LAWS, (RICHARD) JOHN SINCLAIR (1935– )
John Laws is the most enduring talkback announcer on Australian commercial radio. He began at 3BO Bendigo before in 1953 before becoming a disc jockey at 2UE Sydney, in 1957. Laws joined 2SM Sydney in 1959 before broadcasting a nationally syndicated program from 2KO Newcastle. He moved to Sydney’s 2GB in 1962 and back to 2UE in 1964. Laws welcomed listeners to his drive-time pop music program on 2UE with ‘Hello world, this is Long John’. When talkback radio began in 1967, Laws took listener calls on Party Line, discovering that when he insulted callers, ratings soared.
Laws’ political influence grew in the 1970s. At 2UW Sydney (1969–79), politicians started to seek him out. He engaged Prime Minister Ben Chifley’s former press secretary, Don Rodgers, to write political material for his program, and befriended politicians including Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating, Gough Whitlam and Neville Wran. His 2UW program ranged from jingles and humour to urgent suicide-on-air dramas, and he became increasingly outspoken on social issues. In 1974 he was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting and charity.
With a resonant voice, the ‘Golden Tonsils’ was by 1976 at the top of the ratings and the best-paid radio announcer in Australia. Laws appeared in other media, releasing several music singles and poetry albums; featuring in a comedy film, The Nickel Queen (1971); hosting four national television series; writing a column for the Sunday Telegraph; and penning several books. The main character in an ABC series, The Oracle (1979), was clearly based on Laws.
Laws was part-owner of 2Day FM, and by the 1980s his own company was producing his program and advertisements. In 1999, his undisclosed sponsorship with the Australian Bankers’ Association triggered an industry-wide regulatory inquiry into ‘cash for comment’. Laws famously claimed that he was an ‘entertainer’ and not a journalist, but the Australian Broadcasting Authority found he had breached the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice. In 2004, he was again found in breach after a similar deal with Telstra.
On his 2UE morning program from 1988 until his retirement in 2007, Laws mixed listener talkback with interviews, country music and advertising. In 2003, 2UE presented Laws with a gold-plated microphone to commemorate 50 years on air. He was inducted into the Commercial Radio Hall of Fame in 2003. He returned to morning radio on 2SM, now the hub of the Super Radio Network, in 2011.
REF: T. Hall, John Laws (1985); J. Lyons, Laws (1991).