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Laws ads cost 2UE $360,000

July 17th, 2009 at 06:08pm

It’s not that I want to inflict fines on regional stations which carried the John Laws show before John retired, but…read the article, and then I’ll make my point.

Radio host John Laws’ persistent flouting of the on-air advertising laws has cost his radio station $360,000, in a judgment by the Federal Court.

Laws had an agreement to tell Radio 2UE (owned by Fairfax Media) about any sponsorship agreement he entered into to advertise products on air in return for payment, but the court found he did not do that on 13 occasions.
Before the matter came to court, it had been agreed that Radio 2UE would pay the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) an agreed penalty of $10,000 per breach, totalling $130,000.

But the Communications Law Centre intervened in the case, arguing that a higher penalty should be imposed, and in a judgment handed down in the Federal Court on Friday, Justice Steven Rares agreed, imposing penalties totalling $360,000.

The judge said the breaches were of a serious nature, indicating “a significant failure of Radio 2UE to take proper and sufficient steps to ensure that Mr Laws, in fact, complied and continued to comply with the disclosure standard”.
ACMA welcomed the Federal Court decision, saying 2UE had flouted the Broadcasting Services Act.

“2UE repeatedly breached its obligations under the Act, even after giving the ACMA an enforceable undertaking, committing itself to improve compliance,” ACMA’s acting chairman Chris Cheah said in a statement after the judgment.

“The court has confirmed that in matters involving serious contraventions, a substantial civil penalty is an appropriate sanction.”

The really important line in that article is “2UE had flouted the Broadcasting Services Act”, so what about the other stations which broadcast the Laws show? If John Laws caused 2UE to breach the Broadcasting Services Act on the air, then surely he caused the same thing of the 70 or so stations which took his show…unless of course his breaches were entirely confined to the local ad breaks on 2UE which weren’t broadcast by network stations unless they forgot to kill the network feed during the breaks.

Community radio stations are responsible for ensuring that everything which airs, regardless of its source, complies with the various rules and regulations which govern their existence…commercial radio stations are supposed to be bound by similar rules, yes?

If I’m right, and ACMA decide to go after the regional stations, can you imagine the amount of court time which will be spent on this? “ACMA vs 70 radio stations”, which in turn would be followed by “70 radio stations vs 2UE”, which would almost certainly be followed by “2UE vs John Laws”. A total circus, but a deserved circus…and it would be interesting to see who would win the final case, as that would hinge on whether 2UE had to keep Laws in line, or whether Laws was under obligations to keep 2UE informed.

I’d rather not see the regional stations put through this mess, simply because I worry about how the money spent on legal matters could be better utilised, but I also would like to see this go the full distance just so that the legal precedent is clear and understandable.


Entry Filed under: TV/Radio/Media

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