Sydney Sydney has its very own Don Imus controversy. But unlike the American shock jock, who was deserted by his conservative supporters for calling a group of black sportswomen 'nappy-headed hos', local radio presenter Alan Jones has received backing from the very highest levels. While Imus was forced to resign for his bigoted comments, Jones has emerged mostly unscathed from a row over remarks he made in the days leading up to the Cronulla race riots of December 2005. Four days before clashes broke out between gangs of white and Middle Eastern youths at one of Sydney's most popular beaches, Jones read out an e-mail from a listener that suggested inviting biker gangs to the area to beat up 'Lebanese thugs' and 'scum'. After 16 months, the Australian Communications and Media Authority ruled that Jones' station, 2GB, breached commercial radio codes of practice by 'broadcasting material that was likely to encourage violence or brutality'. It also found that the station had aired views that were 'likely to vilify people of Lebanese and Middle-Eastern background on the basis of their ethnicity'. Unlike Imus, Jones did not issue a grovelling apology. Far from it - he told his listeners that the authority was unfairly biased against him. He insisted that on many occasions he had urged the public not to take the law into their own hands. A record of his broadcasts suggests otherwise. The spate of violence at Cronulla started when youths of Middle Eastern background allegedly assaulted a pair of young white lifesavers. On the day after the attack, Jones called the group 'Middle Eastern grubs'. A day later, a listener called in suggesting that if the police were unable to rein in Lebanese youths, the army should be brought in: 'Get these blokes a bit of a rifle butt in the face and they'll back off. They're cowards,' the woman said. Jones agreed and laughed when a second caller suggested, 'If you shoot one, the rest will run.' The former schoolteacher and national rugby coach is one of the city's most influential radio presenters. He sharply polarises opinion, and critics regard him as a dangerous pedagogue and a right-wing cheerleader. But his fans laud him as the voice of common sense who sticks up for 'battlers'. Prime Minister John Howard clearly falls into the latter category. He called Jones 'an outstanding broadcaster'. Mindful of the voters Jones can influence in an election year, the prime minister added: 'He is a person who articulates what a lot of people think.' Jones has in the past boasted of the close ties he enjoys with the federal government. He's reportedly been known to tell his staff to 'get John Howard on the phone and remind him who put him there'. Jones enjoys the unqualified support of 2GB managers, and there is no question of his being sacked. While Don Imus incurred the wrath of politically powerful black Americans, Australia's 300,000 Muslims wield little political clout. Even so, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which has been criticised as a toothless tiger, is considering mild sanctions against 2GB. One option is for the station to offer voluntary undertakings that it will comply with the broadcasting code of practice, or risk being taken to court. Another possibility is that 2GB will take action to 'raise awareness of compliance with the code' among its presenters and producers. 'We'll be starting discussions with 2GB this week,' said spokesman Donald Robertson. 'It will be a couple of weeks before we know the outcome. This is not just going to be forgotten.' Maybe not, but none of the sanctions on the table is exactly draconian. And none will result in Jones' facing the same fate as his counterpart in the US.