The anti-siphoning scheme prevents subscription TV from acquiring rights to broadcast sporting events on the anti-siphoning list if the rights to broadcast those events have not been already acquired by an FTA broadcaster. The anti-siphoning list includes events the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy believes should be made available free to the general public.
Inclusion on the anti-siphoning list does not guarantee a particular event will be shown on FTA television because FTA broadcasters are not currently required to broadcast events for which they acquire the rights, nor are they required to show the event live.
STV can acquire the right to televise an anti-siphoning event if a national broadcaster or commercial television broadcasters that cover more than 50 percent of the Australian population have the right to televise the event, or if the event has been automatically delisted. Automatic delisting refers to the removal of events on the anti-siphoning list 12 weeks before they commence. The minister can override the automatic removal of an event from the list if satisfied that a free-to-air broadcaster has not had a reasonable opportunity to acquire the rights to that particular event.
Proposed changes to the anti-siphoning scheme
On 25 November 2010, the Government announced reforms to the anti-siphoning scheme.
Summary Points of the Government's announcement
- a new two-tier anti-siphoning list, comprising an A-list of “iconic” events such as Grand Finals, cricket test matches, the Melbourne Cup and Bathurst 1000, which must be shown live and in full by free-to-air broadcasters on their main channel, and a B-list of events that can be broadcast on digital multichannels and with up to 4 hours’ delay;
- FTA networks will be required to show Tier A events live and in full while events on Tier B must also be shown in full and commence within four hours. Currently there are no requirements for coverage of events;
- use it or lose it provisions will require FTA networks to use the rights they acquire or offer them to other broadcasters under new “must-offer” rules - if no other FTA broadcaster takes up those rights the broadcasting rights must be offered to subscription TV;
- an extension to the automatic delisting period from 12 to 26 weeks (and up to 52 weeks for AFL and NRL), freeing up the sale of rights to listed events that free-to-air broadcasters have no interest in;
- an extension of the list to new media including IPTV or other online service providers;
- the new rules were expected to remove from the list those AFL and NRL games that currently screen exclusively on subscription TV. Before this removal occurs, however, the Government plans to introduce a mechanism to protect the quality of the games on FTA;
- the implementation of the changes requires amendment to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Legislation to implement the changes
Legislation to implement the Government’s reforms to the anti-siphoning scheme was introduced into Parliament on 22 March 2012. The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Anti-Siphoning) Bill 2012 (‘the Bill’) was referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for Inquiry.
The Report of the Committee’s Inquiry into the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Anti-Siphoning) Bill 2012 (‘the Bill’) was tabled in Parliament on 4 May 2012..
As at 1 July 2012, the legislation has yet to be passed. However, since announcing the reforms in 2010, the Government has routinely used current discretionary powers under existing legislation to permit commercial FTA broadcasters to broadcast anti-siphoning events on their multichannels.
Competition in sports broadcast rights drives innovation and choice to the benefit of the consumer, while increasing the potential revenues for sports bodies to re-invest in their sports communities. ASTRA and its members have consistently argued for reform of the anti-siphoning scheme as the list is the longest in the world and is an anti-competitive tool in Australian legislation.
Proposed changes to the list recognise that the terrestrial networks do not broadcast the majority of sporting events on the list. Currently 1,300 events are listed and until recently only 16 per cent were being shown live and only 25 per cent were being shown at all.
However STV is disappointed that some events that are not broadcast by the terrestrial networks have not been de-listed such as those matches of the Australian Open Tennis not broadcast by the terrestrial networks today. There also remain some very important details on the AFL, NRL and soccer that need to be finalised and ASTRA will work constructively with the Government on these critical aspects of the new scheme.
While ASTRA supports parts of the Government’s proposed changes to the anti-siphoning scheme, we are concerned that the public interest in enabling the availability on FTA television of major sporting events does not disproportionately override the equally compelling public interest rationale for ensuring a vibrant and competitive sports broadcast rights market.
In the longer term,convergence brings into question the rationale for the anti-siphoning scheme. Convergence is giving consumers an ever-increasing choice in platforms, services and providers through which they can access and view content. In such an environment, there is fast diminishing public policy justification and little logic in continuing to reserve preferential access to major sporting events to just one of those sources of content.
STV broadcasters (and other players in the media and communications environment) will continue to remain at a competitive disadvantage with FTA broadcasters in relation to access to sports content, while the sporting codes will continue to be limited with regard to whom they can sell their rights. The long-term efficacy of the anti-siphoning regime – a regulatory regime devised in the analog era – should be measured against clear criteria demonstrating that its benefits to consumers outweigh the loss to consumers through reduced competition and choice.
ASTRA submissions and releases
Government review and proposed reforms