Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) has rubbished claims by 2GB host Ray Hadley that the radio network was censoring coverage of a court case because it involved one of its advertisers’ employees.
The case focuses on a truck driver who worked for West Orange Motors who was involved in a fatal crash, and was subsequently charged with dangerous driving causing death and negligent driving causing death – only to have his licence handed back by a magistrate, according to The Australian.
The radio shock jock used his morning show on 2GB on Wednesday to accuse SCA of pulling his broadcast from Triple M Central West whenever he mentioned the legal case in order to protect West Orange Motors as an advertiser on the station.
Initially, Triple M Central West issued a brief statement on its Facebook page apologising to listeners for pulling Hadley’s feed, arguing that the court case he was discussing on-air was not permitted.
Now, SCA has gone one step further in defending its actions, saying they were not influenced by any “commercial considerations”, and that Hadley’s attempts to frame the issue as censorship and free speech was “misleading”.
Here’s the follow-up statement that SCA issued yesterday afternoon in full:
Southern Cross Austereo broadcasts the Ray Hadley Show live in a number of its regional radio markets including Orange, NSW, pursuant to a supply agreement with Macquarie Media, the producer of the program.
On several occasions this week as a result of legal advice, SCA has decided not to broadcast parts of the program. These decisions were based solely on legal advice and were not influenced by any commercial considerations, including the fact that West Orange Motors has a commercial relationship with SCA.
Attempts to frame this issue as one of censorship and free speech are misleading.
On Monday 11 October, the broadcast of the program contained discussion of a case currently before the Orange Local Court, in which a young man has been charged with dangerous driving causing the death of an elderly man. The incident occurred whilst the man was at work test-driving a truck owned by his employer – West Orange Motors.
While SCA appreciates the significance and the impact on the Orange community of this case, SCA was concerned that the material broadcast was potentially in breach of Australian contempt of court and defamation laws.
In relation to contempt, media organisations in Australia are required to exercise extreme care when reporting on stories which are currently before the court. The law states that once a person has been charged with an offence, reporting is limited to the bare facts of the case and what is said and heard in open court. This is to ensure that the accused has a fair trial; that the merits of the case are not debated in the public arena during the trial; and that witnesses and jurors do not come to the trial with a preconceived notion about guilt or innocence.
In SCA’s view, Monday’s segment contained material which went beyond the parameters of legal court reporting of a trial.
Given the live nature of the program and the host’s public opinion that he does not consider his comments to be of concern, since Monday, SCA has declined to air any part of the show that refers to the case because of the risk that further problematic material may be aired.
Furthermore, given the risk of further defamatory statements being made, SCA has extended the decision not to broadcast parts of the program relating to the case to all of its stations that air the program.