21 Aug 2019

Advertisers pull funding over Sydney shock jock Alan Jones' comments about Jacinda Ardern

12:44 pm on 21 August 2019

Australian radio host Alan Jones's station is "rattled" after 19 advertisers dumped it over his comments, the woman leading the campaign against him says.

Barbarians rugby coach Alan Jones speaks at a press conference in Sydney on October 13, 2017, ahead of their match against the Australian Wallabies. - The Barbarians take on the Wallabies in Sydney on October 28. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST / AFP)

Sydney radio host Alan Jones has frequently been in the spotlight for controversial comments. Photo: AFP

A group of campaigners - the "Mad Witches", who take their name from a slur that Peter Dutton once made about a female journalist - are taking aim at companies that advertise on his show, demanding they drop ties with the radio station 2GB.

Spokesperson Jennie Hill told Morning Report that 19 advertisers had cut their deals with Macquarie Media because of Jones' comments, and the company had issued a statement that it would terminate his contract if he transgressed again.

"We've got 19 pulled out, we had a huge company called Chemist Warehouse pull out so yeah we actually are gobsmacked at how successful it's been," she said.

She said despite advertisers pulling out in previous controversies the network had never before threatened Jones' contract like this, so the cost of keeping him must be near outweighing the roughly $AU10m in revenue he brought in each year.

"They have to make a commercial decision. If advertisers withdraw support from the show then that has to be balanced with the trouble that he's causing. He's cost them a lot of money over the years in court cases and defamation payouts so he must be wearing out his welcome.

"Eventually that drop in revenue is probably going to bite pretty hard."

Jones, a former Wallabies coach, said last week New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was a "clown" and suggested that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison should "shove a sock down her throat".

Now, more audio has emerged of the broadcaster telling his listeners he hoped that Mr Morrison "backhands" her.

"This lightweight New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is challenging Scott Morrison over climate change. Now, I hope Scott Morrison gets tough here with a few backhanders. Hasn't got a clue, this woman."

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern in Tuvalu for the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit. August 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Tuvalu for the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit, which focused on climate change. Photo: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Jones has long been a controversial figure, but Ms Hill said the anger this time seemed a lot bigger.

"Many millions of people this time. Even people who technically maybe would have been a supporter of his ... can see that you don't, you just don't talk about shoving a sock down a woman's throat or giving her a backhander. I mean, it's a bridge too far."

When criticised over it Jones said it should not have been taken literally, but Ms Hill said it was ludicrous for him to suggest that.

"Anyone who listens to the tape can see that he's saying that Scott Morrison should give Jacinda Ardern a couple of backhanders.

"When he says he didn't say that or he didn't meant that, that's a classic example of gaslighting - you know, telling us that we didn't hear what we know we did hear - and that's what people like Alan Jones do unfortunately, just twist the narrative to suit themselves."

Jones said he had sent a written apology to Ms Ardern, but Ms Hill said that put the prime minister in an difficult position.

"If she accepted that [apology] she may be seen to be saying that those comments are sort of okay; if she rejects the apology publicly then she's seen to be sort of unforgiving and unfair - so I think he's put her in a very much no-win situation."

University of Technology Sydney head of journalism and former Media Watch host Monica Attard said she saw no sign of the criticism against Jones stopping, and his moves to dampen it down were not likely to appease anybody this time.

"Certainly not in Australia. Alan Jones ... can come across as quite abrasive. Now, people can say that's because he is abrasive, others say that it's just an unfortunate by-product of the way he communicates, however I don't believe any apology he can offer at this point in time is going to make anybody feel any better about it."

She said it was always a possibility that the advertisers would drift back once the controversy had blown over, but Ms Ardern's popularity combined with Jones' past controversies suggested his career would not survive.

"I just don't believe that the tsunami has peaked... I think at this point we are likely to see more advertisers fleeing, we are likely to see his bosses sabre rattling and issuing him warnings.

"On this occasion in making comments about your prime minister, who is extremely popular over this side, it is being seen as really a bridge too far. I mean, she really is a very, very popular figure here and his comments are being seen as something that is just really quite unforgivable."

She said the situation was also complicated by the fact Macquarie Media was in the process of a takeover by another company, Nine.

"It is also complicated by the fact that he has been an extraordinarily popular broadcaster. He's been around for a very very long time, he has been in the number one slot for a very very long time ... he appeals to a certain demographic, he is very popular in that demographic.

"Radio stations have bent over backwards and given him exactly what he wants for many many years precisely because he has such a massive audience.

"It also has made it kind of a little easier for him ... anybody who's looking at Macquarie - and the Nine entertainment network is doing so in particular -would see that he is a ratings winner, so it's six of one half a dozen of the other really."

As for the Mad Witches, Ms Hill said it seemed unlikely any new advertisers would fill the gap left by those who had already abandoned Macquarie, and the campaign would not stop until they saw some kind of result.

"We're just gonna keep going, we're not gonna give up until we get some kind of result or at the very least we want a proper apology from Alan Jones to Jacinda Ardern."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs