The government is going to allow SBS to screen soccer World Cup matches on SBS Two before their broadcast on SBS One, thereby breaching "anti-siphoning" rules. It's such a sensible decision it begs the question: why do those laws even exist?
Picture by larimdame
As TV Tonight reports, Senator Stephen Conroy is making a temporary exception to the anti-siphoning rules, which require rights for sports of "national significance" to be first made available for broadcast on free-to-air television, before pay TV operators are allowed to have a crack at them. A wrinkle in those rules also means that free-to-air channels can't use their extra channels to broadcast programs live, since if they have the rights the first broadcast must be on the "main" channel. However, SBS is being allowed to ignore that rule during the Cup (though it's reflected in the requirement is that the matches in question will have to be rebroadcast on SBS One subsequent to their debut on SBS Two.)
Since I'm not a sports nut, I've always found it a bit odd that we need any regulation around which channel gets to show any given sporting encounter, but I recognise that puts me in a distinct minority. But whatever your thoughts on the overall concept, it makes no sense that the anti-siphoning rules should be enforced when a free-to-air network doesn't bother showing sports it has the rights to until hours later (which happens frequently with AFL and NRL matches, depending which state you live in), or doesn't bother showing them at all. And it makes even less sense to enforce those rules with respect to free-to-air digital channels when the latest figures suggest that 68% of Australians have access to digital services.
The anti-siphoning laws are due for renewal at the end of 2010. Do you think they should be kept in their current form, modified or chucked out altogether? Lob your thoughts into the comments.
Conroy eases anti-siphoning limits for World Cup [TV Tonight]