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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 115

(Question No. 625)

Senator Boswell asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, upon notice, on 15 October 1985:

(1) Is there widespread dissatisfaction in Queensland over the decision by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio management to end the services of horse-racing commentator Mr Larry Pratt and to severely curtail horse racing coverage in Queensland.

(2) Has the equivalent horse-racing program in Sydney remained untouched despite having a rating of 2.7 points compared to the Brisbane program's rating of 4.6 points in the latest survey.

(3) Was the ABC's coverage of horse racing the only comprehensive service offered to Queensland radio listeners outside the metropolitan areas of Queensland.

(4) Was Mr Pratt, apart from being responsible for all racing coverage, news and tips, on air between 12 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays covering general sporting news.

(5) Have the ABC studios at Toowong had to mount and service an additional radio studio with an additional announcer and sporting assistant each Saturday and public holiday to cover the regional service since Mr Pratt's departure.

(6) Why Was Mr Pratt's contract terminated and why has there been a significant downscaling of ABC racing coverage in Queensland.

Senator Walsh —The Minister for Communications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question based on advice provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC):

(1) There has been no curtailment of the full racing service provided to the ABC's Queensland Regional Radio Stations. In the metropolitan area on 4QR Brisbane, direct calls of races have been replaced by a ``results'' service, while `Turf Talk' and general racing information are still provided. There has been some criticism of the cessation of Mr Larry Pratt's duties on radio, but he is still engaged in `The National' on ABC-TV on Friday and Saturday nights.

(2) The decision to change the caller on the regional racing service in Queensland was based on economic considerations; a comparison of survey figures between Sydney and Brisbane is misleading, since the markets the stations serve are quite different. The components of the Saturday afternoon service include coverage of a variety of sports in addition to horse racing.

(3) It is understood that commercial stations 4AR Roma, 4LG Longreach, 4SB Kingaroy, 4MB Maryborough, 4RO Rockhampton and 4HI Emerald relay Brisbane 4BC's racing service, but the ABC provides the only country service beyond these areas.

(4) From 1 July 1985, Mr Pratt was required to do ``on air'' reports between 2 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, but this regular pattern did not apply prior to this date.

(5) Two services are provided through the studios at Toowong on Saturday afternoons, involving two rostered announcers, but not sporting assistants. No additional announcers are involved as two have been rostered in the past; but for current purposes the duties have been re-arranged to make more efficient use of the shifts.

(6) The decision to terminate Mr Pratt's contract was based on economic considerations. There has not been a significant down scaling of ABC racing coverage in Queensland other than in the Brisbane metropolitan area. All regional transmitters continue to transmit a comprehensive service, while 4QR in Brisbane continues to provide a full racing results service.