Is There Any Point In TV Anti-Siphoning Laws?

Is There Any Point In TV Anti-Siphoning Laws?

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]


  • I don’t think what SBS is doing is right.
    If it is other world cup games that Australia are not in; then that is ok.
    But, if it is an Australian game or final then it should be on SBS 1.
    In my house I have only one tv which is digital.

      • The only coincident matches are for the third and final group games for each team, on 22, 23, 24 and 25 June. Arranged thus to minimise opportunities for final games to result in “mutually convenient” outcomes. This has happened at every World Cup since 1982, when a notorious final group game between Austria and West Germany provided a beneficial result for both teams at the expense of Algeria.

  • SBS would show all games live on SBS ONE except for 8 games, which cannot be shown live since they are being played simultaneously with other games. These 8 games will be shown live on SBS TWO instead, and then shown later on SBS ONE. That sounds reasonable to me. None of the 8 games involve Australia.

    I don’t have pay TV (by choice) and am in support of anti-siphoning that prevent pay TV companies taking content away from free-to-air.

  • funny in Qld that you have ONE HD – a continuous sport channel wont show AFL matches, but it does down south? instead you get baseball or something else that was played some other time that nobody cares for… its ridiculous.

  • I’m assuming that they’re already showing another game on SBS1, in which case it’s a perfectly good reason to alter the rules. The alternative is that the game gets shown late or not at all.

    I think the anti-siphoning laws are important to make sure that the best content doesn’t go to pay-only.

    But there definitely has to be a use-it-or-lose-it approach. The Melbourne Storm would have twice as many supporters down here if Ch 9 would ever show their games at a reasonable time.

    • I agree, use it or lose it..
      Should be Live unless it is before 6:30pm on a Weeknight at which point it is acceptable to delay telecast until that time. (or something similar)

  • The only TV I watch is AFL and Cricket. Without the anti-siphoning laws, there is a strong chance this would move to pay TV and I’m just not prepared to pay for foxtel to watch 4 hours of TV a week. It doesn’t help that the foxtel commentators are dreadful compared to channel 7.

    For everything else the Internet is sufficient.

  • Standard TV signals are due to be switched off soon anyway, so no, I don’t see the point.

    I understand the need to maintain free to air viewing of sporting coverage, and I support that, but then to dictate to which channel the broadcaster should have to use is ridiculous…

    What happens when they start showing it in 3D?? Are they going to have to broadcast 3D on one channel and simultaneously 2D on another?? It’s not like we have anything worth watching on free to air as it is, now we have even less…

  • I suppose it could hasten the take up of digital TV. Even if soccer fans run out and buy a cheap settop box just for the games. Though it would suck if they are in an area with poor/no digital coverage. I’ll own up to huge amount of ignorance here, but I wasn’t aware the anti-siphoning laws related to the free digital channels. I thought they just related to pay TV.

  • I have Foxtel and much prefer to watch sport on it than on channels 7, 9 or 10.

    I totally disagree that the commentators are worse on Fox, in fact I think they are far better. I can’t stand the fact that during AFL broadcasts the free-to-air channels show adverts after every goal, or during cricket they have adverts after every over. But the thing that annoys me the most is when the free-to-air channels get the rights to sporting events and then delay the telecast.

    While I agree that the anti-siphoning law still needs to be in place (although I don’t think the digital TV part is relevant any more) so that free-to-air get first dibs, there definitely needs to be a use it or lose it clause in place. If these sporting events are deemed to be so important and significant to the Australian public that they should be free to watch, then surely the Australian public should have the option to be able to watch them live!

  • I would love to have three channels dedicated to sport, but I don’t want any other pay tv channels so I can’t get Fox Sports. The cheapest PayTV option that will give me the sports channels is almost $60 a month. If I could just pay the $15 a month for Fox Sports I would.

    Without the anti siphoning laws, PayTV would cherry pick the popular sports and we’d have to pay to see them.

  • It makes sense to prevent stuff going to Foxtel, but the restrictions on which FTA channel it can be broadcast on should be lifted to encourage the switch to Digital.

  • One thing I find somewhat offensive in the “Keep Sport Free” campaign is the abuse of the term ‘free to air’. Most of the channels we see are advertising subsidised; the only free one is ABC (which we pay for through tax).

    Also, these days there are other alternatives to broadcast with the Internets.

  • I must say I entirely disagree with most of the posts above. I have Foxtel and I watch it quite often, I understand that some people can’t afford it and they shouldn’t be punished for that but the TV networks suck, and they should be punished for that.
    Let’s be clear here, the TV networks are businesses, they are there to make money and they prey on the insecurities of people to support their interests. They say they bring “free” sport to the masses and then they stick us with useless commentators and hundreds of adverts.
    The Formula 1 is a prime example, the commentators are a bunch of idiots; all they do is talk about stuff they don’t understand and remind everyone where Mark Webber is, they cram it full of ads and then claim they are doing the community a service. Screw them, let Foxtel in on the deal and maybe these “nationally significant” sporting events will get the coverage they deserve.

  • When MotoGP was on Foxtel for the last few years every class was live, starting with the 125cc at 7:00pm. This year MotoGP is on ONE run by channel 10 and the only race shown live is the premier class at 10:00pm. I’d like to see all rules that allow the free-to-air networks to continue their crappy treatment of sport with no competitive repercussions scrapped. I think it is hilarious that the broadcast networks currently running ads stating that removing anti-siphoning laws would reduce access to sports programming. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • Angus, having just read your post on journalists’ cliches, I have to say that “begs the question” is not only one of the commonest cliches, but also invariably wrongly used. To beg the question is a logical error in which the premise for an argument assumes that the conclusion is already true. If anything, you probably meant “invites the question”.

  • Given that analog was originally slated to be switched off by now I think it is pretty silly to restrict which FTA channel a particular game is seen on.

    What ever happened to the part of the anti-syphoning laws, as seen with the last soccer world cup, where I think Channel 7 had won telecast rights, where the coverage had to be offered to another channel if they were not showing the match live?

  • The way i see it, every network should have its own sports channel, keep all or most sports off the main channel. Ditch the AS law, and have a no exclusives law, and let them regulate themselves. May the best networks win.

    Disclaimer: I couldn’t care less about televised sports. So i wouldn’t care if that destroyed sports on TV or not, as long as it doesn’t interfere with regular TV programming.

  • I LOVE Sport, therefore I choose to pay FOXTEL for LIVE coverage in HD. It’s cheaper than alcohol or cigarettes, I’m happy to pay.

    Why the hell does the government legislate that I must watch delayed sports crammed with ads in SD?

    The anti siphoning list is terrible for sports fans. Why does the government have such extreme anti competitive policies to protect foreign owned private businesses?

    Scrap the list and there will be more live sport on FTA & FOXTEL. Competition is encouraged in every other industry and is done so to give consumers better choice and value.

  • The keep free-to air sport free campaign is rediculously pretentious and misleading. Living in South Australia and being a rugby supportor, I have never been able to watch a rugby union game on free-tv. Cricket games are interrupted to show Deal or no deal and the news for an hour, regardless if the game is in the last few overs. Coverage is poor, fragmented and delayed. Give all broadcasters similar opportunity to bid for events! Without pay tv’s support for sport, many sports would still be at amateur level!

    Where can one vote AGAINST the keep free-to-air sport free campaign?

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