‘Why did it take so long to get rid of Alan Jones?’ Nine probed at AGM

Former Editor & Content Director

Shareholders threw some sticky questions at Nine’s leaders at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this morning around alleged collusion with rival Seven West Media, allegations in the News Corp press about CEO Hugh Marks’ personal life, and Nine Radio’s talent.

One shareholder asked: “Why did it take so long to finally get rid of Alan Jones from 2GB? How much did we pay him? And how much did the advertising boycotts and defamation actions cost shareholders?”

Jones fronted Sydney’s 2GB Breakfast program for almost two decades, consistently topping the ratings, agitating politicians and generating headlines.

Mounting advertiser disquiet over inflammatory language and sexist rhetoric, however, became increasingly problematic for the broadcaster. An advertiser boycott hit Nine Radio as a result, which CEO Hugh Marks has since conceded hurt the business.

Jones announced his retirement in May.

Today, however, neither Marks nor chairperson Peter Costello would be drawn on exactly how much Jones was paid on exit, nor how much he cost the business.

Costello avoided specifics on the defamation part of the shareholder question, instead painting court proceedings, settlements and actions as a reality of modern media businesses.

“Look, defamation is part of being involved in the media. I want to make this clear. We have high standards, and we don’t want to publish anything that is untrue. It is possible sometimes to publish things that might be true, but can’t be proven to be true, that are defamatory. And in those circumstances, you do run into defamation cases. Where we have wrongly defamed somebody, my view is we should try and correct it as soon as possible. Where it can’t be corrected, or where we maintain our position, we will defend the journalism involved,” he said in response to the question.

“Some cases can be expensive. But the nature of those cases, the duration, when they are actually paid out if in fact you lose them, or even if you win them when you pay your own costs, we make provisions for that in our accounts. These are not significant in the overall returns that we announce.”

Jones and radio stations 2GB and 4BC spent millions on defamation payouts, with one case brought about by the Wagner family in Queensland costing over $3 million in 2018.

Costello then threw to Marks on the question of talent, however he also did not directly address the question of timing or costs.

Instead, he focused on Nine Radio’s transformation, and the need to prepare the business for the coming half century.

High Marks

Marks: Nine Radio’s transformation has been incredibly successful

“Obviously when we completed our acquisition of the minorities in Macquarie Media, one of the things that we gave consideration to was, a bit like we have with the rest of our businesses, what is the next 50 years of that radio business?,” Marks said.

“That consideration required an understanding of both the existing mix of talent that was on the network and potential future options, as well as what we felt were likely to be the revenue outcomes of all of those changes. Now that required quite a bit of consideration, obviously discussions with a number of people including those talent, and the implementation of that plan.”

Marks contended that the transformation had paid off.

“I think the work that was done by Tom Malone and his team to reset the schedule of the radio networks was incredibly successful for what was a very delicate exercise, and if you look at the most recent radio surveys, obviously hugely successful in terms of audience outcomes. And we anticipate that that success in audience outcome will translate to improved revenue over the future years. So I think it’s been a major achievement from Tom and his team and that radio business over this year.”

Despite the audience gains and Nine’s belief the strategy and repositioning has worked, the business again conceded that the financial results for the radio business in the 2020 financial year weren’t up to scratch.

“The results from Nine Radio were disappointing, with the 78% decline in EBITDA [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation] highlighting the issues Macquarie was facing. What is pleasing, however, is the clear growth in share we have seen over the past couple of months, as the restructuring we have implemented begins to impact,” Marks said in his opening remarks.

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Donald van Nooten
12 Nov 2020 - 7:00 pm

78% decline….sadly, ratings don’t always translate to revenue. National Revenue is fickle and unreliable…growth and stability comes from Direct…a very specialised area. That Direct Revenue wheel has already been invented… but the current management Broadcasting generation may come up a little short with that particular skill set. Might I suggest you go looking for those that were the Original model builders in that space… avoid the plethora of mediocre copycats… find the few originators…. it will pay off! Just saying…

Margaret Buckle
13 Nov 2020 - 11:06 am

I still miss Alan Jones..he kept us informed about the real world. Cant even get Ben Fordham. Once again 4BC is the afterthought

Darryl Durrant
13 Nov 2020 - 12:26 pm

NINE, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4BC, 3AW, 2GB ….

I don’t mind Channel NINE owning radio stations, I just wish they were better at it!

2GB will fall and fail badly in the next 18 months from being at the top of it’s game, with personalities like Jones, Hadley, Smith and Ross Greenwood to name a few.

Channel 9 cannot expect a radio station to be a dumping ground for hack TV host who are bored or on contract and need to be put somewhere.

From Mark Hughes (CEO) point of view, it’s a business and I’m sure he is thinking he can run any business? Radio is more of a creative artform, that the subtleties of the “Shock Jocks” are not always present to the listener. These are skills honed over many years of doing Talk Back radio. They are not TV people; they are radio people with Talk Back in there DNA.
So the “Beige brigade” – The “well what do you think …” or “It’s over to you our listeners now for you to come back to us …” – NEVER works.

I’ll try and put this in parts, as you can imagine radio has a lot of moving parts:
Alan Jones (Breakfast 5am to 9am)

The reasons Alan left 2GB are not as simple as he claims “I have professional advice here from my doctor, who say continuing is detrimental to my health …” Wellll, it has been over 20 years Alan. I think the real reason is a couple of issues.

