Power Fail

Alan Jones goes to J-school - and gets a fact checker

Alan Jones' editorial comments will be fact-checked before going to air, under a deal struck between 2GB management and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

The beleaguered broadcaster will also undergo training to ensure his on-air statements are factually accurate and that he understands the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice. 2GB, Sydney's top-rating network, will also have to make greater efforts to ensure the station presents a range of viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance.

The agreement -- detailed by ACMA this morning -- tops off a torrid month for Jones, whose show has been hit by an advertiser exodus following public uproar about his statement that Prime Minister Julia Gillard's father died of shame. Earlier this month, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ordered Jones to apologise on air and in writing for describing Lebanese Muslims in Sydney as "vermin" and "mongrels" in 2005.

The 2GB/ACMA deal follows a June finding that Jones breached the broadcasting code by claiming human beings produce only 0.001% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. ACMA found that statement, made on air in 2011, was unsubstantiated and 2GB had not made "reasonable efforts" to ensure its accuracy. 2GB admitted to the media watchdog that "no research was conducted by staff and that Mr Jones researched the figures himself".

A 2GB review subsequently found the station does have fact-checking measures in place, but that Jones' editorial pieces do not always include the involvement of his wider editorial team.

Jones, named one of The Power Index's most influential Megaphones last year, was also found guilty of breaching accuracy requirements in 2009 comments about a missing Irish national and 2010 comments about native vegetation.

Among the measures to be implemented by 2GB are:

  • Pre-broadcast fact-checking, by the program’s executive producer, of any material provided by third parties and any editorial pieces scripted by Jones.
  • Identification, by the executive producer, of controversial issues of public importance that are not covered by other 2GB current affairs programs.
  • Communication of these exceptions to 2GB's program director who will then be responsible to ensure that another current affairs program presents an alternative significant viewpoint to that presented in the program hosted by Jones so that 2GB can discharge its obligations under the codes.
  • Creation and retention (for at least six weeks) of records of the verification material sourced by the executive producer for the facts contained in the editorial pieces.
  • Training will be conducted (including with Jones) focusing on the ACMA findings concerning factual accuracy and significant viewpoints.

It is understood many of the measures were proposed by 2GB, which has not yet responded to requests for comment.


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