Sports betting ad trade off may reduce licence fees

The government is considering a trade off between sports betting ads and licence fees as it approaches this year’s federal budget.

The Turnbull government has been facing pressure from lobby groups and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon (who holds a key position of power in the tightly balanced federal parliament) to ban sports betting advertisements in live broadcasts of sporting matches. This would affect radio and tv coverage by reducing revenue.

Broadcasters are lobbying the government to give them other concessions if the betting ban goes ahead, such as a cut to licence fees.

While the radio industry has previously objected to a betting ads ban it may be able to be convinced not to lobby against the ban if it is offset by a cut to licence fees. Free to air broadcasters have already stated the position that the changing media landscape has rendered licence fees discriminatory in the face of competition from the internet, where no licence fees apply.

The political manoeuvering was covered today in an article by Nick Tabakoff in The Australian which said:

The federal government is closely examining the extension of its proposed ban on gambling advertisements during live sporting events, as Communications Minister Mitch Fifield prepares to take his final policy on the ads to cabinet.

A number of plans remain in play with the government proposal, including a “siren to siren” ban on betting ads — from the opening to the closing bell of matches — as revealed by The Australian last week… Fifield is now considering a further option: a betting ad ban from five minutes before the game begins to five minutes after it ends…

The senator who has driven the betting ban, Nick Xenophon, said last week: “Obviously, I support tightening gambling advertising … but if you want it to be sustainabl­e in the long term, you bring the broadcasting industry with you.”

He said this meant compensation for both free-to-air networks and subscription networks.

Free-to-air networks have been lobbying for licence fee reductions, while subscription TV, which does not pay such fees, has been looking for other compensation.

Arguing for a ban, Alliance for Gambling Reform spokesperson Tim Costello wrote in the Herald Sun today:

SPORTS such as footy and cricket have been a healthy, fun part of growing up for generations.

Kids would follow their favourite teams, look up to the players as role models, and memorise their team stats.

Now kids watching sport are being groomed to gamble, with an avalanche of advertising that’s unavoidable.

The federal government has a unique chance to stop the ads and keep our kids safe.

The gambling advertising is already having a profound impact on kids. Three in four kids can tell you the name of at least one sports gambling brand. Many can tell you without any prompting, details of the ads and “deals” they promote. We shouldn’t be surprised that one in five adults hit hard by gambling started before they turned 18.

We should be outraged that teenagers are four times more likely to wind up gambling heavily than adults.

It doesn’t have to be this way. As the evidence mounted about the health affects of tobacco, pressure increased to stop advertising during sports. Initially, the sporting codes and their allies pushed back, claiming the sky would fall without tobacco advertising revenue. But we stopped the tobacco ads then, and we can stop the gambling adverts now.

It’s not complicated. Government just has to close a loophole.

Whether the radio and tv industries will accept a sports betting ban traded off for a reduction in licence fees remains to be seen.

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