Conroy finally announces changes to siphoning list – no obligation to show most sport live

TV broadcasters will still be able to show most sporting events on a delay of up to four hours, media minister Stephen Conroy’s review of the anti-siphoning legislation has concluded.

The review will also see the free to air broadcasters allowed to show protected events on their digital channels.  

It will only be if no free to air broadcaster wants to show a listed event on its primary or secondary channel that pay TV will be able to step in.

Announcing the changes, Conroy said: “The Gillard Government wants Australian sports fans to see major sporting events for free as they have always done and these reforms will ensure that Australia’s anti-siphoning scheme remains the strongest in the world.”

There will now be two tiers of events protected under the anti-siphoning legislation – a small number of  “nationally iconic events” and a larger number of “nationally important events”.

The first tier will have to be broadcast “live and in full” on the main channels, theoretically protecting viewers from debacles such as the Seven Network’s coverage of the Bathurst 1000 which it broadcast on an increasing delay in order to fit in more ads.

The second tier will be allowed to be shown on the new free to air digital channels on a delay of up to four hours.

However, the free to air broadcasters will no longer be allowed to buy rights to a sporting event and then not show it which currently often occurs. According to the government: “The current scheme does not prevent broadcasters from holding on to the rights to events they do not intend to televise, or intend to provide only limited coverage. The must-offer obligations will require that where a free-to-air broadcaster holds a right to an anti-siphoning listed event and will not meet the relevant coverage requirement, they must offer those rights on to other free-to-air broadcasters in advance of the commencement of the event. If no free-to-air broadcaster takes up those rights, the subscription broadcasting rights must be offered-on to pay television.”

Pay TV will also now be able to directly acquire the less important AFL and NRL matches.

The tier A events to be shown live and on the main channels are:

  • Horse Racing: Melbourne Cup
  • AFL: Grand Final
  • NRL: Grand Final
  • Rugby Union World Cup Final
  • Cricket: Each Test match involving Australia, played in Australia; Each Test match involving Australia and England played in the UK; Each one-day international match involving Australia, played in Australia; Each Twenty20 match involving Australia, played in Australia; ICC Cricket World Cup semi-finals, final and each match involving Australia; ICC Twenty20 World Cup final and each match involving Australia
  • Football: FIFA World Cup: quarter-finals, semi-finals, final and each match involving Australia
  • Tennis: Australian Open men’s singles final; Australian Open women’s singles final; A ‘World group’ Davis Cup final tie involving Australia
  • Motor Sports: Each race of the F1 Grand Prix held in Australia; Each race of the Moto GP held in Australia; V8 Supercars – Bathurst 1000

The tier B events – guaranteed to be shown in full within four hours and on free to air channels including the secondary channels:

  • The Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics
  • Commonwealth Games
  • AFL: Four matches per round of the AFL premiership season*; Each match of the AFL finals series
  • NRL: Three matches per round of the NRL premiership season*; Each match of the NRL finals series
  • Rugby League: Each match of the State of Origin series; Each Test match involving the Australian team, played in Australia, New Zealand or the United Kingdom (including the Rugby League World Cup)
  • Rugby Union: World Cup: quarter-finals, semi-finals and each match involving Australia; Each Test match involving Australia, played in Australia, NZ, SA or as part of the ‘spring tour’
  • Tennis: Each match of the Australian Open; Wimbledon: Each men’s and women’s singles quarter-final, semi-final and final; US Open: Each men’s and women’s singles quarter-final, semi-final and final; Each ‘World group’ tie involving Australia played as part of the Davis Cup
  • Golf: Each round of the Australian Open; Each round of the Australian Masters; Each round of the United States Masters
  • Netball: Each Test match involving the senior Australian team, played in Australia or New Zealand; Netball World Championships: Semi-finals and Finals matches involving the senior Australian team
  • Football: All matches of the FIFA World Cup (excluding those on Tier A); FIFA World Cup qualifiers: each match involving Australia (the Socceroos); English FA Cup Final
  • Motorsports: V8 Supercars Championship Series

A further change to the rules means that if no free to air broadcaster has picked up the rights half a year out from an event, pay TV can then bid for it.

The changes have been welcomed by Ten, which launched its digital sports channel One in the expectation that it would get more flexibility.

CEO, Grant Blackley, in response to the Government’s announcement on televised sport anti-siphoning rules: “Given the complexity of the task, there was always going to be some give and take. On balance, we believe the Government has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring broad access to televised sport for all Australians.  We welcome the commitment to keeping the best AFL games on free-to-air and will work with the Government to make that happen.  Having listed sports on digital multi-channels will certainly lead to greater choice for viewers on ONE, so that’s a highly positive result for sports fans.”

And Steve Bracks, chairman of pay TV body said eh broadly welcomed the reforms, but he added that he was disappointed that events previously on the list not shown by the free to air broadcasters had not been removed.

Meanwhile, the government will also look to protect the free to air networks from the rise of IPTV. It said: “The Government is alert to the potential for new media to challenge the effective operation of the anti-siphoning scheme. Platforms such as Internet Protocol Television provide the potential for sporting content to migrate exclusively from free-to-air television, and no longer be available freely to the general public. While sports coverage on new media platforms appear to be predominantly supplementary to that of traditional television at this time, it is possible that in the future subscription-based new media services may indeed pose a threat to free access to sport for Australian audiences.

“The Government will pursue a reform agenda to overhaul and modernise the anti-siphoning scheme. These reforms will promote the public interest in free-to-air television coverage of major sporting events while balancing the competing interests of broadcasters and sports rights holders. The implementation of these measures will require legislative amendment to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the making of a new anti-siphoning list.”


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