ACMA decision on 2GB augers well for 2CC

It was a tough end to last week for Harbour Radio Pty Ltd, licensee of 2GB, with three different matters coming to a head to trouble the board and senior management.

Firstly there was the revelation that the NSW’s chief law officer Greg Smith is threatening to sue their top rating morning host Ray Hadley for defamation over comments he made on 2GB last month which, Mr Smith alleges, defamed him by falsely suggesting he treated accused paedophiles favourably.

Second, the station has failed in its Federal Court bid against ACMA to overturn new rules requiring presenters to disclose, on air, all the deals they and their employers have with advertisers. Justice John Griffiths dismissed Macquarie Radio’s application for a formal judicial review of the rules and ordered the company to pay ACMA’s legal costs.

And, as we reported separately, ACMA has found 2GB breached the codes in failing to check the accuracy of ‘facts’ put to listeners – in this case by Alan Jones when he declared that “human beings produce 0.001 per cent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” Scientists consider the true amount to be around 3 per cent.

ACMA also found that 2GB had, on several occasions, failed to comply with the codes’ complaints-handling provisions.

But 2GB did win a number of other battles, with ACMA. Firstly in regards to presenting “other significant viewpoints,” ACMA found that the station fulfilled its obligations by allowing views that Mr Jones chose not present in his program to be heard on other programs, such as Chris Smith’s afternoon show.

The other major win was in regards to Mr Jones well-publicised comments in regards to Julia Gillard, Clover Moore and Bob Brown that they should be “Put in the same chaff bag and thrown out to sea.”

While many observers found these remarks offensive and beyond the pale, ACMA found that “While Mr Jones made very disrespectful and disparaging comments about the Prime Minister and others in public office they did not amount to a breach of the prohibitions on: broadcasting indecent material: inciting violence or brutality or inciting intense dislike, serious contempt or severe ridicule on the grounds of gender or disability.”

No doubt this ruling has given some comfort to the Capital Network, owners of 2CC, Canberra where on Wednesday last week announcer Jorian Gardner made the suggestion during the station’s breakfast show that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy should wear a “penis cam” during cabvarchar(15) meetings so he could film up the skirt of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. In the context of ACMA’s chaff bag ruling, this too should escape an adverse finding.

More over, Program Director Pete Davidson, perhaps with the onerous 2Day Licence Conditions in mind, well understood that any penalty ACMA imposed would be on his station and not on Gardner. By his decisive action in immediately suspending the announcer and publicly calling Gardner’s remarks “not acceptable,” Davidson probably did much to ameliorate any future action by ACMA.

Neither Pete Davidson or anyone at 2GB were available for comment.