Senator Stephen Conroy has held a press conference in Canberra, announcing the changes to the Anit-siphoning laws, which govern what sport can be seen on free to air TV in Australia.
New provisions include the ability to flick an event over to digital free to air multi-channels should an event run overtime – this will eliminate missing out on sport when a network choses to go to its 6pm news on time rather than staying with the sport and delaying news. There is also a provision that determines that certain events have to be shown live and in full, while being able to show AFL and NRL games on multichannels will give the networks greater flexibility in scheduling and allow different matches to be shown into different markets.
With AFL, the separate lists for each state will continue – which in essence means the games that have to be shown on free to air TV are taylored to the local market. For example – in WA, a Fremantle Vs West Coast AFL game will always be shown live and on free to air, but, at the same time, Victoria would see another game of more interest to them. The NRL may move to a similar system, but that will not be decided until March 2011 when the NRL sets up a regulatory body.
Minimum live hours also means that an event can be shown live on digital multi channels and then played later on the network’s main channel. It will also mean more live coverage for events like the Olympics. What is not clear so far is if the new provisions for multi chanenl coverage will allow a free to air network to use all THREE of their digital channels to provide a multi channel coverage of major meets like the Olympics Games. Surprised that quesiton was not asked at the news conference.
World Cup Soccer qualifying games may also be added to the free to air list, but not until existing pay TV contract runs out in 2014.
Here is the press release:
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy today announced a series of reforms to the anti-siphoning scheme that will enhance television coverage of key sporting events in Australia.
“The Gillard Government wants Australian sports fans to see major sporting events for free as they have always done and these reforms will ensure that Australia’s anti-siphoning scheme remains the strongest in the world,” Senator Conroy said.
“Our most popular and iconic sports will remain available to all Australians and the changes will allow free-to-air channels to take advantage of digital multi-channels to show more sport and show it live.”
The Government’s reforms are outlined in the position paper Sport on Television: Reform of the Anti-Siphoning Scheme and mark the culmination of an extensive process of engagement and consultation.
The main changes to the scheme are:
- The introduction of two tiers of events on the anti-siphoning list – Tiers A and B
- Tier A will comprise nationally iconic events such as the Melbourne Cup, Bathurst 1000 and finals of major Australian tournaments like the NRL and AFL Premiership. Free-to-air broadcasters will be required to broadcast these events live and in-full, with limited exceptions.
- Tier B will comprise events such as the regular games of the AFL and NRL premierships seasons, and non-finals games of the Australian Open tennis. Free-to-air broadcasters will have the flexibility to televise these events on digital multi-channels, which will increase their capacity to show more sport on free-to-air television.
Senator Conroy said sports fans were at the centre of the Government’s reforms.
“Allowing broadcasters to use digital multi-channels will see a dramatic increase in the total coverage of sport and give flexibility for broadcasters to show more events live,” Senator Conroy said.
“Broadcasters will have the capacity to televise AFL games in Sydney or NRL games in Melbourne, live on a digital multi-channel, rather than providing it on long delay on their main channel. This will save many hours of sleep for avid fans who happen to live in the wrong city.”
In addition, the reforms will introduce ‘must-offer’ obligations on the free-to-air broadcasters, requiring them to televise anti-siphoning listed events they acquire or offer those rights on to another broadcaster. This will prevent rights to important sporting events going unused.
“No longer can a free-to-air broadcaster purchase an iconic national event, and then not show it at all. In these circumstances, they must now offer it on to another free-to-air broadcaster to show it,” Senator Conroy said.
The anti-siphoning list has also been updated, with popular and emerging sports such as Twenty20 cricket matches involving Australia added to the list. Australian events that are no longer broadcast on free-to-air television – for examples NRL and AFL games only shown on pay television – and less popular overseas events – for example non-Australian group games of the Rugby Union World Cup – have been removed from the list.
The Government is also today releasing the report of the statutory review of the anti‑siphoning scheme conducted in late 2009, Sport on television: a review of the anti‑siphoning scheme in the contemporary digital environment.
The review process was central to the development of the reform and the views expressed by industry participants and members of the general public helped to shape the Government’s decision. Over 330 submissions were made to the review.
The implementation of these reforms will require amendment to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Amending legislation will be drafted over the coming months and introduced into the Parliament as soon as possible.
Changes to the anti-siphoning list will be implemented shortly, although changes to the listing of NRL and AFL games will only be made once a regulation is in place or an alternative mechanism to protect the quality of free to air games is agreed by stakeholders. The Government will also seek to finalise the rules around the listing of FIFA World Cup and Socceroos World Cup Qualifier games. The current list expires on December 31 2010.
“These reforms to the anti-siphoning regime ensure that it continues to be the strongest such regime in the world, protecting the interests of free to air viewers as we move into the digital multi-channel era” said the Prime Minister.
To view the Government’s position paper Sport on Television: Reform of the Anti-Siphoning Scheme, the report of the statutory review Sport on television: a review of the anti‑siphoning scheme in the contemporary digital environment and the new Tier A and Tier B anti-siphoning lists visit: www.dbcde.gov.au/anti-siphoning