Free TV networks push for anti-siphoning laws to include streaming services

Australia's free-to-air broadcasters are campaigning for reforms to the anti-siphoning legislation.

Australia's free-to-air broadcasters are campaigning for reforms to the anti-siphoning legislation. Photo: TND

Australia’s free-to-air television broadcasters are campaigning to keep sport on their channels, in a push to avoid pay-gating the most-watched events on streaming services.

Channel Seven, the Ten Network, Channel Nine and the WIN Network have launched the ‘Free for Everyone’ campaign ahead of prominence and anti-siphoning legislation being debated on Tuesday.

It argued that the legislation, which means “iconic sports must be offered to TV broadcasters first so they don’t end up behind a paywall”, needs to be updated.

“It is outdated and only guarantees your free sport if you watch it via broadcast TV, not if you stream it over the internet,” the campaign’s website said.

“This is a problem, because we all know TV viewing is changing and more and more Aussies don’t have access to an aerial or choose to watch their favourite sports through apps like 7plus.”

It is calling for the government to update the anti-siphoning legislation to cover streaming as well as broadcast television because “there is nothing stopping Amazon Prime, Kayo and Netflix from buying all the digital rights to your favourite sports and making you pay if you want to stream your sport over the internet”.

The legislation

The first anti-siphoning laws were launched in 1995, giving free TV broadcasters first refusal for certain events as paid subscription television grew in popularity.

But now another form of media, streaming, is disrupting the playing field.

Pictured is Sam Kerr

Major sporting events – like every Australian men’s and women’s game during the football World Cup – are on the anti-siphoning list. Photo: Getty

The Albanese government released an updated anti-siphoning and prominence legislation for consultation in November.

It focused on pinpointing how and where Australian content is displayed on televisions and updating the legislation to reflect the changing media landscape.

Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said that “iconic sporting events and moments that bring us together as a nation won’t slip behind the online paywalls of international streaming services”.

“This bill promotes equitable access by Australians to free TV and sports coverage in the age of streaming services and connected TV devices,” she said when the draft legislation was released.

“These changes help support a strong and sustainable media industry that delivers for all Australians.”

The government stated that because streaming services are not currently subject to the legislation, there is “no legal impediment to them acquiring the rights to iconic sporting events ahead of local free-to-air broadcasters”.

Politics and sport

Appearing on Seven, former deputy prime minister and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce called for Australians to continue to be able to watch sport on free-to-air television as a way to support journalism.

“There are no journalists in your local town or suburb from Netflix or Stan or Binge,” he said.

“If your journalists dig into how the nation works, you have to make sure enterprises like that make money and if they don’t have free-to-air sport, they won’t make money.”

Currently, the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, the Melbourne Cup, the AFL grand final, NRL grand final, State of Origin, the Socceroos and Matildas World Cup games and qualifying, the World Cup final and the Australian Open tennis are some of the events included in the anti-siphoning list.

The minister has the power to add or remove events from the list.

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