- Legislation will give Free to Air networks prominence on new Smart TVs
- Anti-siphoning rules set to include Streaming platforms
Legislation to give Australian Free to Air apps prominence on television menus is being introduced into federal parliament this week.
The proposal is aimed at addressing pre-installing subscription apps on TVs, overshadowing Free to Air networks, including public broadcasters.
A fierce debate has descended into arguments supposedly around governments ‘taking control of what and how these Australians watch their TVs’ versus ‘big tech taking away your Free TV.’
The government will fall down on the side of Free to Air networks withMinister Rowland saying the new prominence framework would reduce the risk of free-to-air broadcasting services being crowded out by the larger, international services operating in the Australian market.
“Our existing analogue laws haven’t been updated to reflect the digital age,” CommunicationsMinister Rowland said.
“The rise of global streaming services means Australians could miss out on the free content and services they have enjoyed for generations, with free local services becoming harder to find on connected devices.”
The fine detail is yet to be revealed.
The government is also expanding the Anti-Siphoning List, which gives free-to-air television first dibs on major sports rights, to encompass streaming platforms.
“Modernising the anti-siphoning scheme will mean the iconic sporting events and moments that bring us together as a nation won’t slip behind the online paywalls of international streaming services,” Minister Rowland said.
“These reforms have been informed by extensive consultation with industry and the community.”
Sports included on the anti-siphoning list include the AFL, the Melbourne Cup, the Australian Open and Test Cricket, as well as the Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
The minister can choose to add or remove events from the anti-siphoning list at any time, but legislation is required to expand the rules to include streaming services.
Free TV Australia:
Free TV CEO Bridget Fair said “Right now, Australian viewers are being steered in the direction of services that favour the commercial interests of big tech and TV manufacturers rather than being given access to the full set of free local television services that they want to watch. This legislation is an important step towards ensuring that people are not being served up incomplete viewing choices based on who has paid the most money to be in the line-up.
“While we are still awaiting full details of the legislation it is clear that there are still a few issues to be resolved with the Government’s proposed model. We look forward to participating in the next stage of discussions around this important issue.”
“Being able to share in the sporting moments that bring Australians together as a nation is also fundamental to our community. It’s important that the Government has reaffirmed that live and free access to key sporting events remains a central part of the Australian way of life. With cost-of-living pressures top of mind for Australians, we cannot allow access to key sporting events to be limited by the subscriptions Australians can afford, their internet access or their data plan.
“The expansion of the current anti-siphoning rules to apply to subscription streaming services is an important new measure. However there is still an element of analog rules in a digital world with the failure to include free streaming rights in the proposed model. Australians should be able to watch key sporting events whether they choose to access our services through terrestrial broadcast or online streaming.”
“We are pleased to see the Government has taken on board our concerns with restricting search and customisation on smart TVs which would have led to significant frustration for consumers. We will need to examine the detail of the legislation and in the meantime will continue to advocate for Australian’s right to control their TVs and connected devices they spend thousands on every year and enjoy with their families,” a Foxtel Group spokesperson said.
“Research shows that 1 in 2 Australians with a smart TV don’t know how to change the layout of their apps. This needs to be considered along with the implications of changing a user interface we have invested millions in across both our Foxtel and soon-to-launch Hubbl operating systems.”
On the Anti-siphoning extension they added, “This could have been a great opportunity for the Government to bring anti-siphoning laws into the 21st century to reflect viewing habits of Australians today and to protect the future value of much-loved Australian sport. The regime is already anti-competitive and clearly favours free-to-air broadcasters above Australians and above the needs of sporting bodies whose ability to invest in grassroots will be limited.
“Foxtel Group was advocating that truly iconic events of national significance could be streamed free via our free streaming platform that has been built and invested in locally and is used by more than a million Australians. The outcome adversely affects technology platforms like ours that have a greater capability to invest in world-class innovation to enhance the broadcast experience for Australians.”