Conroy’s Anti-siphoning game plan becomes clearer

In what could be sneak peak of †upcoming changes to the Anti-siphoning laws,†Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy has announced that during the Commonwealth Games, the anti-siphoning list will be relaxed. The rule change will allow Network Ten to have continuous, live free-to-air coverage of the 2010 Commonwealth Games from Delhi on their digital-only station One whilst Ten breaks for news bulletins on its main channel.

Senator Conroy said,†”the Gillard Government is a strong supporter of the Commonwealth Games and looks forward to following the Australian teamís involvement in Delhi.”

As part of the arrangement Network Ten will put together a highlights package each night covering those events broadcast exclusively on ONE during the news bulletin. This will ensure that those 26% of households without digital TVs or regional areas who still do not receive One will not miss those events that are broadcast during the news. The highlights package will be broadcast on Tenís main channel in prime time, on the same night as the events occurred.

Senator Conroy said, “Network Tenís commitment will ensure viewers can watch Tenís regular nightly news bulletin, and have the option to continue following live action from the Games on ONE.”

The announcement by Senator Conroy follows on from his relaxation of the Anti-siphoning rules during this year’s FIFA World Cup, where SBS were allowed to broadcast different FIFA World Cup matches on SBS One and SBS Two at the same time. Under the current rules SBS would not have been allowed to structure its broadcast in such a way because the FIFA World Cup is a listed event which means any match broadcast must be first run on a broadcaster’s main channel.

The move by Senator Conroy is smart. The digital multichannels are there to complement a broadcaster’s main station. Hopefully this relaxation in the rules will become permanent following the Government’s response to the Anti-siphoning review. If the relaxation does become permanent this will ensure that viewers can continue watching sport in the event of a network’s news commitments and not miss an important goal or spectacular catch!

A good example where such a rule would have stopped viewer anguish was during Seven’s coverage of this year’s Australian Open tennis. The highly anticipated match between Serena Williams v Sam Stosur clashed with Seven’s 6pm news bulletin. To the dismay of viewers Seven broke into its tennis coverage and went to the news, with no option for the viewer to continue watching the match. This was because Seven under the Anti-siphoning rules could not broadcast the match anywhere but its main channel because the Australian Open is a listed event.

However if the rules change permanently later this year and follow Senator Conroy’s announcement for the Commonwealth Games coverage on Ten, Seven could in the future switch their tennis coverage to 7Two or 7Mate when they have news and current affairs committments. This creates the best of both worlds for viewers.

Seventy-four percent of households now have digital-TV and the analog switch-off has already occurred in†Mildura and Sunraysia and is continuing across the country in coming months.

The time is now right for free-to-air networks to utilise the benefits of their digital-only stations by providing the viewer more viewing options. For example the ability to watch sport until the conclusion of the event without interruption from news bulletins. The Government has moved in the right direction by allowing Ten to continue coverage of the Commonwealth Games on One whilst its main station broadcasts the news. Lets just hope this becomes permanent.

The Government has confirmed that their response to the Anti-siphoning review will be announced shortly.

For those keen to watch the upcoming Commonwealth Games, Network Ten & One will provide around 200 hours of coverage, whilst Foxtel/Austar will provide over 1700 hours of coverage across 6 dedicated channels in standard & high definition.

Source & Further Information:

Live and continuous coverage of the 2010 Commonwealth Games

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