Anti-Siphoning Rules: OK For Digital But Bad For HD

The government yesterday finally announced planned changes to the anti-siphoning rules which govern the broadcasting of sports. While “major” sports will continue to be protected and there’s increased flexibility for broadcasting on digital multi-channels, the changes aren’t necessarily great news for lovers of HD broadcasts or live sports fans.

The essential principle of the anti-siphoning rules — that certain sporting events are so “iconic” that they have to be available on free-to-air television — remains in place in the new rules, which will take effect from next year. (Personally, I find this basic idea weird, but I don’t pretend that’s a common view.)

Sports on the anti-siphoning list have now been divided into two categories: Tier A, which includes AFL and NRL grand finals, the Australian Open finals and the Melbourne Cup; and Tier B, which includes all the Olympics, regular AFL and NRL games, and Wimbledon. The full list is available as a PDF document here.

Tier A events must be broadcast live and in full on a main channel. Tier B events can be broadcast on a digital multi-channel, and can be delayed by up to four hours. Under the previous scheme, sports on the anti-siphon list had to be broadcast on the main channel first, but there were no rules regarding whether the broadcast had to be live.

One gain for sports lovers is that there is now a “use it or lost it” clause. Channels who purchase the rights to any events on the list must schedule the event for broadcast, or offer on the rights to another channel.

The ability to show Tier B events on additional channels should mean that live broadcasts for out-of-state events are more likely in theory. For instance, currently Channel Nine shows some NRL games (including the State of Origin) in Melbourne several hours late on its main channel. It could now show those on GEM live for Melbourne viewers. Whether this will actually happen remains to be seen. In the case of overruns, main channel events can also be “switched” to a digital multi-channel, which seems marginally more likely.

What I suspect will be the biggest point of contention for many Lifehacker readers is the total lack of any rules regarding HD broadcasts. While channels can offer an additional HD simulcast of a Tier A sporting event on their HD channel, they’re not obliged to do so. The gradual erosion of HD simulcasts across the board as new channels have been introduced has been a steady source of complaint this year, and these rules don’t do anything to change that situation for sport.

The “delay clause” for multi-channels is also a potential issue for live sports fans. It’s hard to imagine that events from overseas such as Wimbledon won’t be delayed so that they’re on at a more ratings friendly time, for instance. Tim Burrowes at Mumbrella argues that this is going to be a major problem:

The same goes for the Olympics. The Olympics. Under the new rules, there’s no obligation to show it live. Instead, so long as it’s within four hours, that’s just fine. Like the last Olympics, as viewers we’ll have no idea whether what we’re watching is live, a few minutes ago or a couple of hours old. As a result, the whole lot ends up feeling slightly flat.

As Burrowes notes, that issue is particularly pronounced given that anyone who wants to dodge learning the results will now have to stay away from Twitter, Facebook and the Internet, as well as dodging TV and radio news broadcasts.

Are you pleased with the new rules? Should they have gone further? Do we need them at all? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Anti-siphoning reviews at DBCDE


  • This is great news. No longer will Channel 10 be showing some god forsaken protected sport on their main channel AND channel 1 AND channel 11. This move really does make sense, it drives people towards digital TV, which is a move people have to make sooner or later anyway, and it allows channels to set up dedicated sports coverage so they don’t have to canabalise their main channel’s programming whenever a major sporting event comes along.

  • I’ve got absolutely no problem putting the Olympics in Tier B. Not only are they slightly anachronistic, but the (potential) delayed telecast allows it to be broadcast at a more suitable time. I’d much prefer getting up at 4am to watch a Finals, than at midnight.

    Anyway, there are so many events at the Olympics that most stuff broadcast live is chopped into small bite size (and useless) bits of sporting television. I much prefer a delayed telecast that allows a channel to hopefully broadcast more of an event, rather than race to show it live just because an Aussie is competing, and take away from other events on show.

  • I’m guessing they will deal with HD once you city folk catch up with us country folk and go all digital.

    Pointless trying to do it now when half the people in metro are still on analogue.

    Having seen the “quality” of digital in Sydney a few months ago, it still needs a lot of work. We had the same problems in Mildura 2-3 years ago but all sorted now.

  • Gem is the single worst thing to happen to Australian TV. the fact that the ashes is not in hd make my blood boil. the hole reason we have 1080i in Australia is because Kerry Packer wanted hd cricket. he would be turning in his grave if he could see this. When gem launched we were promised hd sport like the cricket and the league simulcast on nine and gem. In stead we have:
    3pm Mary Queen of Shops
    4pm The View
    Its ridiculous gems ratings are so poor they should ditch the idea and go back to nine hd. when they had higher ratings
    all i want for xmas is 1080 vertical lines of red balls bouncing off the mgc pitch.

