New media laws to ‘level the playing field’ for free TV

Free-to-air channels will be guaranteed front of place on smart TVs under new laws designed to “level the playing field” of Australia’s media landscape.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland brought forward prominence laws which would allow for catch-up TV services to be prioritised on smart TVs over other subscription streaming services like Netflix.

Under the laws, manufacturers of smart TVs would also be required to make sure free-to-air channels would be easily discoverable.

Ms Rowland said the rise of new online services had made the market more difficult for free-to-air providers.

“Free-to-air broadcasters are not competing on a level playing field,” she told parliament on Wednesday.

“There is a material risk that free-to-air television broadcasters will be crowded out by the larger international services operating in the Australian market.”

As part of the proposal, smart TV makers would be subject to minimum prominence requirements for free-to-air services, with non-compliant devices being banned.

Manufacturers would not be allowed to put their own advertising into on-demand services provided by free-to-air stations.

Under the changes, only new devices would be subject to the laws, following a transition period.

“It is imperative that (free-to-air) services are easily available to audiences on the devices that are commonly used to access TV content,” Ms Rowland said.

The minister also introduced laws to parliament updating anti-siphoning measures that would require important sporting events to be offered to free-to-air services first before it goes behind a paywall.

The new anti-siphoning measures would be updated to stop online streaming services from securing the rights to major events before free TV had a chance to bid for it.

“All Australians regardless of where they live, or what they earn, should have the opportunity to enjoy free TV coverage of iconic sporting events,” Ms Rowland said.

“These are events that created shared experiences, foster a sense of collective Australian identity and contribute to grassroots community by sports participation.”

The anti-siphoning list of events will also be updated, to include more women’s sporting fixtures, following the success of the Matildas at the Women’s World Cup earlier this year.

The Women’s World Cup will be given the same prominence as the equivalent men’s event, while the finals of the NRLW and AFLW will also be included, along with the women’s Ashes, women’s State of Origin and all Paralympic events.

“These additions will ensure the consistent and inclusive treatment of nationally important and culturally significant events, regardless of the gender or the disability status of the athletes competing in them,” Ms Rowland said.

Free TV chief executive Bridget Fair welcomed the new laws in parliament

“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,” she said.

“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.”


Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)


Like This