One of the many celebrities who lined up to farewell Alan Jones this week had some people scratching their heads. Why would tennis great Roger Federer record a personal video message for a shock jock who has a shameful history of verbal abuse of women in power and of vilifying Lebanese Muslims?
“Hi Alan, it’s Roger here,” Federer says grinning into the camera. “I wanted to wish you all the very best for what’s to come and many congratulations on an amazing 35-year career in the media business, take care and all the best. Bye.”
Simply superb...— Real Mark Latham (@RealMarkLatham) May 21, 2020
Alan Jones' great sin was being popular among working class Australians.
The high arts industry, by contrast, is so unpopular it can't survive without working class taxpayer subsidies. https://t.co/3Gc3fViN3B
The Federer message was mysteriously removed from the 2GB website and Jones’s Instagram account late in the week. Nine Radio has refused to explain why the audio highlight was removed by the station, but the clip can still be seen on Sky News’ YouTube channel.
But Federer is not the only high profile person to apparently join in on the celebration of Jones’s 35-year career on commercial radio which ended on Friday with an orgy of self congratulation.
No less than the prime minister called in to wish him luck, and when his retirement was announced earlier in the month even Labor leader Antony Albanese paid tribute to the rusted on Liberal supporter.
These affectionate words from public figures are galling to people who’ve followed Jones’s history of offensive remarks about women and race and his refusal to accept the science of climate change.
But Jones is nothing if not divisive. To his listeners and celebrity friends he is a great broadcaster who helps a lot of people behind the scenes. To others he is someone who has abused his platform for many years and he won’t be missed.
His powerful friends from decades in the media and entertainment industry, and the political arena, are many, and they either don’t care about his record or they politely ignore it.
You would expect One Nation leaders Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham to gush over him as he steps down, and Tony Abbott to turn up to his farm where he recorded his last show, but it’s surprising that Australian actors Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe are happy to be associated with him.
“We don’t always agree with our politics,” Crowe told Jones, “But the thing that I know about you, Mr Jones, is the size of your heart.
“You’re an incredible man, Alan. Thank you very much for all of the incredible things that you’ve done.”
Jones’s co-host on Sky News, Peta Credlin, was an unsurprising guest. Jones will continue to appear with Credlin on the Murdoch channel as well as write for the media mogul’s newspapers.
“I want to say to your listeners, your support of this wonderful man has kept him going,” Credlin said.
“I tell you what listeners, you’ve had his back.
“Many nights we’ve come off air at Sky, he’s spoken about you like you’re family. You can hear it in his voice, he treats you with enormous respect.”
Hanson was perhaps the most egregious of his fans, telling him she was “devastated” he was stepping down.
“My release from prison in 2003 was because of you fighting for my justice,” Hanson said.
“You’re going to be a great loss.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you for giving me the time.”
Jones clearly sees Hanson as an ally, telling her affectionately “We’ve been through a few battles together. But we finished up on the other side.”
Listening to Jones’s final broadcasts there wasn’t even a hint of the controversy which has dogged his media career since the cash for comment scandal in 1999.
On top of all the farewell calls there were packaged highlights of interviews with prime ministers over the decades, and even a younger Donald Trump.
Sports stars Darren Beadman and Mark Bosnic called in on his last day and through the week there were many more well wishes from the world of show business, including actor and singer Hugh Jackman who said Jones was one of the “kindest, most supportive” people he knows.
Others included Dame Edna, Elizabeth Hurley, Rod Stewart, Michael Buble, Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John and Delta Goodrem.
The Voice coach said Jones was her “ultimate motivator” and a great role model.
“The impact of you,” Goodrem said, “every time, never missing a beat for me.” Each time he took the laudatory calls he sounded surprised, such is the theatre of live radio.
The only hint listeners got that there was any discord in Jonestown was the on-air correction he was forced to give by order of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Jones made it sound routine, and a casual listener may have missed the seriousness of the announcement, which corrected the assertion that biomass is a fossil fuel and the “incorrect presentation of figures” related to the percentage of solar and wind energy Australia and NZ use.
The Acma found Jones breached broadcasting codes for decency in his use of “violent metaphors” about New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and accuracy in his comments about climate change. It is the latest in a litany of broadcasting breaches.
Because he had already apologised to Ardern, he only had to mention his errors on climate change.
The now-infamous August 2019 broadcast – in which Jones said of Adern “I just wonder whether Scott Morrison’s going to be fully briefed to shove a sock down her throat” – attracted more than 125 complaints to Acma, which found it “offended against generally accepted community standards of decency”.
It was this level of offence, piled on top of other offences against women over the years, in particular against Julia Gillard, that drove the social media campaign to target his advertisers.
“Every person in the caucus of the Labor party knows that Julia Gillard is a liar, everybody,” Jones said at a Sydney University Liberal club dinner. “I will come to that in a moment. The old man recently died a few weeks ago of shame. To think that he has a daughter who told lies every time she stood for parliament.”
Appalled by the slur on Ardern, a Facebook group called Mad Fucking Witches, and activist group Sleeping Giants on Twitter, hammered Jones’s advertisers through emails and on social media every time they spent money placing an ad on his breakfast show.
By September the exodus of more than 110 brands forced 2GB management to write to advertisers promising a review of the Jones program.
But none of the remedial action, including an extra dump button, worked. While advertisers drifted back after withdrawing initially when he said Gillard’s father “died of shame”, this time they never came back.
The companies which pulled out late last year include RSL Art Unions, Bing Lee, Snooze, Bunnings, Volkswagen, Koala Mattresses, Anytime Fitness, Total Tools, AVEO, Lowes, Chemist Warehouse, Red Cross, OMG Mattresses, Hyundai, Sleeping Duck and Scali.
The station, now under the control of Nine Entertainment, was losing so much money they chose to pay out Jones’s contract to the tune of $4m rather than have him hang around.
Nine newspapers have reported the show lost as much as 50% of its revenue from the commercial backlash.
If Jones’s rhetoric was poison to the advertisers who pulled out of 2GB it didn’t seem to bother the celebrities who turned up to praise him on the way out.