Seven, Nine and TEN have called on the government to close a loophole that allows Pay TV channels to acquire sports events before free to air broadcasters.
The claim is submitted by Free TV Australia to the review of the anti-siphoning list. There were 322 submissions received, which are available for reading here.
In 2005 FOX Sports purchased rights to the Ashes series prior to any free to air broadcasters. Free TV says it is the channel providers who bid for sports rights, not the platform operators.
Amongst its other claims the commercial television lobby says the Pay TV sector’s claims that there are over 1300 events listed is misleading. It says 838 of those “events” comprise individual matches in the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Of those, half are not captured on video by the host broadcaster and therefore cannot be broadcast by anyone. NRL and AFL matches make up a further 381 “events” and V8 Supercar races a further 38, giving a total of 1257 of the 1334 “events”.
Following its Keep Sport Free campaign nearly 60,000 Australians supported its cause, signing an online petition, broken down as follows: New South Wales 16620, Victoria 16578, Queensland 14749, Western Australia 4910, South Australia 4435, ACT 1399, Tasmania 1270, Northern Territory 250 and State Unspecified 52.
Commercial networks, which want the ability to play sports on digital channels, also want the list to be renewed every 10 years.
But the submission from the Pay TV lobby, ASTRA, wants the list renewed every 5 years.
It commissioned a survey from Auspoll of 1500 Australians in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast that found while 57% of Australians indicated they were sports fans only 21% indicated that they were ‘keen’ sports fans. It cites the figures for Masterchef Australia as attracting 30% more viewers than the recent AFL Grand Final.
It also found 73% believe it is unfair that the ‘old television networks’ have control over broadcasting negotiations for listed sports.
While the Pay TV sector hasn’t asked for current sports to be dropped from its list it says the purpose of the anti-siphoning list should be to ensure that only events of national interest, such as the Melbourne Cup or the AFL or NRL Grand Final are broadcast on Free to Air.
It says those decisions should be based on whether networks have consistently shown the event live or within one hour of commencement, and nationally.
ASTRA is against events on the anti-siphoning list being shown on digital multichannels.