ONE – NINE have no appetite for a personality on a reported 5 million a year (Not even their highest paid TV people come close)
TWO – Insurance in Talk back radio is expensive, and perhaps after a couple of “Un Alan” like claims, the insurance company had no appetite to cover him moving forward.
THREE – It’s no secret that revenue in the Alan Jones show decreased to left wing, highly targeted agents who mobilised non radio people to attach clients of 2GB.

So depart Alan Jones, welcome NINE face Ben Fordham. Save 4 million dollars a year in salary. Tick

Ray Hadley (9am to 12 noon)
Insurance if everything went wrong, they have one radio head in the building to do breakfast, sport, or mornings for the next couple of years. Ray’s workload has correctly decreased from doing NRL on the weekends, and his pending marriage to the lovely Sophie Baird.

Deb Night (12 noon to 3pm)
Light weight, wont work in terms of content or ratings on radio (We think her body of work in TV is professional and stands up)

Jim Wilson (3pm to 6pm ) What were NINE thinking?!

So if you look at the post C19 numbers, radio was UP 20% and Ben Fordham who went into breakfast lost 0.5% – Not good if the listening went up, and your share of breakfast went down. The other complication in the survey was an anomaly in the demographics 2GB has never had.

In survey #6 back from the last Survey which was #2
10 to 17 year old’s went from 2.4 (Which is high) to 7.5!! (un heard of!) – To put that in context Triple M only has 7.7% in this age group?
18 to 24 year old’s went from 0.4 (Which is about right) to 3.0!! – To put that in context 2Day FM only has 4.0% in this age group?
25 to 39 for 2GB DOWN
40 to 54 for 2GB slightly up (core audience)
55 to 64 for 2GB DOWN (absolute core audience)
65 PLUS for 2GB (absolute core audience for Alan Jones, but NOT Ben)
So the slippery slide to ratings and revenue hell has started.

Survey #7 released this week, 2GB down again. 3AW “Up” with new Breakfast team and working well in C19 times.

Decrease in ratings, means decrease in revenue. Revenue has continued to slide over the last couple of years and will now accelerate.

The only way NINE keeps revenue in radio is by offering rebate deals from the re TV clients to move unspent dollars into 2GB. So now I hear Ray Hadley doing McDonald’s ads. Really!

NINE lost 26.1% of it’s GROSS Turn over in a LOSS, and they said they are doing well. Please don’t put in a bad financial report. 2GB writes less than 1 million a week, so over a year, it’s less than 50 million in revenue and not going to change the financials of the radio side of things. So if radio (2GB) is less than 1% of the revenue, then it has arrived where it should have been all along in the NINE line up – irrelevant in the media landscape.

27 August 2020: Nine Entertainment Co. ( NEC) has released its FY20 results for the 12 months
to June 2020 On a Statutory basis Nine reported Revenue of 2.2 b and a Net Loss of 575 m
which included a post-tax Specific Item cost of $665m largely relating to impairment of goodwill|

True tole
13 Nov 2020 - 3:29 pm

If direct is so important Donald. Why do they keep shooting all the local shows, the only story to tell in a market… where you can take the local stars out to a client.

13 Nov 2020 - 3:57 pm

I’m sure Vivienne Kelly would have liked Alan Jones to go earlier because he offends her attachment to identity politics. The fact is 2GB’s ratings have dropped since he left and will continue to decline

    16 Nov 2020 - 9:50 am

    I didn’t ask the question, Rob, a shareholder of Nine did, but thanks for stopping by.

    Vivienne – Radio Today

Aimee Does
13 Nov 2020 - 11:47 pm

I dont listen to 3AW since they started screening calls, If you disagree with Neil Mitchell, Tom Elliott, Dee Dee Dunleavy etc they will not put you to air.

14 Nov 2020 - 8:46 am

Cancel culture will continue until the woke elite start losing money then suddenly the song will change

14 Nov 2020 - 12:38 pm

The new shows are so successful (boring),i dont listen to 2gb anymore. Whats your fave…… someone famous you….. how to bake a scone. I forgot the quiz! 2gb is shithouse now.

9 Dec 2020 - 1:05 pm

The “new” 2GB: a complete stuff-up weekdays following the noon news through to 8pm when the TV hacks stop congratulating themselves and return the mike to radio’s best. Deb Knight is the only person I know who can make “Call me nooooow” sound like call me meoooooooow. God help the advertisers as the audience drifts away. TERRIBLE!

Unwoke Majority
11 Dec 2020 - 8:11 pm

As a shareholder, my question would have been: why DID you get rid of Alan Jones? Why didn’t you support your most valuable asset more aggressively when he was under attack reputationally? Why didn’t you negotiate with him directly for a reduced contract fee (assuming they didn’t in fact do this). With all the case studies of “woke” marketing failure, the “quiet Australians” phenomenon, and the misperception that the “noisy inner-city minority” reflect the Aussie majority, why didn’t you seek out corporate sponsors willing to stand up to the loud-mouthed left-wing bullies, since this would have been “on brand” anyway. Yep. That’s what I would have asked. But I am not a shareholder, and this mis-reading of the wider Australian 40-64 demo’s mood, is partly why.


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