Half the Nine Entertainment non-executive directors who will soon be responsible for employing and empowering “sock jock”* Alan Jones are smart and accomplished women. I wonder how they feel about that.
Not about being smart and accomplished, but about providing Jones with his bully pulpit when he repeatedly denigrates, belittles, hectors and sometimes speaks violently about smart and accomplished women.
For that matter, two of the four Macquarie Media non-executive directors presently responsible for Jones’ radio broadcasts are smart and accomplished women.
Louise McCann is a professional non-executive director, her headline gig being chair of accountancy Grant Thornton. Monique Anderson, is CEO of John Singleton Group. Singo is Macquarie’s second-biggest shareholder.
To the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever come close to anything like calling Singo a feminist.
The Jones problem – a ratings star but a costly defamation expense and divisive human being – is somewhat different for Macquarie now compared with what it will be for Nine after it takes out the minority shareholders.
Macquarie is a captive of its key bloviators, led by Jones and Ray Hadley. They are the business. They will be but cogs in the greater Nine media empire.
Macquarie last week reported a net profit for the year of only $7.6 million. Nine had a profit of $172 million in just its first half.
Macquarie effectively admitted its shock jock bondage in the annual report. The directors specified two “material financial risks” and how they managed them:
“Significant decline in ratings – given our strong market position, any significant downturn in ratings could potentially impact our advertising revenue and our financial results.
“We address this risk by employing well known and professional presenters in addition to the development of succession plans that capture and retain our target audience.”
Jones and Hadley are Macquarie’s biggest ratings winners.
Losing them would indeed be significant – and if there’s a succession plan for those two, it’s not particularly obvious.
Macquarie is in a cleft stick given that dependence, demonstrated by the second material financial risk:
“Non-compliance with media regulation – this risk is addressed by conducting regular training and the provision of pre-publication advice.”
The loose lips of professional provocateurs can be dangerous things for a broadcaster, already costing Macquarie many millions of dollars in defamation costs.
But just short of defamation and broadcasting licence loss, Jones being obnoxious has made Macquarie money. It has delivered the ratings that in turn deliver the advertising dollars.
I doubt Jones’ ratings will suffer at all from his advice to Scott Morrison to shove a sock down Jacinda Ardern’s throat.
Indeed, it has garnered him the most publicity since his excruciating abuse of the smart and accomplished female Opera House CEO.
Such behaviour – bombastic, boorish, occasionally racist, sometimes sexist, always climate denialist – reinforces his brand, a brand that appeals to a minority of Australians who enjoy that sort of thing.
Just as he sort-of, maybe-a-bit expressed a kind of regret about his Opera House tongue lashing, Jones has claimed his sock jock episode has been misrepresented.
That has been neatly skewered by media commentator David Dale on Twitter:
“And when I said Julia Gillard should be put in a chaff bag and drowned at sea, of course I meant she could be given a handbag and taken on a cruise. Any moron could work that out.”
The Jacinda Ardern attack has cost 2GB one advertiser, but if most Jones advertisers cared about such behaviour, they would have already departed. Like-minded marketers and audiences find each other.
While Nine has been the majority Macquarie shareholder since taking over Fairfax, its control has been slender with 54 per cent with Singleton and Jones himself a strong bloc. That changes when the takeover is completed.
The Nine Entertainment non-executive directors who will then be wholly responsible for Jones are the present chairman, Peter Costello of Treasurer and Liberal Party fame, former Fairfax chairman and PBL and Ten CEO Nick Falloon, and banker Patrick Allaway, accountant and Samantha Lewis, consultant and Mickie Rosen, and lawyer Catherine West.
Bump into any of that lot at a dinner party or charity fund raiser and ask them how they feel about promoting climate denialism, use of the N word and violent language about women. Ask them if they’re proud of what they’re prepared to do for a buck in a corner of their business.
One of the lessons of the Hayne Royal Commission was the way bank boards were shown to have no idea of and no particular desire to know about the gritter, grubbier ways their companies made money. The top shelf of the Australian directors’ club was exposed as substandard, captives of their management and dead losses for their shareholders.
The Nine Entertainment board doesn’t have any excuse of ignorance. They each know perfectly well what they’re prepared to spread over the airwaves for a relatively few dollars.
There’s something somewhere about the standard you walk past…
*Credit for the “sock jock” line goes to Channel 10’s Hugh Remington.