What if ABC and SBS were not available through Foxtel?

foxtiqRetransmission of Free to Air channels on Foxtel has been in the news of late, largely in light of the networks wanting Subscription TV to be paying them for copyright material.

But the Lewis report, which looks at efficiency costs for SBS and ABC, has also recommended both broadcasters consider a cost saving by no longer paying the satellite fees required.

Today The Australian sheds some more light on the issue:

The costs for satellite capacity are paid by broadcasters to Optus, not to Foxtel. The broadcasters then decide whether their broadcasts go to Foxtel-transponder homes. It is believed the cost of the satellite hire to the public broadcasters is in the low millions; SBS is understood to have recently renegotiated its contract with Optus.

The satellite cost for carriage on Foxtel is a minor component of the costs of transmission of ABC and SBS services, totalling almost $300 million a year. They are viewed by the federal government as one of the key areas for cost recovery.

Not having ABC and SBS access through Foxtel would be a lose / lose situation.

There may be a cost saving, but what both would lose in terms of brand awareness with the audience would be utterly priceless.


  1. If the government were competent they’d either require Foxtel or any subscription service to replay the public broadcasters for free. Or even pay for the privilege. As for that satellite charge. Then create a satellite TV broadcast tax that strangely covers the costs of transmitting them on the satellite. So they end up being free on both sides. That way a non-issue.

    Although I get that some people don’t want the ABC nor SBS to exist. I wonder which will end first Foxtel or the government broadcasters. I suspect Foxtel because if only 1% of people can afford it then it won’t be very viable.

    By the way I know people that watch the ABC via Foxtel. Although they probably can access them some other way. I doubt they’d be happy about this.

  2. @Cam, as I understand it, while the ABC and SBS feeds for both VAST and Foxtel are broadcast from Optus C1, they are different signals on different frequencies. The various state versions are broadcast twice – once for VAST and once for Foxtel.

    If Foxtel made their boxes able to receive the VAST channels, it would not only save the government millions, but would allow Foxtel to use the transponders for something else.

  3. ABC and SBS should be pulled from Foxtel. While this would represent a potential loss of audience for both broadcasters, it would also annoy the hell out of Foxtel from a marketing point of view. Public broadcasters should not have to pay for the privilege of being rebroadcast on subscription tv.

  4. We watch through our Foxtel box. Never bother looking for anything not listed on Foxtel’s EPG.
    Would miss SBS esp SBS2 as they currently have good dramas (Vikings, Orphan Black etc) but would not really miss the ABC.
    The ABC are about to lose most of their possible decent content to the new Foxtel station, and we stopped watching their current affairs and documentaries ages ago, not being a Green or Labor supporter. Their news is now a joke, with their ugly new set and divided screen, also the weatherman poncing about chatting to the presenter. Ugh.

  5. I remember 10 years ago having Foxtel that only had FTA Nine, ABC and SBS on it – no Seven, No TEN. As a result, I watched very little of Seven and TEN at the time due to having switch devices. The same seems true for many people it would appear.

    We do have a HD dual recorder as well – so can get all FTA and all Foxtel channels but only use it as extra recording for FTA when too many clashes or for 7mate, ONE or GEM – which I have to say I hardly bother watching or recording off.

    I would have thought the way to move forward would be no re-transmission fees so all FTA channels can be on Foxtel including the HD channels – that in my opinion would help drive more Foxtel subscribers as well as more viewers to these FTA channels (I realise this can;t be the case for regional).

  6. Cam Reed thanks for that information. I don’t think the National Party will be too impressed then if the ABC cancels! I wonder if the Nationals realise this.

  7. In the UK after a bit of pressure Sky have dropped the fees they charge the BBC and ITV for retransmission. Maybe the best way forward would be for the Aussie equivalent to do the same.

  8. I’m in metro Perth but can’t get SBS at all on any of my TV’s except via foxtel. So i would not be able to watch SBS. Not that it would worry me. Rarely watch it anyway. I usually watch ABC through my Foxtel IQ as it’s easier to record. In Perth we get ABC2 live not delayed on foxtel so theres a choice of watching live or watching delayed via FTA

  9. @ Victor – That satellite system is the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) one and is on Optus C1 and Optus D3 Satellites, the very same ones that provide the service on Foxtel. If the ABC and SBS were to stop paying the satellite fees required to OPTUS (the $300 million a year), then VAST would also disappear for those Black Spot areas such as yours.

  10. @steve
    They can receive the ABC and SBS through FTA.
    But as they use Foxtel they will not see ABC and SBS programmes when they look at the Foxtel EPG. This will decrease their ABC and SBS viewing.

    It’s not about brand awareness, it’s about simply knowing there is something on that you might like to watch.

  11. should have been a liceence condition on foxtel to at least carry abc & sbs.. but thats forward thinking – something no government is very good at

  12. I have foxtel in regional qld which means I only have SBS and ABC through foxtel. This means that I do not watch FTA outside of these two channels and if they take them too, then I guess I’d find other means for Old School and Orphan Black as I rarely have time to watch live television.

  13. Well if abc were not on foxtel I prob wouldn’t watch it. I wld go on I view. Only watch a few shows on and like time of our lives, Janet king and please like me.

  14. The more I read about this dodgy “government review” of the operations of the ABC and SBS the more it becomes obvious it was stacked with Murdoch/Foxtel apologists who’s main goal is to slowly strangle the public broadcasters until they can be sold off cheaply to Rupert’s gang, or simply disposed of in a shallow grave.

    Tony now has to repay the piper for all the favourable coverage he and his mates have received over the last four years.

  15. There are lots of rural areas in Australia where you can’t get free to air. However with the installation of a satellite dish for around $600-700, a one-off cost you get all the free to air channels and radio as well. I think this was a subsidised Federal initiative a few years ago to cover black spots. It means that if you miss the ABC news in rural Victoria you could watch the South Australian news or WA news a bit later. It is a fantastic scheme. No need for Foxtel unless you’re really in to sport. It does seems like an unnecessary cost when the FTA satellite is available and almost every rural property in black spots has this service.

  16. Your conclusion is 100% correct David. I was just saying in the TV Lounge section that I’ve watched more SBS this year than ever in my life. Watching 1 show, often leads to watching another, etc… Much of this can be put down to brand awareness.

    A further example/analogy is that due to the way my main tv is set-up, I don’t have access to One, Gem & Mate on it. I do have access to these channels on a 2nd bedroom tv. If ABC & SBS basically joined these, then I might watch as much them as much as I do those 3 digital channels… That is; Never.

  17. If ABC, SBS orany of the networks weren’t available through Foxtel, I wouldn’t watch them anymore.

    It’s the reason why I don’t watch any of the HD multichannels – don’t have Foxtel HD and am rarely bothered to go through the dozens of buttons across multiple remotes to get there. Easier to watch through Foxtel.

  18. I cannot believe that there is a significantly sized audience who can receive Foxtel but can’t receive the ABC or SBS via FTA.

    Sure, there may be one or two weirdos who read this blog, but in general, it would be 0.00001% of the tiny percentage of Australians who actually subscribe to this huge waste of money.

    So, no loss whatsoever.

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