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House of Representatives Communications, Transport and Arts committee to take critical evidence from ABC and ABA



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The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts

Chair Mr Paul Neville MP

Deputy Chair Mr Steve Gibbons MP

Members Mr Colin Hollis MP Mr Gary Hard grave MP Hon David Jull MP Mr Peter Lindsay MP Mr Stewart McArthur MP Mr Frank Mossfield AM MP Mr John Murphy MP Mr Stuart St Clair MP

Correspondence and inquiries Inquiry' secretary House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts

Parliament House CANBERRA ACT 2600

Tel 02 6277 4601 Fax 02 6277 2067 email cta.reps(a.:aph.gov.au web www.aph.gov.au/house

Media Release 15 October 1999

House of Representatives Comunications, Transport and Arts committee to take critical evidence from ABC and ABA

Inquiry into radio racing services _

The ABC will have the chance to defend its decision to discontinue its regional radio racing service at a public hearing in Canberra on Monday 18 October 1999. The committee, chaired by Mr Paul Neville MP, is inquiring into the impact o f the decision by the ABC to discontinue its radio race broadcasts as of June 1998. The committee will also take evidence from the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

’Despite the existence of alternative sources of racing information and the efforts being made by racing broadcasters to extend coverage to regional areas, there are still many areas in regional and remote Australia where racing enthusiasts no longer have access to race broadcasts. Many have argued that

they had better access 30 to 40 years ago.’

The ABC is required under its Charter to contribute to a sense of national identity, inform and entertain Australians and reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community.

’There is a strong feeling in submissions that racing, both as a sport and as an industry, is part of the culture of Australia particularly in the rural and remote parts of Australia.’ said Mr Neville. ’We will be asking the ABC for an explanation of how its decision to discontinue race broadcasts is consistent with its obligations to the community especially in the absence of a comprehensive alternative.’

’Racing broadcasters have told the committee that they are making considerable efforts to extend their coverage to regional and remote parts of Australia by purchasing open narrowcast licences as they become available ,’ said Mr Neville.

Open narrowcast class broadcast licences are issued for a five year period after which they are recontested at auction. Racing broadcasters have called for changes to aspects of the licensing

regime to give them greater tenure. There have also been calls within the racing industry for the creation of a new racing broadcast licence.

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'The committee will be asking the ABA for its response to such suggestions,' said V Mr Neville. 'We will also be asking whether from the ABA's perspective such changes would help solve the problem.'

'We will be trying to determine whether changes to the licensing regime will in the end solve the problem for those people who live outside the townships. It is the people on the farms, the people who are on roads in the outback travelling, the people who cannot afford pay TV or who feel uncomfortable in hotels or TAB outlets, the people in aged care hostels or those who like to work in the garage or in the garden on Saturday afternoons—who rely on radio for following their interest. We are not yet convinced that changes to the licensing regime will solve the problem for these people.'

The committee will also take evidence from the WA TAB who has stated that it is not, nor will it ever be, in a position of being able to introduce a broad band cover similar to that which the ABC had in place. The WA TAB argues in its submission that only the national

broadcaster can solve the problem of providing vast areas in country WA with such a service.

- 'Essentially the committee is looking for ways of filling the gaps in the service. The evidence being given on Monday is critical to the outcome of this inquiry,' said Mr Neville.

The public hearing will be held in Committee Room 2R2 at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday 18 October from 0830-1230.

All members of the public are welcome as observers.

Terms of reference

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts is to inquire into and report on the impact of the decision by ABC Radio to discontinue its radio racing service under the following terms of reference.

• The extent of, and the value placed on, the coverage of the ABC's radio racing service.

• The impact of the discontinuation of the service on the community and the industry.

• The current extent of radio racing coverage and gaps in that coverage.

• Future options for the provision of broadcasting services of racing in regional Australia.

For further information

Media comment Paul Neville MP, Committee Chair 07 4152 0744

Background Janet Connaughton, Inquiry Secretary 02 6277 4601

Web site http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/cta/index.htm