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Lessons from history for Alan Jones and 2GB

By Alan Austin - posted Wednesday, 10 October 2012


This week, 2GB suspended all advertising during its top income-earning breakfast timeslot. Estimates put Macquarie Broadcasting's losses at about $400,000 per week.

The boycott of Alan Jones has clearly been effective. But has it been successful?

These two terms have precise definitions according to social scientists who study these things.

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According to Jill Klein and Andrew John here in France, effectiveness is defined as impacting the target company or organisation. Success is getting the organisation to take the action the protestors demand.

By these definitions, it is possible for a boycott to be effective but not successful – and vice versa. Sometimes a credible threat can persuade an errant operator to change direction.

More than 70 advertisers and sponsors withholding funding from Jones' program indicates extraordinary effectiveness.

Evaluating its success, of course, depends on the outcomes sought. On these there are differences among participants. At least seven desired results can be identified. These include for Jones to:

  1. acknowledge there are people who disapprove of him and his program
  2. be stung by some of his victims
  3. tone down his sexism and misogyny or abandon them altogether
  4. tone down his belligerent anti-Labor attacks or abandon them altogether
  5. be shifted to a role where he cannot wield his present destructive influence
  6. resign or be sacked from 2GB altogether; or
  7. have his voice silenced completely.

Clearly, those with the minimalist goals of 1 or 2 have won already. There is no sign of 3, 4, 5 or 6 being realised yet. In fact, quite the opposite. Few advocate 7. Most accept Jones is entitled to freedom of opinion and speech like everyone else – but don't want him rewarded for them by money we give to Woolies.

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[Disclosure: I have participated in this campaign, pursuing outcome 6. Happy to post relevant correspondence in any ensuing discussion.]

The reasons people participate in boycotts are also the subject of academic inquiry. There appear to be three distinct motivations: 'instrumental' – seeking to effect specific reforms; 'expressive' – seeking to have a voice of protest heard and acknowledged; and 'clean hands' – wanting to be free of any taint of involvement in a social evil.

Each of these is evident among anti-Jones protesters. They sometimes coexist. [In my case, about 70% instrumental, 20% expressive and 10% clean hands.]

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About the Author

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in Nīmes in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

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