Talkback radio host Alan Jones’ statement at a Young Liberals dinner last month that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s father “died of shame” due to her “lies” has sparked a heavy withdrawal of companies’ advertising and sponsorship of his 2GB Breakfast Show to the value of $80, 000 per day. According to the Sunday Telegraph, following the controversial speech, a Facebook page entitled ‘Destroy the Joint’ was created by Jenna Price to encourage companies to withdraw advertising from his Breakfast Show or else risk being viewed by the public as supporting a “sexist and misogynistic” person. After Coles, Woolworths, Mercedes-Benz and ING Direct expressed their desire to cut advertising and sponsorship ties with the show, its owner, Macquarie Radio Network temporarily suspended all advertising on the show. In light of this, Macquarie’s Executive Chairman Russel Tate said he recognised most Breakfast Show listeners have neither significantly changed their opinion of the show nor the advertisers that remain on the show, and that he accepted Jones’ public apology to the Prime Minister and public recognition of his error.
While this short-term negative impact was unprecedented in radio-media, as testament to his brand resilience, according to the Sydney Neilsen radio survey conducted over the three weeks following Jones’ remarks, Jones won his timeslot with a 0.5% gain in ratings. Macquarie’s reasons for suspending advertising on the program were related to a need to address the “totally unwarranted pressure” on their advertisers, as well as the “avalanche of demands” via social media users, who, Tate states, are unlikely to be Breakfast Show or 2GB listeners.
Such was the pressure of Jones’ online critics and social media campaigners that “serious threats” were made to shut down emails and disrupt the business of the show’s advertisers; actions Jones refers to as ‘cyber bullying’. However, Labor MP Graham Perrett affirmed that social media campaigns are a valid basis for which companies should choose to withdraw advertising.
Given today’s increasingly tech--savvy environment and the public’s access to a plethora of information through the advent of smart-phones, perhaps the backlash following Jones’ comments is not terribly surprising. While the comments evidently have not unfavourably affected Breakfast Show listeners, they have come at a “very significant [financial] cost” to the MRN. As The Australian reports, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd suggests that Jones’ claims of being under attack by ‘cyber-bullies’ is hypocritical, as Jones has “dished it out with a shovel” in recent years and has “been a bully himself.” This is a reminder that public figures, who are critical of others can themselves be at risk from public pressure through such highly influential mediums.