Four Corners probes TV Tennis deals

Four Corners this Monday night looks set to blow the lid on the game of television, the Australian Open and Tennis Australia.

Reporter Debbie Whitmont talks to Tennis Australia about whether it still cares about the game or television ratings.

Four Corners claims leading Australian tennis stars are now openly questioning who is controlling tennis, and who is profiting the most.

In recent years Australian TV viewers have questioned Channel Seven programming decisions which see games delayed for News, current affairs and drama, with viewers outside Daylight Saving time especially furious at decisions to hold key matches.

Four Corners also claims to have “significant evidence that power has been centralised into the hands of just a few tennis administrators.”

Of course Seven is not alone in questions about its tennis broadcast. The ABC is yet to declare the future of the Hopman Cup in Perth, but it is unlikely to raise those questions in Four Corners.

Nevertheless, it sounds like mandatory viewing for all those tennis fans who were screaming in summer.


In January this year Australia’s top ranked female tennis player Samantha Stosur found her much anticipated match against Serena Williams dumped from the prime time television schedule. Network Seven decided news, current affairs and a soapie were more likely to provide ratings.

Tennis Australia, the body with the job of promoting the sport in Australia, didn’t argue. Instead it stood to pocket a healthy bonus for Network Seven’s ratings victory but the episode left a major question hanging over the sport.

Debbie Whitmont: “Do you think the people who run the game really care about it? Really care about the sport?

Lleyton Hewitt: “Ah, I’m not sure. I don’t know”.

Lleyton Hewitt isn’t the only one wondering whether the people who run the sport of tennis really care about the game. A virtual who’s who of Australian tennis past and present are now openly questioning the way Tennis Australia has restructured the sport in this country, and who is benefiting from the changes.

The critics claim that Tennis Australia has centralised the control of the sport in an attempt to improve the game’s bottom line but has forgotten about the players in the process. As one respected player manager put it:

“Tennis Australia seems to be wanting control over everything that happens in this country with regards to tennis. Any financial dealing in this country, Tennis Australia wants to have a piece of it… and that’s wrong.”

Tennis Australia’s Director of Tennis, Craig Tiley, rejects this view:

“Right from the beginning we’ve been accused of being too controlling and wanting to have it only our way or the highway. Those are all just simply not true.”

Despite this assurance, Four Corners has uncovered significant evidence that power has been centralised into the hands of just a few tennis administrators. According to those who know the sport, this means players are not getting the best coaches available and critics are frozen out.

The main independent coaches association has been “absorbed” into Tennis Australia. The country’s “tennis bible” – Australian Tennis Magazine – has been bought out. Even the kids’ tennis charity has been scuppered.

Discontent in tennis clubs around the country is increasing. One club has been told it must install a certain type of court surface or face the prospect of losing its tournament. Why is just one surface favoured and who benefits from the installation of this type of court?

The questions don’t end there. This week, Four Corners explores allegations that when former tennis star and respected sports administrator, Paul McNamee, challenged for the Presidency of Tennis Australia last year, powerful figures close to the current administration told voting delegates that if McNamee won the job government funding for the country’s premier tennis facility would be endangered and Channel 7’s broadcast deal might be in jeopardy.

Reporter Debbie Whitmont talks to Tennis Australia about the allegations, about its blue-print for future tennis success and the results it has achieved so far.

Four Corners: The State of Play airs on Monday 1st March at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is replayed on Tuesday 2nd March at 11.35pm and also available online.

39 Comments:

  1. about time, someone is telling us what a disgrace channel seven is a sports broadcoaster. seems like i am the only but i cant wait, channel seven hate live sport and are a disgrace.

  2. .. perhaps devote ABC2 to show all live broadcasts of Australian citizenship holder’s sports that both commercial and non-commercial channels have licenses to… in the event that the broadcaster gives up their rights to live airing. Let Channel 7 run things their way, but if they choose not to air the game live, then ABC2 will.. and then their devoted News, TT, H&A fans can watch their shows, and then watch the “””””live””””” replay later if they want to.

  3. Jezza of the city

    What is overlooked with ch7s excuses is they could have put their news TT and all their other crap on 7TWO and retained the tennis on their FTA.

    The govt also needs to update the rules to allow live sporting events to go on their FTA digital channels. This would allow 9 to show NRL live in Melb & 7/10 to do AFL in Syd/Brizzie……so simple……so easy…….and soooooo….slooooow to get going

  4. Wonder how this will turn out. particularly if there are what it states to be correct. Then maybe the other sporting bodies may need to answer similar questions and made sure they do things correctly.

  5. tasmanian devil

    @TVtragic – What a stupid comment. Nobody is an idiot if they don’t like tennis. I don’t have anything against tennis and its fans, but I’m just saying that lots of people liking it doesn’t make anyone who doesn’t an idiot.

  6. Well i am curious – but a 50 minute ep of Four Corners devoted to this? I have noticed a qualitative decline in their reports over the last couple of years. Is this much ado about nothing? Guess I’ll have to watch to argue it for sure or not.
    Seems a bit thin to me.

  7. Interesting, I think 7 are right to run their nightly news at 6pm, but its probably a bit rich to halt coverage for TT and H&A.

    Then again 7 is the host broadcaster, and pay lots of money for the rights to the tennis so I guess that they can do whatever they please.

  8. Freddy you’re an idiot. Lots of people in Australia like tennis. It is a disgrace if an Aussie is playing and we cut it off to watch the news. Would they get away with it in the UK if Murray was playing and they did this-No way.

    It is about time the HD channels are allowed to broadcast live footage of sports/events that the general channel don’t care about. If this won’t happen, let Foxtel show it

  9. I agree with Freddy. There is far too much sport on as it is. I mean the sport fanatics even have thier own FTA channel, which is doing nothing for Channel Ten’s shares.

    There really is no pleasing some people.

  10. Quoted in the article:

    Debbie Whitmont: “Do you think the people who run the game really care about it? Really care about the sport?
    Lleyton Hewitt: “Ah, I’m not sure. I don’t know”.
    Lleyton Hewitt isn’t the only one wondering whether the people who run the sport of tennis really care about the game.

    At what point in the above conversation did Lleyton “wonder” anything. A TV journalist putting words into people’s mouths?
    Surely not!

  11. As I’ve said before…All sports need to be shown live. (Government will need to change current laws to allow this)
    They can be replayed in ‘prime time’ as well if the FTA channels believe they will get more viewers.

  12. In reality, who cares???
    If you really love your Tennis that much, then go see it live.

    Not everyone is that interested in a bunch of people hitting a little ball back and forth..

    People should be thankful that sports are still shown on Free to Air TV.

    I for one do not watch many sports programs, but I still go the the F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne as you just cannot get the same sound and excitement from the TV.

    Freddy K

  13. The same can be said about other sports like the V8 Supercars, this weekend (and last) they are over seas so to have them live it would be sometime in the middle of the night, which IMO is what they should do. Forget airing Coyote Ugly and Aussie Rules and show the V8s live, then re-run them the next afternoon for those who couldn’t stay up or record them.

    The problem now is you have to avoid all news/sport in the morning (Skynews or on the Radio) until 1:30pm or later the next day unless you want to be spoiled for the results.

  14. ABC news and current affairs has really returned to form this year. It’s a real point of difference to the nonsense pretending to be news and debate on commercial television. I wish the drama commission demonstrated this level of courage and intelligence.

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