Complaints about ABC livestock reports at Mark Scott's last Senate Estimates appearance | radioinfo

Complaints about ABC livestock reports at Mark Scott's last Senate Estimates appearance

Thursday 11 February, 2016

At ABC Managing Director Mark Scott's last Senate Estimates Committee appearance, he was asked about merging with SBS (again) and about the changes in regional radio livestock reports.

Senator WILLIAMS: Mr Scott, it is good to see you here. I wish you well in your future and all the best of health to your wife as well, please. The National Livestock Reporting Service run by the MLA employs 28 officers to attend livestock sales, amongst other duties, and report the results to commercial radio stations and also to the ABC for broadcast generally the following morning.

I find it very disappointing and I have received a lot of complaints. We used to get up of a morning and, at 20 to seven, we would have the rural report and they would give the market report for the day before. I know that a lot of farmers listened to it, a lot of graziers. Some, unfortunately, do not have internet. I know they are very disappointed.Have you had any feedback on the axing of this service?

Mr Scott: I had some correspondence on it the other day and I am seeking advice. At the moment the stock report is not included in the early rural report...

At a broad level, with the program changes we have made this year, we have had very minimal audience response or complaints. The one specific issue, though, that has been raised has been about stock
reports. If in fact there are significant movements in stock sales or significant news arises from them, then we cover that in the rural report and we cover it in the Country Hour. But this is an area we are looking at again. I think the feeling is, particularly when the volume of trade is very low in a regional area—is it meaningful detail? I understand that stock agents and others are keen for it to be there, but is it meaningful? Our regional division is getting advice on that and they are looking into that.
Senator WILLIAMS: Please do. Where I live is a big selling centre. For example, they have a Tuesday sale every second week—so they will be selling cattle at nine o'clock next Tuesday and sheep at one o'clock. The next morning we want to hear the reports when we turn the radio on. We get a lot of bad news on the radio, but th stock reports these days are very good news —record prices and so on. Why don't you survey your listeners?

On Wednesday mornings on 2NZ, our local radio station, there is Brian Baldwin giving a report. I know a lot of people listen to the sales information and so on. This is their livelihoods, especially in a place like New England that is basically grazing country. Up at Walcha, Glen Innes, Armidale and the high country, there is no wheat growing there, just oats for a winter crop for the sheep. It is not as though it is farming country like Moree and down on the plains. I know people are really missing it. Can you do a survey of your listeners?

Mr Scott: Yes, we will look into it. We have had some correspondence and we have said we will look into it. I think one of the things you are pointing to is whether or not there is a one-size -fits-all approach for the wholecountry in this regard. That is what I think they were looking at. But where there are sales of scale and significance, we would want to be reporting them. But let me get some advice on that and come back to you on notice.
Senator WILLIAMS: Take the sheep sale next Tuesday back home. We hear about it on Country Hour, but that is 24 hours later. I did speak to Ms Reynolds about th s, and she said it is news that is 16 or 18 hours old, but it is the first opportunity graziers have to hear that news, not to mention the other people involved—the butchers and so on who rely on buying the livestock. Have you had any complaints from the MLA on it?
Mr Scott: A member of parliament wrote to me about it last week. That is all I have seen, but I have not checked with Audience and Consumer Affairs. I know that is the one issue we have had audience feedback on out of the changes we made last year. Let me look into it...

Senator McKENZIE: I wanted to thank you, Mr Scott, for all the work you have done for the ABC, and I wish you all the best for the future....I was going to jump in on Senator Williams's line of questioning.

I have had constituents write to me about the ABC livestock reports being cut. I know we have often spoken in this committee about local radio and providing information for local communities. The Wagga,  Shepparton,Barnawartha, Wangaratta and Corowa saleyards are incredibly important but are no longer reported at 6.55 am on the local broadcasts. Whilst the Country Hour reports are from the official NLRS reporters, those ones I mentioned were from local saleyards. It is the cost of a phone call. The stock agent calls in to the ABC and gives a report. Under the new structure, the producers might appreciate a bit of free local content.
Mr Scott: Fiona Reynolds, who runs our regional division, is looking at this for us. As I said, we were keen to continue reporting when it was news.


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