JONES, ALAN BELFORD
Alan Jones was born in south-east Queensland on 13 April in either 1943, 1944 or 1945 (Jones has made contradictory claims, and it is likely that his real birth-date is earlier than 1943). His early adulthood was spent as a schoolmaster in the elite private secondary systems of Queensland and New South Wales. Success as a school Rugby coach led to Jones managing the Grand Slam-winning Wallabies side of 1984.
Jones was the unsuccessful Liberal Party candidate for the NSW seat of Earlwood in 1978, and failed in other attempts to gain Liberal pre-selection. He worked in Canberra as a speechwriter for Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser before returning to Sydney as spokesman for the Employers’ Federation of New South Wales.
When John Laws left 2UE for 2GB in late 1984, Jones auditioned for the vacant morning slot, and in March 1985 began broadcasting daily on 2UE at an annual salary of $130,000. It was the beginning of a rapid career trajectory that saw him become the dominant talkback radio voice in the nation’s largest market, Sydney. As his audience grew, he championed causes at the extremes of conservative politics, notably on South Africa and his support for the ‘Joh for Canberra’ campaign. From March 1988, Jones moved to the more politically influential and lucrative breakfast slot (5.30–9 a.m.), and soon became the highest-rating announcer on Sydney AM radio. But the year ended badly: he was arrested in a London public toilet and charged with ‘outraging public decency’ and ‘committing an indecent act’. Both charges were later dropped.
The ABC program Media Watch was a persistent critic, exposing Jones for plagiarism in a newspaper column in 1990 and again in 1999 for his central role in the ‘cash for comment’ scandal. Despite these setbacks, Jones held his audience, and in 2002 switched to 2GB for a $4–5 million sign-on fee, $3–5 million annual salary and a share of the company.
From the late 1980s, Jones had enjoyed a friendship with James Packer that led to his daily 2UE radio editorial also gaining a national television audience when repeated on Nine Network’s Today program. But an attempt to launch Jones as a nightly television current affairs personality (Alan Jones Live, Ten Network, 1994) showed him to be uncomfortable in the medium and the program was cancelled after 13 weeks of poor ratings. His closeness with the Packer family re-emerged when Jones acted as master of ceremonies at the 2006 memorial service for Kerry Packer.
ABC Books commissioned a biography of Jones by senior Four Corners reporter/producer Chris Masters in 2003, but abandoned the project after reported legal threats from Jones. Jonestown was eventually published by Allen & Unwin in 2006.
In October 2012, the Australian Communications and Media Authority reached an agreement with 2GB that Jones and his production staff would undergo training in ‘factual accuracy’ and the presentation of ‘significant viewpoints’ after findings against the broadcaster over false assertions he had made, particularly on climate change.