Free to Air Prominence proposal for new television sets

Free to Air Prominence proposal for new television sets

The Federal Government has released its Draft legislation which will require TV manufacturers to give Free to Air networks a visible presence on new television set interfaces.

The ‘prominence’ fight  between Free to Air networks and Subscription TV parties has been well documented, with networks arguing Free to Air services should be easily locatable on home screens of television sets amid claims ‘big tech taking away your Free TV.’

Parties such as Foxtel have argued such moves are anti-competitive and suggesting Federal Government is ‘taking control of what and how Australians watch their TVs.’

The release of draft regulations now follows the introduction of the Communications Legislation Amendment (Prominence and Anti-siphoning) Bill 2023 in November.

If passed, the prominence framework will introduce ‘must carry’ obligations on device manufacturers to reduce the risk of free-to-air broadcasting services being crowded out by the larger, international services such as Google, Apple, and Amazon.

Following a transition period, manufacturers of connected television devices will have to meet minimum prominence requirements for new devices. specifying they must:

  • provide access to regulated television services;
  • pre- or auto-install free-to-air video on demand services; and
  • present separate tiles, tabs or links to provide easy access to each free-to-air video-on-demand television service.

The requirements will not apply retrospectively to existing television sets, and will not affect hardware or other ancillary equipment, such as remote controls.

The proposed framework and draft regulations will also not constrain device manufacturers from promoting or recommending other content or services, or affect search results or device customisation by consumers.

This means viewers are still free to rearrange apps such as 7plus, 9Now, 10play, iview and SBS on Demand.

Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland said, “Local, free-to-air television informs and entertains all Australians, contributing to our shared sense of identity and cultural life.

“That’s why our prominence reforms help ensure free local services remain easily accessible to Australian audiences on their connected television devices, even as technology changes.

“The draft regulations set out how the Government would achieve that in practice, and have been released to provide greater detail on the proposed prominence requirements.

“The Albanese Government’s new prominence framework delivers on our election commitment to modernise media laws and level the playing field, recognising the important role that free-to-air broadcasters continue to play for Australians – matter where they live or what they earn.”