Radio talk presenter ‘Sacked for Conservative Commentary’

Comment from Peter Saxon

Dean Mackin (pictured) had been with 2HD, Newcastle since 2013, first as a producer, and was later given his own on-air timeslot: 2 to 5 on Saturday afternoons.

For three years running 2015/16/17, he was an ACRA Finalist for Best Talk Presenter, provincial.
But a week ago, management terminated his show because, as he says he was told, “My conservative style was not suiting the network moving forward.” He has it in writing from the former general manager that, “I would not be considered for any additional shifts, fill in shifts, or prime shifts unless I toned it down.”
A spokesperson for 2HD who wished to remain anonymous didn’t dispute that claim, telling radioinfo, “He was basically let go because the style of his show didn’t suit the Super Radio Network. It wasn’t a balanced show. It was a very unbalanced show.”
Although they differ on some of the details, for the most part Mackin and his former bosses agree on the salient points.
Management says they tried to help Mackin improve his show by going through air-checks with him, advising him on how to write editorials and how to get more balance into his show. They told him, “We need counter-arguments, we need more people calling in with their views on one side of the argument and the other side because at the moment your show is, basically, just one argument.
“And, basically, he just decided that he was not going to take any advice whatsoever,”
said the spokesperson.

Mackin, clearly resents being given advice by someone for whom he has little respect as a talk presenter. “It’s weird, I’m the only one that’s had three ACRAs finalist spots for the best talk presenter, so it wasn’t my ability (that was the problem,” says Mackin while describing the person who axed his show as, “a totaI fence sitter that sounds very ordinary on talkback radio. And this guy would call me into his office when he got into management to tell me how I should do talkback radio. This guy!” 
Mackin believes that the last straw for management was probably last Saturday week when he spoke of the advertiser boycott affecting 2GB’s Alan Jones, “I gave Gerry Harvey a big rap because he said that he wouldn’t kowtow to such behaviour and he would advertise where he wanted to advertise. So, I actually bought a $400 chair from him just to say thanks for supporting free speech and not kowtowing to groups (such as Sleeping Giants Oz.) I said that on air and that’s one of the things I said on Saturday that I had never said before so I can only assume that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The spokesperson denies that that was the case. He went on to describe the real reason he was sacked, “I’m pretty disappointed that he’s saying that he was sacked. He was offered the opportunity to stay on and be Carter Edwards’ producer. And he said: Yep yep, I’m happy to stay with Carter. I said, I know you’re obviously very disappointed about what happened with the show and that we’ve made that decision and we’re going to move forward now. And he just said: no worries. 
“(Following that conversation) I’d say within five minutes of me putting the phone down, on social media, he’d actually stated that he’d been sacked. But, in fact, he hadn’t. He still had a role with the station on a Sunday night. And then that social media posting got up to the higher echelon of Super Radio Network. And it got to ‘one individual’ [guess who] who just said: No, that’s it, terminate his employment immediately. 
“So, I gave him the opportunity to stay on, and he knows that. And this is really, really annoying and frustrates me that he is telling people that he was sacked when in fact he was only relieved of his duties on a Saturday afternoon.” 



Super Radio Network owner, Bill Caralis, is known to be a Labor supporter but Mackin dismisses any suggestion that he intervenes in or influences content decisions. On his facebook page, he posts of his appreciation for Mr Caralis giving him his start in radio.  He writes, “I still, and always will, hold Mr Caralis in the highest regard for giving me my start there.
According to Mackin, his problems started two years ago when the station hired a couple of ‘left leaning presenters’ who were then promoted to management positions and went about changing the direction of the station.
Of his own show, Mackin says, “All callers would ring up on a Saturday afternoon and have their say and, no, they wouldn’t be called an idiot or a right wing conspiracist or whatever. I would just let them say what they want. And all those people have lost their voice on that network.” 
Mackin says he’s not interested in pursuing an unfair dismissal claim through the courts. “Normally you do that because you want your job back. I might never want to go back there. But I desperately want to stay in the media. So, I’m not gonna use it (the unfair dismissal card).” 
Hinting that, instead, he’ll use other media to take his case to the court of public opinion, “I’m not going to take a backward step. I’m not going to let them shut me down on free speech.”

There are many similarities between this case and the Israel Folau “molehill made mountain” of which I’ve written extensively here and here. But it’s the differences that make it really interesting. 
At the heart of the issue is that both Mackin and Folau are using their employer’s platform to espouse their personal views. 
The question then is: Does an employee’s right to free speech trump their employer’s right to conduct their business in a way that enhances their brand and maximises profit? The answer, of course, is as complex as it is elusive but simply put: It depends.
Folau is paid to play rugby. And as pin up boy for the code (who earns as much for one game as Mackin might make in three years at 2HD), Folau is also paid to represent Rugby Australia’s image with sponsors and fans, which is all laid out in the game’s Code of Conduct. 

Speech is not free, if someone else is paying you to talk

In both cases, their employers are upset that the employee’s personal views are at odds with their own public face or brand. 
The difference, though, is that Mackin is paid (or was) to express his opinions on air. Who else’s opinion could he express with any conviction other than his own?   
While that may be true, like any announcer at any station, he is required to fit the format as laid down by management. You wouldn’t expect Nova’s Breakfast Show to  be hired by ABC Classic FM, or vice versa – unless the talent could adapt and adjust to suit the format. 
Dean Makin is not the first announcer that has disagreed with management’s programming decisions and feels they could run the station better. In the case of his weekly k shift on 2HD, who knows, He may be right. I wouldn’t know because I don’t know the Newcastle market well enough. 
In the end, though, it’s not his business. It’s management’s. Their role is to implement a format, recruit suitable talent and live or die by their decisions. 
Speech is not free, if someone else is paying you to talk. What is free is your choice to reject the station’s offer of continued employment in another role and find a platform that is a better fit for your style of presentation – which is what Dean Mackin has decided to do and we wish him the best of luck in his endeavours. 

Peter Saxon

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