My Last Word on Alan Jones

Comment from Peter Saxon.

Imagine, if you will, you’re trying to sell a rare and valuable motor car that would be worth millions of dollars – that is, if you could find the right buyer. Happily, you just happen to have one that’s interested.

The car is a rare early model E-Type Jaguar, “2GB” lightweight roadster – the most original example left in the world. The fact that it bears the patina of decades of use with just a few minor scars but no evidence of restoration or major repairs, only serves to enhance its value – as does a rich history of famous bums that have sat in its creased leather seats.

There’s only one problem. The engine’s stuffed.

The engine, a “Jones Special,” was named after Australia’s Formula 1 World Champion, Alan Jones, This engine could once be relied on to pump out 487 horse power in the old money and propel the sleek cat from 0 -100 in the new, in just 3.2 seconds. 

But today, the once silky performer coughs and sputters off the mark, its sonorous purr reduced to a wheeze. Worst of all. and all too often, it’s leaving its owner by the side of the road, stranded and embarrassed each time it breaks down. Sadly, as it spends more and more time off the road, it’s costing a fortune in upkeep and repairs.

Someone came up with the brilliant idea of taking the more reliable engine, a Hadley Straight 6 out of another grand collectable, an Aston Martin DB5 and bolting it into the Jag – but that could ruin the perfectly preserved provenance of both cars. It would be tantamount to swapping Robert Plant’s voice with Paul Simon’s. Both great talent and from the same era too but can you imagine Paul Simon trying to belt out Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love?

An easy fix would be to replace the ageing Jones Special by slipping a sleek, modern Fordham under the bonnet. As crass as that may sound to the purists, there is a connection. After all, it was a Ford engine that powered Jones’ Williams to victory in 1980. 

The Fordham, which has an excellent record for safety and reliability would rejuvenate the old Jag and likely provide years of trouble-free motoring.

But the prospective buyer was having none of it. They were well aware that the car had a dodgy donk. But it would be rendered next to worthless without it. ‘How could we possibly be seen to invest this obscene amount of money in a relic that’s had the heart ripped out of it?’ said the buyer’s spokesperson. ‘Its value would plummet overnight. We’d be a laughing stock.’

In the end a bargain was struck and the new owner took delivery of the old Jaguar with the “Jones Special” intact. But within months the engine had packed it in again – this time, off the road for a week. With revenue down and the nation distracted by COVID-19 it was decided that it was as good a time as any to put the Fordham plan into affect even if it changed the course of motorsport forever.


As for Alan Jones, the broadcaster…

For most of us, the mere fact that our career has lasted past our 79th birthday would be seen as a triumph. For Jones it’s just one in a myriad. 

As a broadcaster, only John Laws comes within orbit of his achievements. Both have consistently rated number one over long periods, have been networked to the far reaches of Australia and have had enormous influence over the political and social landscape. 

Which was the greater of the two… or, for that matter, the greatest of them all? I’ll leave that for you to decide, gentle reader.

There is no denying that Alan Jones had a prodigious talent for not just keeping an audience but for making fans out of them. As the saying goes: “Hard work will always beat talent if talent doesn’t work hard.” And Jones never stopped working hard for his audience. He made sure that every fan’s mail was answered and their grievances addressd.

He’ll be sorely missed by many, but as many again will be glad to see him gone.

In the end, apart from ill-health (a disease from which none of us are immune) Jones downfall was his failure to come to grips with technology and social media. To this day, he reportedly refuses to use a computer. Subsequently, his lack of understanding of social media and the impact it would have on broadcasters like him, likely brought him undone.

He was dismissive of trolls when they retaliated for something he might have said on his breakfast show to offend them. He resented the fact that people who didn’t listen to his show seemed to have more sway over its content than than those who did. But who cares about some rag tag mob of reprobates as long as he remained number one in Sydney and advertisers were queued up to be heard on his show.

And then the unthinkable happened. Following his Jacinda Ardern outburst, sponsors started to cancel their advertising. Suddenly, Jones found himself cast as Macbeth and “Birnam Wood had come to Dunsinane” just as the Mad Fucking Witches had prophesied. He was powerless to stop the carnage caused by his detractors on social media.

Management, who had to that point fawned over him like a rockstar, was forced to intervene to try to reel in the exodus of advertisers and the millions in revenue they took with them. 

In a letter, from then MacRadio executive chairman Russell Tate that was meant for Jones as much as it was for advertisers, he said he would conduct a review of all 2GB/4BC Breakfast content, “Macquarie stations and presenters will continue to initiate and encourage debate on important issues but must do so in language and tone that all of contemporary Australia finds acceptable.” 

Those carefully chosen words from Mr Tate spelled out exactly where Jones’ problems lay. I doubt, however, that he ever quite understood why he should give two hoots about what contemporary Australia finds acceptable. Surely, his loyal listeners are all that matter? 

Not unlike young footballers who can’t or won’t accept that the enormous sums they’re paid is for the way they conduct themselves both on and off the field, Jones has been tone-deaf as to what the broader public expects of a public figure such as him. And why he should take notice.

When a well-wisher called to congratulate Ben Fordham on being named Breakfast host, they told him, “You realise you’re padding up to follow Bradman…”

Will Ben Fordham ever reach the lofty heights of Jones’ legacy? Only time will tell. Nonetheless, for better or for worse, Australian radio will never be the same. 

But if the on-air discussion is a little less combative with a host who tends to play the ball, not the man or woman – in a language and tone that all of contemporary Australia finds acceptable – and the advertisers return – then that would be all for the better.

Peter Saxon



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