Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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    Access to local TV services and free sport threatened by proposed legislation, warns Free TV

    Millions of Australians may lose access to major sporting events and free television services on digital platforms unless significant amendments are made to the proposed Prominence and Anti-siphoning Bill, cautioned Free TV, the peak body representing free-to-air broadcasters like Seven, Nine, and Ten.

    According to Bridget Fair, chief executive officer of Free TV, the current version of the bill fails to ensure the availability of free sporting coverage for those relying on internet-based television viewing. Additionally, it imposes an excessively lengthy timeline to secure access to local TV services on smart TVs.

    Said Fair, “These two major oversights must be fixed to protect the free universal access of local TV services and sport for every Australian.”

    Free TV is calling for the following changes to the bill:

    • Reduce the implementation period from 18 months to a maximum of six months
    • Extend the rules to existing TVs that receive software updates
    • Ensure that viewers are presented with both free and paid options when searching for content
    • Require electronic TV guides to include local free TV services

    • Require that both the free broadcast and free digital streaming rights be acquired by a free broadcaster before the event can be acquired by a pay TV or subscription streaming provider
    • Do not extend the automatic de-listing period from six to 12 months as many sporting events are acquired within this timeframe

    The bill will prevent subscription streaming giants such as Amazon, Apple, and Disney from acquiring exclusive terrestrial broadcast rights to major sporting events like the Olympics and NRL.

    However, it allows these platforms to obtain exclusive digital rights, potentially excluding millions of Australians who access free sports content through platforms like 7plus, 9Now, and 10 Play.

    “As the proportion of households watching TV online grows to half by 2027, the anti-siphoning list will be fundamentally undermined if it does not apply to digital rights,” said Fair.

    “Bidding for sport will become commercially un-viable if free-to-air broadcasters can only acquire a narrow range of terrestrial rights, leaving paid services to acquire all sporting events.

    “This is exactly the nightmare scenario the government is trying to avoid with this bill – so it must be amended to reflect modern viewing habits.”

    See also: Mediaweek’s A to Z of 2023: F is for Free TV

    The post Access to local TV services and free sport threatened by proposed legislation, warns Free TV appeared first on Mediaweek.

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