much talk: Telstra may not renew deal, by Wendy Frew
Cosima Marriner - 4th May 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald)
xTelstra yesterday defended its $1.2 million sponsorship
arrangement with 2GB's Alan Jones program, saying
it was a commercially sound investment that did not
impinge on the station's editorial comment about Telstra
or its competitors.
the Herald has been told Telstra is unlikely to renew
the agreement, which expires in June 2005, because
of the negative publicity the deal has attracted.
have also been renewed calls for further investigation
of whether Telstra had hoped to influence public debate
about its service levels in a manner not obvious to
to questions from the ABC's Media Watch program, Telstra's
group managing director of regulatory, corporate and
human relations, Bill Scales, said yesterday the popularity
and reach of talkback radio programs meant they were
a cost-effective way for the company to advertise
its products and services.
Telstra arrangements are transparent and we do not
exercise any editorial control over what either Mr
[John] Laws or Mr Jones say about Telstra, or about
Telstra's competitors," he said.
month the Australian Broadcasting Authority cleared
Jones and 2GB's owner, Macquarie Radio, of allegations
Jones had not properly disclosed the agreement when
mentioning Telstra on air. However, the authority
noted that Jones's attitude to Telstra had shifted
from being critical to positive after the deal was
signed. The ABA also proposed tighter rules to ensure
big advertisers did not influence how current affairs
issues were dealt with on radio.
Watch last month revealed an initial draft of that
report that differed dramatically from the final report
and contained three preliminary findings that Jones's
broadcast had breached broadcasting codes.
draft marketing plan, also revealed on Media Watch
last month, talked about building "on Jones's
credibility and the trust that he has developed with
his audience" and using the Jones deal to "counteract
any negative perceptions about Telstra".
ethics consultant Kerrie Henderson, of Henderson Walton,
said it was one thing to pay for a "live read"
promoting a product but quite another to seek to influence
issues, such as Telstra's service. "I'm not convinced
[that is what they are doing], but that is what it
appears to be and that is what should be explored
. . . If they are, then you have to ask: what does
this say about the ethics of this corporation?"
said Ms Henderson, a former member of the ABA.
Prime Minister, John Howard, is still seeking advice
from his department about correspondence between the
ABA chairman, David Flint, and Jones.
week Media Watch revealed that Professor Flint had
written to Jones before the cash-for-comment scandal
in 1999 praising the broadcaster's on-air performance.
the Broadcasting Services Act, the ABA chairman can
be sacked only if he misbehaves, is physically or
mentally incapacitated or is bankrupted. Unless Professor
Flint resigns voluntarily, or is persuaded to quit
by Mr Howard, he is likely to remain chairman until
his term expires in October. Professor Flint did not
return the Herald's calls.
Communications Law Centre has written to the Communications
Minister, Daryl Williams, asking him to use his ministerial
powers to force the ABA to investigate the legal loophole
that enables Jones to indirectly benefit from Telstra's
Sydney Morning Herald
war of the ratings, by Greg Tingle