Comment from Peter Saxon.
Ever since Alan Jones’ on-air chat with John Laws last week, speculation has been rife about whether the former king of breakfast talk radio would join the former king of mornings talk radio on Bill Caralis’ Super Network.
During last week’s love-fest between the frenemies, Laws was straight to the point asking Jones, “Do you want a job?”
“Put a bit of paper in front of me, you know what it’s like, it’s the same old rules isn’t it? You put a bit of paper in front of somebody. They are putting bits of paper in front of me I have to tell you.”
Laws told him, “Oh, be careful what you do. Why don’t you come here and work with me? We could set the world on fire you and me.”
“Why not?” said Jones
Idle chit chat? No such thing between these former titans. Every word counts.
Even before that encounter, in my column a few weeks ago, I suggested that Jones, “If he wants to prove the point that they (2GB) were mad to let him go, why not have a chat to Bill Caralis who might see value in reuniting Alan Jones with John Laws, two of the three greatest living Australian radio shows ever, on his Super Network. The third being Kyle and Jackie O.
“The battle between Jones and Fordham on breakfast would be fascinating and may just entice Bill to get 2SM back into the GfK ratings surveys.”
As you read this, one of two things could be happening. One could be that with Jones’ Sky contract, due for renewal in November, he is simply building some leverage. And he may need it too, just to keep his current job with Sky News, let alone negotiate a better deal. Given that Sky’s owner, News Limited, just the other day, pulled the plug on Jones’ Daily Telegraph column, Sky could be next.
The official reason given for Jones’ axing by Tele editor Ben English was that his column didn’t “resonate” with readers.
“If the argument has been it’s not resonating, I don’t have to defend myself,” Jones told The Sydney Morning Herald. “The public can check it for themselves. 35 years at top of the radio – and I don’t resonate with the public? Honestly.”
For the most part, Jones is right, of course. But what is true, is that he is wildly out of step with mainstream public sentiment about the danger posed by COVID-19 and its new Delta strain. Meanwhile, his bosses at News Ltd, like those at Nine, can see where this is headed and how it might adversley affect revenue and erode public trust if a Jones and Sky misinformation campaign is left unchecked. Even the uber-conservative, Sean Hannity, on America’s Sky equivalent, Fox News, has changed his tune and is now urging his audience to get vaccinated.
As I write this, news has come to hand that in a huge blow to the Foxtel’s Sky News channel, the digital giant, YouTube, has banned it for seven days, for posting videos that deny the existence of the disease and encourage people to use discredited medication.
The other reason Jones could be hinting of a come-back on 2SM is because he genuinely misses radio and, more so, the huge audience and influence it once gave him. With 2GB having firmly shut the door in his face regarding a comeback, 2SM could work… if Jones could attract his much fabled “rusted-on-listeners” back to the warm bosom of talk radio, just a few clicks up the AM dial from 2GB.
And that’s a big IF.
However, before any of that happens, he must deal with Bill Caralis. Win, lose or draw, I can promise that negotiating with Bill will be very different to bargaining with any of his previous bosses.
The two men have different attitudes to money. Alan likes to charge a king’s ransom for his services. Paying ransoms is not Bill’s style. Still, this is not about money. So, if they end up doing a deal, It will be for their own personal reasons.
In the end, neither Jones or Caralis is the retiring type. They are not predisposed to taking their fortune and putting their feet up on a private island in their twighlight years. They have a legacy to burnish. That’s why I think that if a deal can be done they’ll want to do it.
Unfettered by shareholders or a board of directors, Caralis, who lives a relatively frugal life himself, is free to run his business in any way he likes. And he likes reminding the corporate radio networks that his Super Network remains a major player in the industry.
Jones has amassed some serious “f… you money” himself. And there’s plenty of scores he’d like to settle. Most of all, he’d want to show 2GB, like he showed 2UE 20 years ago, that letting him go was a mistake.
However, as much as Caralis would like the kudos of having both Laws and Jones on his network, I believe his priority will be to minimise his risk, rather than maximise his potential. He’ll leave that to Jones.
Therefore, I think, the deal, if it’s done, will be less about how much money Caralis pays Jones and more about Jones being allocated a large chunk of unsold airtime that he can sell to his loyal advertisers such as Gerry Harvey.
But there’s much more to settle before signatures can be put on the bottom line. For example, who pays for the elevated defamation insurance premiums that Jones now attracts? Who takes responsibility for staring down the Sleeping Giants and Mad F…ing Witches who might organise boycotts against the station and, perhaps, the network?
Of course, these details are something we are unlikely to ever know. For years now, arguably, the best kept secret in radio is how much Bill Caralis is worth and how much is he paying Laws? I’m guessing the answer is plenty and not much, in that order.
Which brings us to another question: will Jones be networked? And, if so, how and to what extent? Will he, in fact, be doing a fulltime breakfast show at all, or something shorter?
Unless Caralis agrees to pay 2GB type money for Jones, win, lose or draw, his downside is minimal. And while Jones may be exposed to some financial risk, it is unlikely to match the huge reputational risk he’s taking on by going to 2SM.
What if he opens his new Breakfast Show and, this time, they don’t come? They didn’t for Laws. How will we know, anyway, unless 2SM re-joins the Survey?
Of course, Laws is networked to 2HD in Newcastle which is surveyed but which can’t be considered a reliable indicator of how he might be going in Sydney.
A former manager of the popular local university station, 2NUR, Wayne Stamm told us, “They don’t like Jones in Newcastle as it’s a Labor town. We tried his comment for a couple of weeks at 2NUR and the negative feedback was incredible. We took him off air fairly quickly so I think a live Jones breakfast here is unlikely to work.”
Jones had replaced Jason Morrison’s comment segmernt since he’d left 2GB.
“They generally liked Jason,” Stamm recalls. “He could still ruffle feathers, but his segment ran for a couple of years without too much drama.”
Still, Jones is a champion and, as the saying goes, you should never write off a champion.
If Kieren Perkins, who qualified slowest for the 1,500 metres final at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics could win Gold from lane 8, who knows, Alan Jones could find himself on radio’s winners’ podium once again.