The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is best known for its reliance on feather dusters to “achieve active self-regulation” by the radio industry. In a notable development today, ACMA traded in the feather duster for some chalk and a blackboard when announcing that one of the nation’s most notorious Shock Jocks, a certain Alan Jones of station 2GB in Sydney, will be given basic training in journalism. This training will presumably introduce Mr.Jones to subtle distinctions such as the difference between a fact and a falsehood.
The ruling is notable for its succinctness and clarity:
New measures applying to programs hosted by Alan Jones
- Pre-broadcast fact-checking by the program’s executive producer of any material provided by non-media sources or third parties which may require additional confirmation and attribution.
- Creation and retention (for at least six weeks) of records of the verification material sourced by the executive producer for the facts contained in the editorial piece.
- Identification by the executive producer of controversial issues of public importance that are not covered by other 2GB current affairs programs.
- Communication of these exceptions to 2GB’s program director who will then be responsible to ensure that another current affairs program presents an alternative, significant viewpoint to that presented in the program hosted by Alan Jones so that 2GB can discharge its obligations under the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice.
- Creation and retention of records by the program director for the above steps.
New measures applying to all news and current affairs programs
- The program director will conduct random checks of daily broadcasts for each of the programs and will record the details of the controversial issues of public importance canvassed in the program. The program director will also record the reasonable efforts made/opportunities that have been given by the relevant programs to present significant alternative viewpoints.
- Training will be conducted (including with Alan Jones) focussing on the ACMA’s findings concerning factual accuracy and significant viewpoints.
- The training will be completed by the end of November 2012.
Apparently that training will be organized by 2GB but will involve an “external provider.” ACMA has asked for confirmation that the training has taken place but it is unknown whether this confirmation will involve any sort of assessment, such as a spelling contest or gold stars.
To put this into context, it must be noted that Mr. Jones is a “patron” of the Australian Galileo Movement, which heralds him for his “long history of speaking out for the downtrodden and for protecting freedom”, and which believes that “his innate expertise straddles the fields of politics, sport and the media.” (This is not necessarily good news because innate traits, such as the lengths of one’s arms or nose, sometimes resist modification by a few weeks of training. But then again, the notion of “innate expertise” is itself an oxymoron based on what we know about expertise acquisition, so maybe they shouldn’t be too concerned.)
By the way, the Galileo Movement’s self-proclaimed mission includes the “Restoration of Morality & Justice” (in addition to a few other minor projects, such as denying climate science). That Restoration was recently delayed when their other media champion, Mr. Andrew Bolt, discovered that he would have no part of the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories sprouted by the Galileos. Mr. Bolt abandoned the Movement to pursue his own version of morality and justice while blogging for a Murdoch tabloid.
And now it looks like the Galileos lost their last remaining media champions to their greatest enemies, reality and facts.
But not to worry, there is always another theory waiting to be sprouted.