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‘No aerial is going to mean no access to free sport’: Networks launch 11th-hour ad campaign to keep sports free

The three commercial free-to-air networks have teamed up in a new advertising blitz urging the Federal Government to amend its proposed changes to the anti-siphoning Bill to better reflect how people actually watch content in 2024.

The “Free Sport Is On The Line” ads are running across print, online and social media, and come as the Bill comes before Federal Parliament this week. The current amendments only cover access to free sport for Australians who watch TV the old-fashioned way, with a roof aerial.

According to Free TV, the peak body for these networks, only 61% of people watch TV this way, a figure that is rapidly dropping. People who watch through connected TV apps, and mobile devices will not be covered under the proposed Bill changes.

Network 10 president, Beverley McGarvey, said: “When Australians go to free-to-air TV, they increasingly don’t even think of an aerial as the gateway, they simply access our channels and content whenever they want, wherever they are and on whatever device they choose.

“It’s no different with the big sports events. Australians’ free access to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix or the Matildas and Socceroos shouldn’t be governed by how they choose to access our channels.

“They don’t think that way and neither should the government when devising the anti-siphoning and prominence laws for all Australians and their TVs.”

Mike Sneesby, CEO of Nine, said: “Australian audiences need to be able to watch sport for free whenever and however they choose to enjoy it. We need the government to deliver the anti-siphoning framework that ensures we can continue to provide this for all Australians.”

Seven West Media’s new CEO Jeff Howard, said: “We welcome the government’s plan to keep sports for free on broadcast TV, but it needs to do more: it must recognise the way people watch sport is changing and extend the amendments to the anti-siphoning regime to include free streaming.

“It’s very simple: the new Bill only guarantees free sports for Australians who have an aerial. It does not guarantee people will get free sport if they choose to stream it over the internet or don’t have an aerial. No aerial is going to mean no access to free sport in the future.

“Under the current proposed rules, Australians who don’t use an aerial will not have guaranteed access to free sport. The clock is ticking: as people increasingly use the internet to watch sport, they are going to have to pay unless the government acts now.”

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