Let’s keep Alan Jones

by John August

Many people, via the internet and elsewhere, have been persuading advertisers previously on Alan Jones' program to withdraw their advertising after Jones' latest hurtful comments against Gillard. Is this censorship ? Some people want Jones "sacked", which would be censorship, that's not what I'm after. I don't want to stop him broadcasting, but I do want to reduce the financial worth of his show.

I certainly don't agree with harassing advertisers. If we're to claim the moral high ground, we must politely point out how we feel to advertisers, and stop buying their products if they persist with Jones - but no more. Our actions should speak for themselves, with the market mediating their effect. Otherwise, we're subject to the hypocritical attack that bullying is somehow worse when we do it - as compared to when Jones does it - when it's OK. Not fair, but that's how it is - the other side have never played fair.

It's a boycott. Originally, Charles C Boycott, after ignoring calls to charge less rent - found himself shunned by mailmen, servants, shopkeepers and others. The most well known boycott is against Nestles, for formula milk in third world countries. But, even without a boycott, we've always been able to buy what we want - things like free-range eggs and dolphin safe tuna.

Previously, Marrickville council chose to boycott products from Israel. Forgetting how feasible it was, it's every councils' choice to make its own purchasing decisions, so long as there's a council resolution. They weren't trying to control anyone else's consumption choices ( which would be illegal ) - only their own. There's no issue. And, equally, just as we can buy what we want, suppliers can sell what they want. It's their choice. Much as those "Plain milk, no soy, no exotics, just coffee" cafes may annoy us, they can offer what like. As long as they're not discriminating against different customers, it's their choice.

And - ultimately - we can choose not to buy products advertised by Jones.

However, if you're choosing not to buy something because of what the supplier is doing, it's a good idea to tell them. Otherwise, they might think sales dropped because the wind just happened to change direction, and have no idea they can do something to improve their sales. So - again - tell them politely about what you're doing.

Yes, harassment is bad, but at the same time using it as an excuse to stick with Jones is pretty lame. You're justified in supporting an obnoxious shockjock, but only because people are trying to stop you ? What if people weren't trying to stop you ? What would you do then ? It's also no excuse to say that you're just buying advertising, and don't "support" Alan Jones. You don't just buy advertising - you "buy into" Jones.

That claim has been echoed by 2GB's boss, Russel Tate, claiming it's a private and commercial arrangement, with advertisers only wanting Jones' audience without seeking to endorse Jones. I don't think so. You buy into the whole deal. Jones is a powerful persona, able to attract a loyal audience. You don't passively buy that strength, any more than you can passively make a deal with the Devil. Identification with Jones comes as an integral part of the package.

The issue is whether 2GB should be able to make money from Alan Jones without the advertisers being held accountable by consumers. Advertisers should always be free to advertise on Jones program. And we should not waste our freedom to make an organised response.

Jones is quite a piece of work. He's been pissing off a lot of people for a long time. Yes a democracy should be a "plurality". But it is strange how the well resourced with obnoxious platforms and positions who spread falsehoods are the very people who hide behind the defence of "freedom of speech".

But Jones has done more than expressed opinions. He has expressed falsehoods and caused harm. Hiding behind "freedom of speech" is a bit rich. He's already put his foot in his mouth numerous times, and has been embroiled in numerous court cases. There's a strong pent-up feeling, and this is the straw that broke the camel's back. People have been complaining about Jones for as long as we can all remember - to no effect. We've been ignored by the station - and so have been forced to do something else. If he previously shot himself in the foot, this time he's managed to blow away his whole leg.

In a sense this isn't news. We all knew how Jones really felt. I'm not surprised by what Jones said. Yawn. And maybe this drip-by-drip saturation coverage progression was even less news. But the media are like a pack of wolves. They've found a new scent, and after pursuing their quarry, have started to circle. They're looking for weakness, like Jones did when the shoe was on the other foot. That's what they do. No surprise there, either.

Sure, advertise with Jones and access his audience. You'll get some sales - at the same time as non-listeners might stop buying. And perhaps that loss will exceed the gain that Jones so kindly gave you.

Over time, perhaps we'll start to catalogue these choices - and we'll be able to quantify this loss and report it to advertisers. We need to make a credible case, and show just how much the dollar value of their sales has declined. If they're concerned about sales, if they're concerned about the value of their brand, if they're concerned about shareholder value - they'll have to take it on board. All very polite. No harassment. Business is business, after all.

Is this censorship ? No, it's the market at work.

We're advertised at. Advertisers ramp up their organisation to persuade us to part with our money. At times, we'll even buy stuff on a false apprehension. It's rarely an issue. Now, we're becoming organised in reaction to the situation, participating in the market, and are more aware of our consumption decisions. Isn't that the whole idea ? Why would anyone complain?

Still, there's a bit more to it. If you run a restaurant, it doesn't matter how many people refuse to eat there, so long as you can get enough Jones supporters to fill it. Some small traders will be able embrace Jones - and the market will provide. Not a problem. Leave them to wallow in the swamp ... they're welcome to it.

However, if you're running a larger business, these relative numbers count - we're talking about total sales over a whole city, not just how many people will fill a restaurant. There'll always be competitors - including smaller businesses who don't support Jones - and you'll be using Jones to guide your customers to them.

We all know how the total Jones listenership is in fact pretty low. Jones has a disproportionate influence compared to the number of people who actually listen. Yes, yes. The Jones phenomenon. We know that.

At some point there will be a crossover, and Jones will be denied advertising from businesses greater than a particular size. If anyone wants to have a go at calculating it, let me know what it is. But, for the moment, all we need to know is that there is such a size. So, rather than running a radio "show", the Jones' program will become what will be effectively a private podcast, supported by advertisers who are members of his tribe. It might as well be the "podcast listeners" - and it just happens to be broadcast on AM radio rather than actually be a podcast.

It will, nevertheless, be quite an improvement. Jones and his supporters, collected together in a circle, squinting, looking at the outside world, paranoid, isolated and worried. The Jones fishbowl, only now it will be so much more obvious. And rather less profitable, too.

Actually, I never would have had a problem with Alan Jones running a private podcast for those who want to listen. Or a paper or email newsletter. No censorship, remember ?

I find it easy to believe that, with a little organisation, we can make the number of people choosing not to buy because of Jones exceed those who would have because of him - at least, for the larger firms. Now, and sustainably into the future. I dearly hope so. We'll have to wait and see. Certainly, I'll continue to do my bit.

Along the way many firms will have publicly distanced themselves from him. A few businesses will persist as die-hard supporters, but that's no issue.

The market at work. Delivering better outcomes for us all. Let us all kneel before the altar of capitalism. Lovely. Facilitated by the market, our individual wills influence production decisions in the world around us, making it a better place for us all. It's so nice when things work.

Let's hope the market works properly in this case ... Why would we expect otherwise ?