Government set to allow TV networks to broadcast their primary channels in HD

AFL and NRL fans may soon be able to watch their favourite codes in high definition on TV after the Federal Government moved to repeal a law which forces TV networks to broadcast their primary channels in standard definition.


Networks Seven, Nine and Ten all welcomed the move to amend the current laws, with a Bill to be introduced as early as tomorrow but Seven has also warned that the changes need to come with the removal of other “regulatory constraints”, specifically a reduction in licence fees.

The move is likely to appease fans who have long called for matches to be broadcast in the higher quality, with Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes yesterday noting the new $2.5bn AFL deal would have HD as a key part. 

“The legislation is catching up with technology,” said Paul Anderson, CEO of Ten. “This is great news for viewers, as it will allow us to enhance our service by presenting premium content on the main TEN channel in HD – for free.”

“This move by the Government will ensure the Australian public continue to have the best quality television service live and free in their homes,” said David Gyngell CEO of Nine.

Stokes confirmed their support for HD at the AFL press conference emphasising: “Today we are really proud to be building the next foundation of our great sport.

“We will take this great game and make it the national game of choice. We have included bigger and stronger coverage and will take to the public the free-to-air component and other aspects of the game we intend to promote for AFL football.”

However, a spokesman for Seven this morning clarified Stokes’s statement noting that the TV network finds: “it pleasing to see our legislation being brought in to line with technology.

“We certainly hope to bring viewers more HD content in future,” he said. “But there is still more to be done to address regulatory constraints on commercial broadcasters.

“In particular we still pay the highest licence fees in the world and are facing competition from international players who aren’t subject to the same rules and in some cases don’t even pay tax.  We are looking forward to continuing to work with the Government to address these imbalances.”

In the past broadcasters have pleaded “technical difficulties” to explain why they could not run a simulcast on their respective HD channels 7Mate, Gem and One.

AFL fan Josh Rowe, who runs the website “AFL in HD please”, said he was pleased with the news: “This is critically important because the majority of people not only have digital TV but high definition capable TV in their homes.

“They have had the technology for a long time and it is expected that it will be provide for them.”



Nine said it could not comment if the 2015 NRL grand final would be broadcast in high definition, but CEO Gyngell said: ” Our team are working to ensure all the appropriate rights and technical issues are resolved so high definition on our main channel can proceed, to provide the audience with the best possible experience of all our premium content, from sport and drama to live events.”

It is hoped that by allowing the broadcast of high definition on the network’s primary channels it will encourage them to move to a platform which many sports fan have invested in for their home viewing.

“Ten Network welcomes the Government’s proposal to remove the restriction on broadcasting our main channel in high definition,” said Anderson. “It will take time to move the main channel to HD, but we are already working on the technical and rights issues.”

Nic Christensen 

Update 12.00pm Industry FreeTV has today issued a statement saying:

Free TV today welcomed the introduction of legislation that will allow broadcasters to transmit inHigh Definition (HD) on their main channels.

Free TV CEO Julie Flynn said, “This is a win for viewers as it will give broadcasters the flexibility to screen more premium content in HD.

“In a digital environment, it doesn’t make sense to limit the primary service to Standard Definition. We welcome this as a first step to allowing free-to-air broadcasters to deliver more enhanced services to all Australians, for free.

“These positive changes may take some time to implement for each broadcaster, depending on the resolution of technical and rights issues.

“This is a move in the right direction. However, we still have a long way to go. The Australian television industry is facing unprecedented challenges, including some of the highest broadcaster licence fees in the world and the entry of largely unregulated global content providers.

“We commend the government and urge them to implement further deregulation measures to allow free-to-air broadcasters to remain competitive so they can continue to deliver these highly valuedservices to all Australians for free,” said Ms Flynn.

Issues around sports rights, HD broadcasting and marketing in the space will be covered at the upcoming Sports Marketing Summit in Melbourne on September 9.  

Sports Marketing Summit


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.