Where radio and radioinfo stands on Same Sex Marriage

Comment from Peter Saxon

Last week we did a whip around of the major radio networks to see where they stood on Same Sex Marriage now that almost 60% of eligible citizens have cast their vote.

None of the three major FM networks have made any directives to staff about how they should  handle the SSM question and only ARN has made an official statement, which reads:

ARN is a proud supporter of equality, diversity and inclusion in our society, working alongside the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Midsumma in Melbourne and equality initiatives including ‘Until we all belong’ campaign.

 We believe this is reflective of the broader community sentiment and audiences that connect and interact with our brands every day.

 We recognise that in a situation where all Australians are being asked to participate in a survey, all legitimate opinions have the right to be heard.

At Nova Entertainment, Group PD, Paul Jackson told me, “We would never tell our presenters what to say. Our job is just to entertain people and not to preach to them.” Nonetheless, it’s clear that the network is firmly in the YES camp given they are currently on air supporting the Sia concert for marriage equality.

A spokesperson for SCA said, “The individual networks, particularly Hit, have shown their support for YES which you would have seen on socials, heard on air etc.” And, indeed, no one siding with the YES campaign could accuse SCA stations of sitting on the fence, as evidenced by Newcastle’s Hit106.9 current promotion.  More than that, 2Day rebranded itself as 2Gay-FM last year for the Mardi Gras in support of SSM. 

Whereas one might assume that FM audiences are likely to either vote YES or couldn’t care less, one might assume that the ABC and the commercial talk stations attract the more strongly committed voters on either side of the debate.

The ABC, sensing that they could end up the whipping boy of the NO campaign if their staff were left to their own devices went to the unusual step of pulling them into line.

In an all staff email, the ABC’s editorial policy manager Mark Maley made it clear that the national broadcaster “does not have a position on the issue.” 

“It is very important that we are impartial and that all perspectives are given a fair hearing and treated with respect by the ABC.

“In this charged environment I would also urge everyone to be circumspect on social media – advocating for one side or the other will make it more difficult for the ABC to be seen as impartial. The more high-profile you are the more important discretion is,” Mr Maley wrote.

While that was widely reported, the fact that Macquarie Media also sent a memo to its staff was not.

Below are excerpts from a memo by MML COO, Adam Lang which read in part:

“As a network of News Talk and Talking Lifestyle radio stations, Macquarie Media supports the right of each and every person to express their opinions on matters of public debate.”

“Our presenters are required to comply with the Commercial Radio Code of Practice (link here) and are always encouraged to respectfully acknowledge each perspective and express their own opinion to our significant and highly engaged national audience. Specifically, regarding this postal plebiscite on the Australian Marriage Law, this opinion may include support or rejection, amendment and the right to have no view at all.”


“It is worth reminding staff of Macquarie Media’s requirements in relation to personal and business use of social media by staff.”  


“Thank you for your time in reading this email. I am grateful that we are part of a company that can thrive on positive and respectful debate. If you have any queries at all, please address these with your manager.”

Best regards,

Adam Lang 
Chief Operating Officer

Interestingly, both these powerful influencers of public debate, the ABC and MacRadio, have opted to sit on the fence – officially at least. I can understand why the ABC, the publicly funded broadcaster would be reluctant to bite the “right” hand that feeds it as does the “left.” However, for MacRadio one might think there’s no reason, other than fear of alienating a sizeable chunk of their conservative audience, for not declaring their position on the matter. 

Not that we at radioinfo can’t understand how they feel. After all, for similar reasons, we haven’t come out with our position on SSM either. After due consideration. we thought, why risk putting even a few readers offside if we don’t have to?

Well, sometimes you have to. You have to because people should not be discriminated against. Not for their race, religion, skin colour or for their sexual preference – as long as it is between consenting adults. Everyone should be afforded the same rights in law as everyone else. 

Too many times in history has discrimination prevailed simply because people who knew better were too timid to speak out. Marriage is a right that is currently denied same sex couples. Therefore, we the directors of radioinfo, are speaking out for marriage equality.

Now, we appreciate that many people on the NO side will argue that marriage through the ages has been understood to be between a man and a woman and they point to passages in the Bible, Talmud or Koran that support that view. 

However we live in a parliamentary democracy where there exists a separation of church and state and the fact is that only the state can ratify marriage. It’s perfectly natural for people of faith to want to be married in the eyes of their chosen deity. But that cuts no ice with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. In short you can be married without the involvement of a religious organisation but you cannot be married without a duly executed marriage certificate issued by the state.

Ah, but according to the Marriage Act 1961 as amended 2004, marriage is, indeed, defined as being between a man and a woman. True. The 2004 ‘Man and Woman’ amendment was introduced by then Prime Minister John Howard who, through the courage of his convictions and a friendly senate, was able to insert the change without taking it to the people of Australia as we are doing today.

For the same ‘separation of Church and State’ reason, religious bodies should be (and already are) entitled to choose for whom to perform marriage services according to their own interpretation of the scriptures. But who’d want to get married by a hostile priest, imam or rabbi given that already plenty of such institutions have indicated that everyone is welcome under their auspices?

For wedding cake makers, the law is clear, you can’t refuse service to someone based on their race, colour religion or sexual orientation.

Agree with him or not, what Mr Howard did then was to do what democratically elected politicians are supposed to do – which is to follow their conscience and do what they feel is right. But that was then and this is now. Now it’s time to undo the amendment because no matter how well intentioned, it marginalises a section of the community in the same way as having separate washrooms for coloureds and for whites.

As American founding father Thomas Jefferson said, ”The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” 

Okay, he doesn’t mention marriage equality but one can easily alter the second sentence without altering the intended meaning thus: “But it does me no injury for my neighbour to be married to someone of the same sex.”

Getting back to radio and who says YES and who says NO – while MacRadio has not declared its hand, many of their top talent have. From what I can tell from listening, Talking Lifestyle’s George and Paul are NO voters – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ray Hadley says he doesn’t care one way or the other but seems to take more callers (this being an exception) from the NO camp while Neil Mitchell is all for a YES vote. Even Andrew Bolt supports SSM while still managing to attack its advocates and the Left in his regular column in the Herald-Sun – a paper which has also come out in favour of SSM in an Editorial.

Finally, the last word goes to 2GB’s Alan Jones (left) who has perhaps the most conservative listeners of any station had this to say back in May 2015 about Same Sex Marriage.

“Are you a homosexual?” asked caller Robin.

Jones deflected the question, saying: “That’s irrelevant to the issue.” 

And that’s the point. It shouldn’t matter because it doesn’t matter.

Jones went on to say, “The reality is this, in a very difficult world, which is often impersonal, uncaring, ruthless and sometimes brutal in personal relationships, love can prove elusive. And my view is that when people find love they should be able to celebrate it. And they shouldn’t be discriminated against according to the nature of that love. To deny people the recognition for a relationship which is based on love is to deny in my opinion one of humankind’s most basic, but as I said elusive, qualities.”


Peter Saxon



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