More sports free to watch on Australian TV as anti-siphoning scheme begins

The Australian Government has commenced consultation on the anti-siphoning scheme to ensure Australians continue to have the opportunity to enjoy free coverage of events of national significance.

The anti-siphoning scheme aims to give free-to-air broadcasters an initial opportunity to buy the television rights to major events included on the anti-siphoning list.

The scheme prevents subscription television broadcasters from acquiring the rights to televise an event on the anti-siphoning list unless a free-to-air television broadcaster has a right.

The list includes key sporting events across the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, AFL, rugby league, rugby union, soccer, tennis, netball, motorsports, horse racing and cricket.

Minister for Communications, the Hon. Michelle Rowland MP, said in a statement: “Every Australian deserves the chance to enjoy live and free coverage of events of national significance, regardless of where they live or what they earn.

“The televising of key sports competitions helps to create shared experiences, foster a collective Australian identity, and contributes to grassroots community-based sports participation.

“Subscription-based services make a valuable contribution to Australia’s media market and consumer choice, but not everyone can afford to pay for sport.”

At the present time, the scheme does not stop streaming services such as Kayo, Optus Sports or Amazon Prime from acquiring exclusive rights to the same, high-profile sporting events.

Seven West Media managing director and chief executive officer, James Warburton, told Mumbrella: “Seven welcomes the Government’s comprehensive review into the anti-siphoning scheme. Modernising the scheme is fundamental to ensuring that important Australian sport remains free and universally available to all Australians. To achieve this in a modern media environment, the scheme must be extended to subscription streaming providers.”

In a statement to Mumbrella, Paramount Australia and New Zealand, said: “Paramount Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) is pleased the federal government has released the discussion paper reviewing the anti-siphoning laws.

“Sport is an integral part of Australian culture and society, and Paramount ANZ believes that all Australians should be able to easily access and watch iconic sporting events, particularly those of national and cultural significance, live on free-to-air television.

“Not only does this foster a shared national identity but it contributes to the growth of community engagement and participation in sporting codes across the country.

“Paramount ANZ is pleased to see the discussion paper acknowledges a broader and contemporary view of our media landscape and looks forward to providing a formal response to the discussion paper in the coming weeks.”

Free TV CEO Bridget Fair said: “Live and free sport on television is a fundamental part of the Australian way of life. It remains the great social connector of our times, allowing Australians from all walks of life equal access to the events that bring us together.

“Being able to watch your favourite sporting team live and free on TV without having to pay subscription fees or worry about your data usage or your internet reliability is vital to the Australian standard of living.

“This review is crucial as there is a real risk that unless our anti-siphoning framework is updated we could see iconic sports events being exclusively acquired by subscription streaming platforms. The current rules are over 30 years old and only cover free-to-air and pay TV.

“These are analog rules in a digital world, and we look forward to working with the Government to renew the anti-siphoning list and expand it to cover all subscription platforms so that Australians can continue to enjoy live sport on their TVs, free and for everyone.”

The review is part of the Albanese Government’s commitment to media reform. This consultation process will help to inform the development of a new list, with the current list due to expire in April 2023.

The review will also assess the operation of the scheme in the contemporary media environment. The consultation paper outlines a number of issues for consideration, including, the objective of the scheme and the mechanism for achieving this objective, the acquisition of media rights by streaming services and other online services, the regulatory rule that sits at the heart of the scheme, the use and disposal of the rights to televise events on the list, information disclosure and gathering arrangements, and the composition of the list.

Since the scheme commenced in 1994, technology has evolved, the viewing habits of Australians have changed, and newer platforms, including streaming services, are not subject to the rules.

The review will examine these and other trends, and consider the case for amendments to ensure that the anti-siphoning scheme remains fit-for-purpose and continues to support coverage of iconic events available free to the general public.

Consultation closes on Tuesday, 6 December 2022.


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