Alan Jones forced to correct attack on Daniel Andrews that ‘misrepresented’ Covid research | Alan Jones
Alan Jones was forced to publish a correction to his August 2020 editorial railing against Covid-19 restrictions in Victoria after the broadcasting watchdog found he had “misrepresented the research” on the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns.
Jones, who fronts the flagship opinion show on Sky After Dark at 8pm on Mondays through Thursdays, is a trenchant critic of Daniel Andrews’s Labor government.
The former radio shock jock retired from 2GB last May after a divisive 35-year career and was picked up by Sky News Australia, which is increasingly moving its commentary to the right.
The original six-minute video, “This is not a pandemic it is a catastrophic state government failure”, itself remains uncorrected on the Sky News website and YouTube, a situation the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) does not object to and says “constitutes a correction in an appropriate manner”.
After Victoria went into stage-four lockdown, Jones told viewers the science did not back up the premier’s decision to introduce tougher rules.
“I’d suggest [Andrews is] fighting a virus with the wrong response,” Jones said. “Listening to the wrong experts and trashing everything in our wake.”
In September Acma received a complaint about the episode of Jones’ broadcast on Sky on WIN and assessed the complaint against the provisions of the Commercial Television Industry Code.
The investigation found Jones had “misrepresented the research” but said if he corrected the editorial within 30 days the program he would not be in breach of the commercial TV code.
Jones had cited two articles, in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet, in the episode, but “failed to refer to a clarification note” in the former and “did not include any reference to the following significant qualification that appeared in the same article in the latter”, Acma found.
“Although the program accurately quoted from the relevant research article, it misrepresented the authors’ position on the effectiveness of mask-wearing outside of healthcare facilities,” Acma told Guardian Australia.
“Although it accurately quoted from the relevant research article, it misrepresented the research on the effectiveness of lockdowns.”
The Acma investigation, finalised in December, found: “The Acma considers that Mr Jones’ use of the quote misrepresented the viewpoint of the authors because it conveyed that they believed masks were ineffective in a much less limited set of circumstances than was apparent from the appended clarification.
“This misrepresentation was material because it went to the central point that Mr Jones was seeking to make – that governments are wrong to enforce mask-wearing because medical experts do not think masks are effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19.
“The information explicitly refutes the ‘definitive’ argument put by Mr Jones – that lockdowns don’t work. It is arguable therefore, by suggesting that the Lancet article supported the position that shutdowns don’t work as a public health measure, that the broadcast misrepresented the expert opinion expressed in the research. As with the comments about masks, the misrepresentation was material because it was used to prosecute Mr Jones’ central point that the decision by the Victorian government to impose a lockdown in response to Covid-19 was mistaken.”
Acma told Guardian Australia it was satisfied with Sky’s correction, which was published on Sky’s website and the WIN TV website with no link to the uncorrected video.
“The code states that a correction, for these purposes, may be made in number of ways including on the official website of the relevant program,” an Acma spokesman said. “The Acma found this published information met the requirement in the code to correct the misrepresentations in the broadcast, in an appropriate manner.”
Sky News did not reply to questions about the uncorrected video but after the Guardian approachedit for comment it added the correction to the text below the video.
“Sky News clarified the information on the Sky News website on October 14 2020,” a spokeswoman said. “Sky News notes the Acma found there had been no breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.”
Jones is no stranger to breaching Acma codes, most recently for decency in his use of “violent metaphors” about the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and accuracy in his comments about climate change.