1941 - | NSW | Talkback radio presenter
Alan Jones became Australia’s highest-paid, most commercially successful and most controversial talkback radio presenter. He remained so despite adverse findings from the broadcasting regulator, being successfully sued for defamation by more than a dozen people, being fined or rebuked for contempt of court and being at the centre of the “cash-for-comment” scandal in the 1990s. He advocated conservative views on Sydney’s 2UE and then 2GB and was consistently defended by Coalition politicians, including former Prime Minister John Howard. No-one doubted his capacity to influence his large audience.
“And now Alan Jones comments.” That line, delivered out of the main Macquarie Radio Network news bulletins every Monday to Friday just after 7am, has become the trademark statement of Alan Belford Jones.
It’s been that way every morning for almost 30 years now, ever since 2UE turned Alan Jones loose on the Sydney radio market in March 1988. Two years earlier, the famous rugby coach, political staffer and employers’ advocate had replaced the legendary John Laws in the morning shift.
Breakfast radio has been where Alan Jones has dominated, making him the most powerful voice in Australian radio – arguably ever.
That alert that Jones is about to deliver another blistering editorial heavy on research and dripping with passion is now as famous as his program title song Gloria, Gary O’Callaghan’s Sammy Sparrow, Ross Stevenson and John Burns’s Rumour File or even John Law’s Hello World opening.
Jones’ attention to detail, his legendary work ethic, fearless prosecution of causes from coal seam gas extraction to incompetent or corrupt politicians hasn’t missed a beat across those 30 years and two home stations at 2UE first and now at 2GB.
His ratings have always been the highest of any broadcaster in Sydney, reaching the dizzy heights of 22 percent of all people in the mid-90s, and, just as importantly, he’s a money maker. Breakfast sets up the radio station for the rest of the day and it helps when your breakfast star Alan Jones wins 100 consecutive survey ratings in a row – to November 2014 – and remains number one by the length of the straight.
In 2002, Alan Jones took the biggest gamble of his media career when he was lured away from 2UE by John Singleton to head up rival news-talk station 2GB which had struggled against him with various presenters for years. Until that seismic shift, it was thought no one except for John Laws could shift an audience of rusted on talkback listeners from one AM station to another. Jones soon proved the sceptics wrong and I should know because I was handed the microphone he vacated on 2UE, taking over the breakfast shift. By the end of 2002 Alan was back at number one.
The Jones style and success on radio has seen him branch out to television with a long running, thundering editorial on the Nine Network’s Today show, a prime time interview program on Network Ten and now weekly appearances on Seven’s Sunrise and his own program on Sky News with political staffer Peta Credlin.
His versatility doesn’t stop at radio and TV. Jones has a passion for stage musicals and took on the impossible task a few years ago of combining breakfast radio and a starring role in the musical Annie playing the role of Franklin D Roosevelt. He pulled it off to rave reviews.
Alan Jones has worked as a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, coached the Wallabies to a famous Grand Slam win and victories over the All Blacks. He has been a political candidate, a charity fundraiser without peer and his speaking ability is inspirational.
But it's not always been plain sailing for Jones who in 1999 and again in 2004 was swept up in the cash-for-comment inquiry. In 2000, an inquiry by the Australian Broadcasting Authority heard that Jones and fellow Sydney broadcaster John Laws had accepted hidden sponsorships to promote clients on air. Regulations were changed to make personal sponsorships more transparent. Jones later moved to 2GB as a part-owner and sponsorship arrangements were no longer between the sponsor and him personally. Jones was cleared of further allegations in 2004.
Another controversy that engulfed Jones followed his comment in 2012 that Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s father had died “of shame”.
Jones has battled several bouts of ill health beating cancer and severe back pain that resulted in many months of forced absence from radio. He has been sued, vilified, attacked by all sides of politics and he has even turned a shade of Green to protect his personal passions for rural Australia and Australia’s farmers.
He has always stood up for the battlers and given them a voice against big mining, foreign ownership, corrupt politicians and rich bullies. He takes sides because he cares and believes in what he is doing.
Jones is also Australia’s greatest and most prolific letter writer and, as any Federal, State or local politician will tell you, he demands attention and demands answers on issues many of them would rather ignore. The boy from rural Queensland has never forgotten where he came from and is proud of his background and uses his success to improve the circumstances of those who have little. He fights for those on ‘Struggle Street’.
It is 30 years since Alan Jones turned on his 2UE microphone. He is still number one and still waking up well before dawn, turning up to work dressed in a suit with a tie and pocket hanky. And as the news finishes at 7am, Alan Jones comments will set the agenda for another day.
Steve Price is a radio presenter on 2GB and has worked in newspapers, radio and television for more than 35 years.
Courtesy of the ABC