SYDNEY Australia’s biggest radio scandal in years, the “cash for comments” affair, has engulfed an unlikely figure: Australian Broadcasting Authority topper David Flint.
Flint is chairing an inquiry into highly paid Sydney Radio 2UE personalities John Laws and Alan Jones, who are accused of accepting big sums from advertisers in exchange for positive comments in the form of editorials, scripted “surprise” calls and interviews while posing as independent commentators on their popular talkback shows.
Clamming up for clams?
Most notoriously, Laws is accused of dropping his trenchant criticism of Oz’s banks in exchange for A$1.2 million ($780,000) from the Australian Bankers Assn., while Jones had a $330,000 per annum pact with Cable & Wireless Optus.
Last week, Flint appeared on Laws’ highly rated syndicated program to discuss an upcoming referendum on whether Oz should cut ties with the British monarchy to become a republic. Flint denies any wrongdoing, noting that in the short interview he discussed only the referendum and made no mention of the inquiry which could see the ABA strip 2UE and other offending stations of their licenses and recommend changes to broadcasting codes (concurrent probes could result in criminal charges and fines).
Branding Flint’s appearances a “conflict of interest,” federal Labor opposition leader Kim Beazley called for Flint to stand aside from the inquiry, as “he has compromised himself fatally.”