Ring in Austereo's stinging solution

Max Moore-Wilton knows better than most that in business, as in politics, it is perception that counts. To save Austereo, he must consider sacking those involved in the hoax call.

Late yesterday I found myself in the company of a major advertiser on the Austereo radio network. That conversation lead me to believe that Austereo chairman Max Moore-Wilton and his talented board needs to consider seriously sacking his chief executive, the managers who gave the approval to the royal hoax, and, of course, the presenters.

When Max Moore-Wilton was John Howard’s right hand man I had a great admiration for his skills. He was known as "Max the Axe" because in politics he knew when surgery was required. The interests of the party were more important that the politician. He must now decide whether at Southern Cross Media (which owns Austereo) his skills at axing are again required.

Let me explain why this is so. The major advertiser took me aside and presented me with his dilemma.

He likes the Austereo radio network because it has an audience of four million plus and it delivers. But his young staff want him to do more than just suspend advertising on the offending Sydney radio station for a short time. They believe the advertiser should not advertise with the entire Austereo radio network because this is a network that has a management that makes unethical and perhaps even illegal decisions.

I emphasise that I am not making that claim and I realise the chief executive did not give the go ahead to the hoax broadcast. But in business and in politics it is perception that is important.

In the 2GB/Macquarie affair the argument was with one presenter – Alan Jones. But the Austereo advertiser points out that this time senior management approved the royal hoax going ahead. Management is, if anything, more guilty than the presenters. "So we should not advertise on the network".

The executive of the advertiser has not made up his mind. Chairman Max Moore-Wilton is enticing all advertisers to come back and have the proceeds go the UK family involved. But then after Christmas it's business as usual.

That’s a reasonable strategy but my conversation shows that it is also a very dangerous one particularly as there are regulatory issues which will maintain the controversy.

This is a case where the chairman himself must talk with advertisers. My alert to him is that if one major advertiser is pondering withdrawing advertising from the entire Austereo group so will others. And they will be talking with each other .

Max, the good news is that they like your product. But you display photos in your annual report of some of Australia’s best media names including Eddie McGuire and the Project team. That’s where your strength is.

No one knows better than you that in politics individual politicians including leaders are expendable for the party’s good. The same applies in business.

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