Alan Jones breached broadcasting codes for decency in his use of “violent metaphors” about New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and accuracy in his comments about climate change, the media watchdog has found days before the shock-jock retires after a 35-year career.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority ordered the 79-year-old to make an on-air correction about the climate change comments but found he has already apologised for his criticism of Ardern.
Jones said on air on Thursday morning that he had incorrectly asserted that biomass is a fossil fuel. The Acma found he presented figures relating to Australia and New Zealand’s percentage of energy use from solar and wind that were incorrect.
The now infamous August 2019 broadcast – which led to an unprecedented advertiser boycott – attracted more than 125 complaints and was found to have “offended against generally accepted community standards of decency”.
The offensive statements included: “I just wonder whether Scott Morrison’s going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat”, “Now I hope Scott Morrison gets tough here with a few backhanders”, and “I hope he goes for the throat this morning.”
Jones is retiring just one year into a two-year $8m contract with Nine Radio after an advertiser boycott stripped 50% of the show’s revenue and caused the entire network to suffer. His advertisers were targeted by social media activists Sleeping Giants and Mad Fucking Witches after the Ardern comments last year.
The Acma chair Nerida O’Loughlin said the comments were not appropriate for public radio broadcasting in today’s Australia.
“The repeated use of violent metaphors by Mr Jones and his apparent encouragement of aggressive silencing of Ms Ardern was highly offensive and did not meet contemporary community expectations,” O’Loughlin said.
“This was evident in the public display of outrage from the community, actions by advertisers and actions by then chairman of Macquarie Media who publicly stated any recurrence of this type of comment would result in the termination of Mr Jones’ contract.”
Because Jones made an on-air and a written apology and received counselling from management, no further action was taken on the decency breaches.
“Given the imminent retirement of Mr Jones from 2GB and the actions taken by Macquarie Media and Mr Jones at the time, the Acma is not taking further action against the licensee for breach of the decency rules,” O’Loughlin said.
Jones did not use like-for-like data in his statements about climate change policy, the authority found, in contravention of the industry code which requires broadcasters to “use reasonable efforts to ensure the facts they are presenting are accurate”.
“The factual error and inconsistent information were used to incorrectly portray that Australia generates more of its energy from renewables than New Zealand,” O’Loughlin said.
His retirement comes nine months after the station’s management said Jones was on his final warning for offensive comments and took the unprecedented step of scolding him publicly.
Despite dominating breakfast radio in Sydney for 35 years, recording an unequalled 226 survey wins, his conduct on air has led to the radio station losing advertisers and haemorrhaging revenue.
The incident will be used in staff training at 2GB, the authority said.