05 December 2005

Rougher than usual handling

The usually reliable Roy Masters plays with a loose end in his piece this week for the Herald's Business section on the racing broadcast rights dispute between major raceclubs and Tabcorp - loose in the sense that crucial claims are qualified by the disclaimer "possibly" and are neither sourced, nor confirmed or corroborated. There appears to be only one source for the article, a severely conflicted "boss" of the NSW Australian Hotels Association, John Thorpe. Says Masters: "Like many in organisations embroiled in the internecine struggle, Thorpe wears two hats. As NSW president of the AHA and owner of a Harbord hotel, Thorpe complains that pubs have to provide two screens for punters to gamble on races, yet he sits on the board of TVN, which owns the rights to Sydney and Victorian thoroughbred races."
In companion pieces Masters casts his net wider, handing column space to adman John Singleton who whinged that his $7m idea for "Sea Biscuit" type colour stories on TVN had met with a lukewarm response.
TVN, which is jointly owned by the Australian Jockey Club and Sydney Turf Club, the three Melbourne metropolitan race clubs and Country Racing Victoria, is currently sweating on an answer from Tabcorp to their latest proposal to end the standoff and deliver all racing back to one channel. Reports Masters:
TVN expected a response from Slatter midweek but none came. It would seem Tabcorp is taking a hard line, aware the racing industry is hemhorraging.
Art-loving TVN chairman Harold Mitchell remains defiant, pointing out that the dispute is a legacy of a fight 18 years ago between Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer for control of racing TV rights.
"At an earlier time the racing industry sold off their media rights for a song," Mitchell says.
"We are now in control of our destiny again."
Racing Victoria CEO Robert Nason was also unrepentant at his AGM on December 1:
"We want to get an adequate return for our racing product. As the product owner we have a right to do that despite what you might read in the media."
The point no one seems interested in anymore is that one channel is not enough to do justice to covering the major metropolitan race meeting, with major group one events being slotted into wall-to-wall coverage of provincial and country racing, trots and dogs. So 20th century.
We live in an age of digital delivery, when is the racing game going to deliver vision on-demand? Twelfth of never it seems.

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