    • I Agree, what a waste of a HD channel. A few years ago, 7 and 9 were both sprouting on about HD sports and how wonderful everything will look, and now they don’t even use the HD channels for anything worthwhile. I don’t need to see Ellen in HD, but the cricket would be nice!!

    • Actually that’s not the case hugh. GEM may get low ratings, but by far the worst rating they ever got was when they were rebroadcasting the cricket in HD. The issue for HD in Australia as that no one (from a ratings sense) cares. We’re much more likely to watch something on a new channel that we are to watch an event we wouldn’t otherwise watch in SD simply because its in HD.

  • The concept of legislating to show the ‘Olympics’ live is absurd as there are events going on at the same time. If they want to delay a swimming final for two hours, they’ll put on the table tennis live instead. What if the 400m finals is at the same time as a hockey final ? Ultimately the broadcaster will choose which events get shown and when.

    If they were that nationally significant, they’d give the ABC a guaranteed option to better any offer from a commercial broadcaster and fund it to buy the rights.

  • meh to HD anyway. Until the stations get their act together and broadcast with decent power and lower compression, digital will not be as good as a analogue. I am sick to death of jaggies, cubes and other artifacts with signal breakup and drop out. Yes, I’m talking to you channels 9 and 10. Geez, the GO station ID is almost unwatchable it’s so pixellated.

  • It pisses me off that Nine reneged on their Wide World of Sports in HD on GEM that they advertised so much, why can’t they at least “switch” coverage when they air the Ashes on Go or GEM when they air the news in the Eastern States

  • GAnti siphoning is still needed in believe.

    What gets my goat is what they consider to protect. I’ll come clean here and say I don’t follow AFL or NRL or Golf. I watch the V8s, One Day and Twenty 20 cricket and a little bit of A-league and NBL again (more on this later).
    Let’s start with Bathurst, this event is the V8s State of Origin or even Grand Final. 7Mate had just launched a few weeks before so what did we get, a SD broadcast white 7Mate (the HD channel) was showing things like Air Crash Investigation and Million Dollar Catch. To top this off, it was not live but a 20 minute delay. What the……….
    Now basketball. I use to watch it religiously but two things happened. It turned to a summer season so not to compete with football and as a follow on, got dropped from free to air TV on Foxtel. It ended up getting one night and one select game nation wide and a highlight show. It suffered because of it. It is back on 10 so starting to watch again. And hopefully, I’ll be able to follow one of the local teams and watch their matches each week.

  • Why the f..k did we bother buying HD plasmas/LCD’s if we can’t see marquee sports events like “The Ashes” in HD?.NINE has THREE digital platforms and yet we can’t see cricket’s most important contest in HD..And even the lowest HD…Your 1024-by-768..Still looks a darn sight better than SD cricket….Cricket seems (to my 45 year old eyes anyway) particularly susceptible to the technical deficiencies of the way SD is being broadcast in Australia….Average picture quality in general…with a poor rendering of the expanses of green….My old circa 1980 AWA “Deep-Image-Colour” 12 incher renders that look better than the loungeroom Panny Plasma….But when the HD kicks-in it’s like you no longer have blurry vision…providing a prescription for the way we bloody deserve to be watching cricket….What a pity we didn’t start at HD standard in this country…rather than the cram-it-in heavily compressed shite that passes for SD…..Digital radio falls much into the same category too….Give me classic FM sound .. any day….over cold…tinny DAB.

  • Channel 10 through their One HD channel is the only network to take sport seriously. What a huge surprise 9 and 7 haven’t followed 10’s lead, rather now sports on 9 and 7 are withering with no urgency to their coverage, no HD and rarely even live coverage. Back in the 90’s channel 9 was known as the home of sports, what a pale shadow of its former glory it is now.

  • what I can’t understand is why channels need a law to make them show live sport. Doesn’t showing a sport live improve ratings? so why delay it? And yes it does seem that the actions of the channels now render the HD feature of our televisions useless. I thought each broadcaster had to to show a minimum of 1040 hours of HD content a year, lately it seems most of them aren’t showing any. (except for One and ABC. Thank goodness One takes showing F1 and MotoGP in HD seriously!)not even any movies are being shown in HD anymore, let alone in 5.1 audio.

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