Laws faces
four probes
on bank deal
Talkback host
says allegations
are nonsense

TALKBACK host John Laws was unrepentant yesterday as four separate investigations were launched into allegations that he received more than $1 million in return for favourable commentaries on the banking industry.


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  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC], the Commonwealth Bank [CBA], the Australian Broadcasting Authority [ABA] and Laws' radio station 2UE announced investigations into allegations first raised on ABC's [Australian Broadcasting Corporation's] Media Watch on Monday.

   The ACCC said it would be looking at whether there had been breaches of competition laws.  CBA chairman Tim Besley promised an investigation into the bank's involvement in the publicity deal.

  The CBA is believed to have contributed more than $250,000, but Mr Besley denied any knowledge of the contract.  Eleven other banks, including the big four, paid for the deal.

  ABA chairman Professor David Flint said the six-member board would discuss the claims today.  He described the matter as serious.

  Reading a statement on his program yesterday, Laws dismissed the allegations as nonsense.  He said he was paid to narrate, edit and rewrite scripts to improve the image of the banks on a segment called The Whole Story to be aired four mornings each week.

  He told his listeners the aim of the segment was to provide banks with an opportunity to balance attacks on the industry in the media.  The deal followed six months of negotiations between the Australian Bankers' Association and marketing agent Australia Street Consultancy.

  A memo from Australian Bankers' Association chief executive Tony Aveling produced on Media Watch said the deal had been arranged by advertising guru Bob Miller at Laws' request.

  But Laws denies initiating contact with the association.  He told his listeners yesterday that the aim of the segment was to provide banks with an opportunity to balance attacks on the industry in the media .  [Mostly word for word as above.]

  Mr Aveling described his organisation's association with Laws as a normal commercial relationship. He said the association had sponsored The Whole Story based on Laws' high credibility with his audience and in the knowledge that Laws had frequently taken an interest in banking issues.

  Australian Consumers' Association public affairs manager Mara Bun said distinctions needed to be made between paid commentary and editorial opinion.

  "Talkback radio has tremendous influence," she said. "And it is extremely dangerous when the community is unable to tell the difference between advertising and editorial, when they can't call a spade a spade."

  Finance Sector Union national secretary Tony Beck described the allegations as disturbing.

°  Three Queensland radio hosts claimed yesterday they had been approached with offers from the bankers' association to pay for entertainment, meals and drinks. The offers were declined. --AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS
-- The West Australian, July 15, 1999, page 5.  John Laws's website is http://www.johnlaws.com/

Payment damages image of journalism, says academic

  By Liz Tickner

JOHN LAWS has damaged the image of journalism, according to a Perth academic.  Curtin University associate lecturer in journalism Joseph Fernandez said that even though the facts were not entirely clear, there was ample justification for concern.

  Mr Fernandez said the critical fact was that Laws had admitted accepting money from the Australian Bankers' Association.

  "The real issue is whether society should accept that there is any room in the practice of journalism for the acceptance of any reward other than remuneration ordinarily and properly paid to the journalist," he said.

  It was Laws' professional duty to provide the banks' side of the story, he said.  But to accept payment for toeing the banks' line was wrong.

  And while Laws maintained yesterday that he was an entertainer and not a journalist, Edith Cowan University communications lecturer Alan McKee said he had little doubt that most of Laws' two million listeners regarded him as a journalist.

  Laws' program was different to programs such as Channel 10's home improvement show Bright Ideas, which left viewers with no illusion that it was anything other than "advertorial.".

  Radio 6PR talkback host Howard Sattler said yesterday he was not interested in getting involved in the debate.  [Some time later he was himself answering questions on the subject.] -- The West Australian, July 15, 1999, p 5.  Joseph Fernandez, see http://www.curtin.edu.au/curtin/dept/ccs/fernandez.htm  

Ring of confidence trick


COLGATE has been asked to withdraw a leaflet after it was revealed that "before" and "after" pictures of discoloured and gleaming teeth were the same picture, with one doctored by computer.

  Britain's Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the pictures on the platinum professional whitening system leaflet were not what they should be.

  This was misleading, the authority said. -- The West Australian, July 15, 1999, page 5

  For examples of Big Business getting government "handouts" or "Corporate Welfare" click http://www.multiline.com.au/~georgist/tncnews.htm
and try World Development Movement , London, at: http://www.wdm.org.uk/background/multinat.htm  or a Corporate Welfare site, U.S.A., at http://dir.yahoo.com/Government/U_S__Government/Budget/Corporate_Welfare/
or see the Social Effects of Land Price Inflation at: http://www.faroc.com.au/gogetit.html

Tagged with AOLPress/2.0™ 16 August 1999, last revised 06 June 2000 and 28 Feb 2001

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DOC 56: Internet address (= URL):  http://www.multiline.com.au/~johnm/johnlaws.htm
To translate whole Webpages into Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Português, and  Español out of English, or out of those languages into English, click: http://www.altavista.digital.com/   For these and 11 other languages  including Esperanta and Latina, one word at a time, click: http://dictionaries.travlang.com/
John Massam, 46 Cobine Way, Greenwood, (a Perth suburb), WA, 6024, Australia. Tel [+61 8] (08) 9343 9532, Mobile 0408 054 319; john.massam@multiline.com.au