All over Australia, for years, people have told me that one of their very favourite TV moments has been Alan Jones’ daily editorial. This is beamed across the country Monday to Friday on the Channel 9 breakfast program, Today. Some tell me they wait for the editorial, and then go for a walk, do the garden or go to work. Others say they watch it while having a coffee break at work. And as the rival Channel 7 Sunrise program increased in popularity, some say they switch across just to catch the editorial and then switched back to Channel 7.
During the 1999 republic referendum, Alan Jones was one of a tiny handful of media commentators who recommended a No vote - in fact, you could have counted them on one hand. He sometimes told callers: “If you don’t know, vote No.”
Although he was absolutely fair to the republican leadership, having them often on his radio program, they still complained about his “bias.” They were apparently not happy with just having well over 90 per cent of the media already in their camp- they would not have been content until they had 100 per cent.
Many of those self-styled “passionate” republicans have long memories, as the Sydney Morning Herald “Stay in Touch” column suggested on June 6, 2007, and that newspaper is hardly a monarchist mouthpiece.
Late on Tuesday June 5, 2007, Channel 9 announced that after almost 20 years with Today, Alan Jones had “agreed” to wind up his daily television editorial, with the last one airing on Friday, June 15, 2007. Marcus Casey, writing in the Daily Telegraph on 6 June 2007 said this was decided by Ian Law, who now runs Channel Nine for PBL Media stakeholders CVC Asia Pacific. They recently increased their share in Nine’s owner PBL Media to 75 per cent after James Packer recently reduced his share from 50 per cent to 25 per cent.
As Marcus Casey says, Alan Jones is Australia's most successful radio host. So Law’s decision is curious, to say the least. Today had recently poached Lisa Wilkinson from the rival channel to be co-host, but the expected rise in the ratings did not eventuate.
She is the wife of one of the hosts of a radio program in direct competition with Alan Jones, Peter FitzSimons. He was the brains behind the republicans’ campaign in 2006, “A Mate for a Head of State”, which as we know, was a disastrous failure. Mr FitzSimons’ co-host is Mike Carlton and both are ultra-republicans, although not so long ago Carlton affected a belated and inelegant volte-face on the flag just as it became clear Australians are in absolutely no mood to change that national icon.
For some reason Carlton loathes Alan Jones, and says so in his Sydney Morning Herald column, which has just been moved to a less prominent position. FitzSimons was brought in to raise the ratings of Carlton’s radio program, but even with some very expensive TV advertising campaigns, the ratings remain in the doldrums.
So why drop the one part of the Today program which clearly attracts viewers across the network? It is not as though they need the few minutes the editorial takes. The Sydney Morning Herald Stay in Touch column on June 6, 2007 pointedly asked whether Alan Jones’ monarchist views clashed with Mrs FitzSimons’ republicanism.
But it may be more than just that.
Alan Jones presents views which challenge not only media orthodoxy, but also many in the financial, political and economic establishment of the country. He is not afraid to take on leading brokers, the retailers who are driving small business out of suburbs and towns across the country, the ACCC, union bosses and politicians everywhere and from all parties.
His evident success has attracted the jealousy of other people in the media, reducing one to resort to psycho-babble in a vain attempt to justify his very personal attack. Before this attack appeared in a book, it was first presented on an ABC TV program, where the producer was, believe it or not, none other than Mike Carlton’s wife. Subsequently the ABC underwrote the biography at considerable cost, but the Board decided not to publish it and this was done by a university publisher.
One thing is clear from the decision to drop the Alan Jones editorial. A very large number of viewers from all over the country are going to be disappointed. Indeed some are going to be very angry. The decision may please the elites, but talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Alan Jones was the reason so many stayed with or switched over to Channel 9.
Perhaps another network will see an opportunity there and the new owners of Channel 9 will then wonder what is going on.