Federal Opposition slams Foxtel’s sports grant over transparency concerns

The shadow minister for communications, Michelle Rowland, has hit out at the Federal Government’s additional $10m grant to Foxtel’s Fox Sports, saying there is no transparency around the deal and “serious questions” remain.

Yesterday, the Federal Government revealed Foxtel would receive an additional $10m, as part of a now $40m package to broadcast more women’s, under-represented and niche sports.

Mumbrella asked the Government yesterday about whether the funding was available to other broadcasters, why this funding was a priority when so many media outlets are in need of relief, and whether a subscription television service – which is not accessible to all consumers – should receive such a grant.

Last night, a spokesperson for Paul Fletcher, minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, responded, but didn’t directly answer the questions.

The spokesperson said Fox Sports is well placed to continue its role as a leading sports broadcaster, and pointed to Foxtel’s raft of channels and platforms to deliver the content. The spokesperson said Foxtel had been delivering on its requirements since 2017, with an increase of over 100% in the coverage of women’s sports, including AFLW, WNBL and the W-League.

Foxtel must deliver an annual performance report at the end of each financial year, which goes to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.

Rowland, however, said it’s not good enough, particularly in light of the Morrison Government’s “sports rorts” scandal, which saw funding for sports facilities redirected to projects which had not been endorsed or recommended by the Sport Australia board. In one instance, a club with no women’s team received a $500,000 grant to build a female change room. The project did not meet the grant’s requirements. Other facilities and clubs in need of assistance for female facilities, did not receive grants.

Rowland said the announcement is about politics

Rowland said the Morrison Government had left women and girls “changing in cars or out the back of the sheds”, and now were keeping taxpayer-funded women’s sports coverage behind a paywall.

“Australia’s sportswomen deserve better. Young girls can’t be what they can’t see,” she said.

Serious questions remain about how the funding has been handled, she added.

  • Who was eligible for the grant, who approved the grant and when will the grant process and details be available on the Grant Connect website?

  • Which sports will be supported through the grant over the next two years, and will the Department be able to measure exactly how many hours of women’s, niche and under-represented sports taxpayers get in return for their $10 million?

  • Was the Department of Communications, Australian Sports Commission, Office for Sport or Women Sport Australia consulted on this decision?

She also contended the $10m could have been better spent.

“At a time when Australia is in recession, many households are facing unemployment and money is tight, $10m would go a long way to supporting sports coverage to which all Australians can see for free.

“It would also go a long way to delivering many of the female change room projects recommended by Sport Australia but rejected by the Morrison Government under its now infamous sports rorts scandal.”

The Foxtel funding was not about helping women, she said.

“Today’s announcement just proves this government will always put political gain before real support for women and girls in sport.”


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