Team goals for radio with the anti-siphoning scheme

You may have read earlier today that the network leaders of Nova, ARN, SCA and Nine Radio have come together to call on the Senate Inquiry into the Communications Legislation Amendment (Prominence and Anti-siphoning) Bill 2023 to include radio in their recommendations to be delivered this week.

What does this mean if radio isn’t included? And first a warning: several sporting metaphors ahead.

The Australian Government website says, in short, that “the anti-siphoning scheme aims to give free-to-air broadcasters an initial opportunity to buy the television rights to major events included on the anti-siphoning list.

If you are a sports fan like myself the list of what Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has classified as major events makes for interesting reading.

It includes what I would consider all the usual suspects like the Olympics and Commonwealth Games but beyond that the breakdown is fascinating. Netball is included but not basketball (go the mighty JackJumpers!), every single game of the regular NRL and AFL seasons but none of the rugby union. The Bathurst 1000 and Australian Grand Prix are there, but no golf. And the one day when everyone has a flutter, The Melbourne Cup, will also proposedly never go exclusively behind a paywall.

Before I move onto the implications if this Bill is delivered without the inclusion of radio I want to mention an NRL story which slipped through to the keeper a couple of weeks ago (a mixed sporting metaphor if ever you’ve heard one).

Rabbitohs fans avert your ears.

On Thursday March 14 the Brisbane Broncos beat South Sydney 28-18. Someone from Triple M nabbed the Bunnies fullback Latrell Mitchell on the sidelines post-match and an unhappy Mitchell dropped several swear words during the radio cross that was also put up on social media (it has since been removed).

I like Latrell, which I suspect will get more comment than the point of this article. He is a loose cannon absolutely not controlled by the hierarchy of the game. Because Latrell’s passionate outburst drew attention to the lack of performance by the team, South Sydney (and Nine) went to the NRL and said that Triple M didn’t have permission to film interviews post matches and those rights belonged to Nine (free to access) and Fox Sports (pay to view).

An email was later sent to affiliated stations by the NRL (and seen by the Sydney Morning Herald – subscription required), saying, ‘Radio partners have audio only rights to NRL matches.’

I wonder if that standard will be applied to the 2GB and 3AW (Nine Radio) social media pages too?

If the Communications Legislation Amendment (Prominence and Anti-siphoning) Bill recommendations apply to just free to air television, and not radio and smart speakers, it will mean progressively more of petty instances like the above. Or no free to air audio access if the rights to one of the major events goes to a TV station not affiliated with radio at all. As radio increasingly embraces the visual, particularly on social media, allowing stations only the audio aspects feels rather like putting the horse in the wrong way around at the starting gates.

Michelle Rowland though has genuinely been an ambassador for radio since she became Communications Minister saying at the 100 years of Commercial radio celebrations last year:

“At the heart of our media reform agenda is the need to level the playing field for industry, and support the interests of citizens and consumers. To that end, I remain committed to considering the prominence of Australian radio services – similar to our work we are progressing to legislate a prominence framework for connected televisions in Australia.”

So I’d like to think she’s got our backs. Or is our back row defence, if you like.

We shall see.

Jen Seyderhelm is a writer, editor and podcaster for Radioinfo
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