the prime minister of new zealand is jacinda, not jacinta. call that political correctness if you will (seems to be a default) but really it's just a fact - and a simple one at that.

EDITOR: Thanks Jack, spelling amended. Laboured points retained ;)
jack shit
4 June 2020 - 11:31pm
no wukkas ed
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