GEM gears up for Rugby but no further news on the Anti-siphoning amendments bill

The Nine Network have released details of its Tri Nations broadcast this Saturday. The match between the QANTAS Wallabies and New Zealand All Blacks from Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium is the decider in the series and a last hit out for both teams before this year’s Rugby World Cup in NZ. The match will be broadcast live on Nine in Sydney and Brisbane and in great news for rugby fans in southern states, the match will be broadcast live on Nine’s digital HD channel, GEM from 7:30PM to 10PM AEST (check local guides). This means viewers in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia will not have to wait until 11:30PM to watch delayed coverage on Nine of this all important Test Match.

The broadcast on GEM would not have been possible without the consent of the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy. This is because International Rugby Union Test Matches involving Australia in a Tri Nations or Spring Tour campaign are listed on the current Anti-siphoning list, meaning each Test must be premiered on a free-to-air primary channel.

Pursuant to the Broadcasting Services (Events) Notice (No. 1) 2010 (Amendment No. 10 of 2011) dated 4 August 2011, as made by the Minister pursuant to s115(2) of the Broadcasting Services Act, this year’s two Bledisloe Cup matches were removed from the Anti-siphoning list as follows:

  • the match to be played in New Zealand on 6 August 2011 between the senior Australian representative team selected by the Australian Rugby Union and the senior New Zealand representative team; and
  • the match to be played in Australia on 27 August 2011 between the senior Australian representative team selected by the Australian Rugby Union and the senior New Zealand representative team.
The reasoning behind the removal, according to the Explanatory Memorandum is to allow:
“…(but does not require) the free-to-air broadcasters that hold the broadcast rights to the matches of the 2011 Tri Nations series featuring the senior Australian representative team (the Nine Network and its affiliate stations) to premiere the two matches listed above on a digital multi-channel. It is anticipated that, as a result of this amendment, many television viewers will be able to watch live coverage of matches that would otherwise only be shown on the primary channel after a delay [emphasis added].

This is a good move by the Nine Network and Senator Conroy, but the question still remains when is the Commonwealth Government going to introduce into parliament the amendments to the Anti-siphoning laws? The amendments were promised earlier in the year but were not introduced in the last sitting of parliament. The amendments are now expected to be introduced during Parliament’s current sitting but there has been no confirmation of such.

Under the proposed amendments, International Rugby Test Matches involving Australia as part of a tri nations campaign will reside on the Tier B list. This means such listed events can be premiered on a multichannel only without the need for special exemption by the relevant Minister. The only Rugby Union Test Match on Tier A of the proposed new list is the Rugby World Cup Final. To see what sports are on Tier A & B of the proposed new list, click here.

One of the purposes of the multichannels is to provide choice and the move by Channel Nine for this weekend’s broadcast is again a perfect example of why the proposed amendments to the Anti-siphoning laws will provide greater choice for viewers, especially those in states where a sport such as rugby union would not garner a viable audience for prime time broadcast on a primary FTA channel.

It is time that the amending bill is introduced into parliament and as a result (if it is passed) regulatory certainty can be brought to the sports broadcasting market. As reported earlier by this website, the delays in the introduction of amending legislation has stalled broadcast rights negotiations for Australian Olympic broadcast rights post-London 2012.

The networks are willing to play ball and broadcast more live sport on the multichannels to service all audiences. However for the networks to be able to do this more readily, whether it be with Rugby Union, AFL, NRL or a host of other currently Anti-siphoning listed sports, the Government must introduce the amending bill. The proposed amendments were first announced in December 2010, it is now 9 months later and there is still no word on when the amendments will not only be introduced into parliament but if they do pass the legislative process when they will take effect in law. According to the House of Representative’s website an amending bill will not be introduced during this week’s session but hopefully will be in the near future.

To ensure sporting bodies have the best chance to properly negotiate upcoming broadcasting rights deals by selling a package to broadcasters maximising all the various distribution platforms in this digital economy , the amendments need to be introduced as soon as possible. This state of flux is beneficial to no one.

For the record you can also catch this Saturday’s Tri Nations decider live on FOX SPORTS 3 & 3HD from 7PM Eastern.


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