The Anti-Siphoning List For TV Sports Isn't Going Away

One of the stranger features of the Australian TV landscape is the anti-siphoning rule: a list of key sporting events which free-to-air TV essentially has exclusive access to, blocking out pay TV platforms from bidding. Despite current plans to deregulate much of the local TV industry, the Federal Coalition government appears to have no plans to change that.

Picture: Getty Images/Mark Metcalfe

Discussing a planned removal of regulations that control much of the local TV industry, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Fairfax that there were no plans to change that arrangement:

The policy question for government is simply whether we want to continue with a free-to-air television system where ordinary Australians, who may not be able afford a Foxtel subscription, can nonetheless watch their favourite sport on free to air TV? This is a very Australian arrangement. In many countries, pay TV has been able to secure the rights to major sporting codes thus requiring sports fans to pay for a subscription. Our arrangements, which are very long-standing and are amended from time to time, strike a balance between egalitarianism and our sense of a fair go on the one hand and strict economic rationalism on the other.

That news will be pleasing to many sports fans and to people who don't like paying for Foxtel, and a source of annoyance to Foxtel's owners (including Rupert Murdoch, who has been angrily tweeting about the proposed reforms).

That said, the anti-siphoning approach isn't without its critics either. Free-to-air networks aren't obliged to show everything they bid for, so broadcasts are often delayed (NRL matches that are shown live in Sydney are often delayed in Victoria, for instance).

Free-to-air has also been very slack in broadcasting sports in HD, even though every commercial channel has an HD network available and could theoretically offer both SD and HD broadcasts. It's possible that could change this year, but we'll believe it when we see it.

Do you think the anti-siphoning list is a help or a hindrance? Tell us in the comments.

Malcolm Turnbull swings back at Murdoch over sports on free to air TV [SMH via TV Tonight]


    It's a pity this didn't seem to apply to the F1. What happened there?

    In case you haven't heard, Ten/One are only showing HALF of the F1 races each season for the next 5 years. The other half are going to be exclusive to Foxtel.

    Really bad news for F1 fans that can't/don't want to get Foxtel, especially considering it would cost you $50 per month minimum (for the basic package + the sports package) that will give you about 40 channels you don't want.

    Last edited 17/03/15 9:33 am

      Think you will find it applies to Australian sporting events - not overseas. Either way the Ten/Foxtel deal for the F1 (and V8 Supercars) sucks and there is no way I am paying for Foxtel just for those. Also Tens coverage spent most of its time spruiking its own awful shows and used "hosts" who had no idea about racing and F1.

        No, Wimbledon and the Olympics are on there (just off the top of my head).

    Thank you for covering this Angus.

    What - if any - implications does Turnbull's "discussions" have on the non-traditional entities such as Telstra, Optus, Apple, hell even Xbox/Nintendo perhaps putting a bid on tv sports one day?

    Foxtel can loudly cry blue murder all they want but at the end of the day, they still get their pound of flesh. A recent article had them mention the local sports don't have as much value as international juggernauts because of our fractured state-based parochialism. I can't remmeber where I read this.

    They are right, too. Take myself as a case study:

    In NT, we have equal passion for all three major football codes (and all sports, really). There's an AFL/NRL rivalry, to be sure, and a very multicultural society helps soccer remain prominent.

    But our local FTA television industry is a disgrace, which you toruch on. As an Aussie Rules fan I sadly am handcuffed to my Foxtel subscription.

    There are deals to allow simultaneous broadcasting on FTA and pay-TV. Most AFL games are on both 7 and Foxtel. Which gives the best of both worlds. Those that can pay get the perk of HD and those that don't/can't pay still get to watch the games.

    Which then annoys me intensely that this convenient arrangement suddenly stops for the Grand Final. For some obtuse reason it's only on 7. I can't understand how simulcasting it on Foxtel would in any way diminish the FTA availability.

    It wouldn't be so bad if only 7 would broadcast the final in HD rather than grainy SD. Again, I know there is the argument that some people (stuck in the dark ages) don't have a HD compatible digital tuner. In which case, why not simulcast it in SD on 7 and HD on 7mate?

    What is this ... the age of Charlemagne?

    I think the list is great for sports fans in Australia.

    However, I do think that once a free to air broadcaster has these rights they should be required to show adequate coverage.
    No sense in them hoarding programming but not showing it or showing it at a significantly later time than it happened.

    I cancelled my Foxtel, only then to read that the F1 Ten/Foxtel deal had gone through, so took up an offer for 3 months for $25 for the sports package. But I've not got HD. The Foxtel SD channels are very poor quality. And the ads! It was every 4 to 9 laps maximum they would split screens ads for 1 to 2 laps, and sound goes to the ads. It was such low quality I couldn't read anything on the F1 screen (my TV is 52in LCD). Dare I say, Ten does better there, even though they really up the ante with ads for the Aus GP.
    Think when it reverts to $50, I'll just cancel and watch the 10 FTA races, and download the other 10 after a few hours, they're available. It's too expensive, for crap, Foxtel.

    You'd barely know the cricket world cup was happening given 9 only covers Aus matches ... thanks Foxtel.

    Don't get me started about the lack of AFL ... yeah I can sign up at $50 a month for a load of crap that I don't want + sport ... thanks Foxtel.

    And then the anti-siphoning laws insist the primary station be SD and cover said list of sports. Unless (like 10 did a few years back) the station covers things like grand finals on two stations you get SD for some of the major sporting events in Aus.

    Lets start a review with a pay TV monopoly review - if the government is willing to pick a fight News Corp/Foxtel. Bring on IPTV for sport!!

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