2GB loses case against changes in disclosure

New rules on air … 2GB Radio announcer and talkback host Ray Hadley, above.THE owners of Sydney radio station 2GB have failed in their bid to overturn new rules requiring presenters to reveal, on air, the deals they and their employers have with advertisers.
Nanjing Night Net

Macquarie Radio had claimed in the Federal Court that the Broadcasting Services Standard was impossible to comply with and impinged on its freedom of speech.

The standard came into force on May 1, toughening regulations introduced by the Australian Media and Communication Authority following the cash for comment scandal.

It requires presenters to disclose any commercial agreement that could conceivably affect the content of their programs, including cash or favours from a sponsor.

Macquarie Radio argued that the rules were unreasonable because on any given day 2GB had up to 300 ads and producers could not be expected to be aware of all the deals in place.

The constant disclosures would mean unreasonable disruptions to the flow of programs, it said, interrupting interviews with politicians and other public figures.

”It’s one thing for a regime of disclosure of agreements but quite another to impose a requirement that compels a broadcaster to repeatedly interrupt a politician with disclosures,” counsel for Macquarie Radio, Tom Blackburn, SC, told the court earlier this year.

But Justice John Griffiths yesterday dismissed Macquarie Radio’s application for a formal judicial review of the rules and ordered the company to pay ACMA’s legal costs.

He said the provisions of the broadcasting standard did not ”produce the oppression or capriciousness claimed by the applicants” but served a legitimate end, namely ”the promotion of accuracy and fairness in current affairs programs”.

The new rules are the latest in a series of regulations introduced by the communication watchdog following the cash for comment inquiry in the 1990s.

That inquiry found that Alan Jones and John Laws – both then presenters at radio station 2UE – had breached the commercial radio code of practice by promoting companies on air without indicating they were paid to do so.

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