Labor says free sports broadcasts under threat as Amazon and Paramount AFL circle

“What we have is analog legislation in a digital world. The rules need to be updated urgently to protect all Australians’ access to live, free sport.

Australia’s anti-siphoning laws were introduced in 1992 when Rupert Murdoch launched his pay-TV company Foxtel, to ensure the public could watch major sporting and cultural events for free. The legislation prevents Foxtel from bidding for broadcast until a free-to-air network has purchased them, but does not apply to online streaming services.

A Foxtel spokesman agreed the scheme needed reform, saying it was “anti-competitive, applying to some subscription platforms such as Foxtel but not others, while offering outdated protections for free television”.

The debate comes as the sport moves seriously online. Channel Seven’s free-to-air AFL broadcast audience has fallen by 18% over the past five years, while Foxtel’s has fallen by 13%. Pay-TV provider Kayo’s sports streaming service, however, has attracted more than one million paying subscribers.

A senior broadcast executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive business issues, said a company the size of Amazon could “fortunately suffer losses for many years to crush local media before have control over our sport”.

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