MEDIOCRE ratings are being cited today as the reason for the sudden “sacking” of Alan Jones. The Struggle Street sentinel has been dismissed from his 8pm derby but was offered a weekly slot on a streaming service (whatever that is) as some sort of consolation prize. A humiliating demotion, he turned it down and bowed out from Sky News after a final appearance tonight. While I don’t doubt the veracity of the audience-share figures being mentioned in reports – for TV and radio, they are tallied formulaically and routinely published – I would argue the politics and media culture born of coronavirus played as big a role in his demise. Sky has been working for the past several months to inaugurate its own version of political correctness. Steadfastly advocating freedom over terror was obviously considered too risky. For about a year Jones magnificently skewered the hysterical and the cruel, taking aim at statistically baseless scaremongering, sociopathic officials (on full pay) and the demonstrable irrationality of lockdowns.
After the easing of restrictions in Sydney and the resignation of Gladys Berejiklian – the major target of his nightly ire – Jones backed off covid polemics. By then, all of Sky’s big anchors were adding faux-breezy vaccine nudges in their commentaries and straying from pandemic orthodoxies with no more than cubbish resolve. New Sky is unwilling to stay in the longer street brawls over fundamental truths, preferring to ‘move on’ to a politically safe status quo ante bellum where leftists rule but rightists are cheeky about their foibles. The exemplar of this, par excellence, is Net Zero capitulator Paul Murray.
I don’t want to overstate this repackaging or understate how impressive Murray’s daily summaries, for example, can be. Sky News is still the best source of based analysis and discussion, although its stars and panels are overly obsessed with the craziness of a declining America and are reluctant to endanger Liberals – no matter how often the Morrisons and Guys betray conservatives. Jones was no respecter of Coalition persons on Sky and, to me, that was a draw card. He put principle ahead of party preference – aggressively on behalf of Afghanistan veterans – something his intellectually third-rate critics never do.
There was perfection tonight in his swansong, for nothing could showcase Jones’s style better than interrupting and borishly talking over the top of guests Cate McGregor and Tanya Plibersek as they attempted to read poems in his honour. He knew Tennyson’s Ulysses and Kipling’s If by heart and making sure we knew that was more important than the tributes. Jones is really an editorialist – arguably the finest in the country still – but the interviews he conducted on Sky were dreadful. The King’s School English Master didn’t ask questions; he commissioned responses to lengthy orations. There was also the signature condescension of those too consummate to be praised, a tactic Jones presumably adopted to disarm the socially superior in his salad days. Had he ever chatted with St Teresa of Calcutta on Sky he would have wrapped it up with, “Aren’t you wonderful, hey.” He had his faults but is legitimately brilliant and will be missed.