‘How could this be allowed to happen?’ TV anti-siphoning laws pass Senate

The anti-siphoning and prominence laws – designed to ensure major sporting events are available to watch for free – have passed in the Senate, but digital sports rights were not included, and therefore the amendment “failed to ensure that every Australian can share the unforgettable sporting moments that unite us”.

This is according to Free TV, the lobbying body for the commercial TV stations, which is concerned that, without digital rights for major sporting events being protected under the newly amended laws, the two-thirds of Australians who watch free-to-air TV digitally without an aerial wont be able to watch sports without paying for it.

Current anti-siphoning laws require major sporting events to be broadcast free to Australians, however this law currently only covers linear broadcast (antennas), meaning the third of Australians who only watch TV digitally, cannot access these sports if the digital rights for an event are owned by a subscription service and put behind a paywall.

The free-to-air channels were lobbying to bundle digital and linear broadcast rights together in the anti-siphoning laws, in keeping with how Australians actually view TV. The Senate committee’s report, delivered in April, recommended against into amending the Prominence and Anti-siphoning Bill, however, said the laws do not need to be updated.

“The laws presented to the Parliament by Minister Rowland have failed to ensure that every Australian can share the unforgettable sporting moments that unite us,” Free TV said in a statement on Thursday.


“Free to Air broadcasting is meant to be the universally accessible destination that binds all Australians together,” Free TV CEO Bridget Fair said.

“Sadly, with the passing of this bill we will now see a nation of the haves and have-nots when it comes to accessing the broadcasts and online services of our beloved commercial and national networks. How could this be allowed to happen in a country that has always celebrated the fair go for all?

“We know that increasing numbers of Australians are watching their free TV services online but these laws leave those people with no guarantee of free sport. Research shows that 69 per cent of Australians access their TV via the internet, so it’s hard to understand why these laws do not look after their interests and guarantee free sport for the millions who watch TV online.

“The laws contain significant gaps that will ultimately undermine the whole anti-siphoning framework and force Australians to pay thousands of dollars to streaming services to access the sporting events that Australians expect to watch for free”.



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