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Networks push back on betting ad ban as Labor questions government plans

The Seven and Nine networks have openly challenged a mooted “siren-to-siren” ban on gambling ads during live sports broadcasts expected to be put before cabinet early next week unless it includes digital platforms.

The Australian Labor Party has also questioned the motivation and timing of the decision after the Coalition refused to back a similar proposal from Labor just weeks ago.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is reportedly planning to introduce a ban on gambling advertising during live sport broadcasts in the face of rising community concern about the growing number of ads being broadcast.

The ban would affect both free-to-air and subscription broadcasters, with the networks understood to have drawn up “worst case scenario” budget predictions based on the loss of betting agency revenue.

In a statement, the Seven Network called for any bans to be applied across all platforms including digital and warned that free-to-air TV could lose sports rights.

“The reported gambling advertising restrictions would have a significant impact on the future value of sporting rights for FTA broadcasters and as a result we are likely to see more of them migrating to unregulated platforms run by foreign multinationals,” a spokesperson for the network said.

“It is more important than ever that we support Australian industry which is why we urge the government to act quickly on licence fee reductions for commercial television.”

The Nine network also said any approach to restrictions should be platform neutral.

“We are prepared to work with government on a path to reform for gambling advertising across all platforms,” a Nine spokesperson said.

“Measures targeting TV alone does not reflect the reality of how audiences are exposed to gambling advertising and the sensible approach would be to include all platforms.”

Shadow Communications Minister Rowland

Labor’s shadow Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, slammed the government for the move just weeks after it rejected Labor’s proposition.

“The Turnbull government doesn’t stand for anything but its own self-interest,” Rowland told Mumbrella.

“Only last month, members of the Liberal-National Coalition refused to support Labor’s motion to phase out gambling ads during live sporting broadcasts. Now the government is pursuing a policy it has previously opposed as part of a backroom deal. Labor’s proposal is to provide a genuine and pragmatic solution which addresses community concern with the existing regulatory framework, while giving industry time to adjust business practices.”

She said while Labor’s motion was successful in the Senate, it was then stymied by the Coalition.

“In March 2017, Labor moved a successful motion in the Senate calling on government to work with the broadcasting industry and national sporting organisations on a transition plan to phase out the promotion of betting odds and gambling-related commercials before and during live sporting broadcasts,” she said.

“Despite the majority of the Senate agreeing to the motion, the Liberal-National Coalition didn’t support it.”

Mumbrella’s Sports Marketing Summit is being held on July 21 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Amongst the many topics being tackled is the future of alcohol advertising in sport. To see the program and to buy tickets, click here

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