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.