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Parliament rushes to lift restrictions on high definition coverage of AFL, NRL grand finals -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: New laws are being rushed through the Federal Parliament to allow television stations to broadcast the AFL and NRL grand finals in high definition.

Long-suffering sports fanatics have been waiting for something to be done about the restrictions that keep major sporting events in low resolution.

But the change may come too late for the 2015 footy season.

Here's political reporter Melissa Clarke.

(Sound of footy crowd cheering)

COMMENTATOR: GI's going to score! He's going to put another nail in the coffin! And the goanna crawls...

MELISSA CLARKE: When the South Sydney Rabbitohs broke a 43 year drought to become NRL premiers last year their supporters rejoiced.

(Sound of footy crowd cheering)

COMMENTATOR: Absolutely incredible scenes here of jubilation and joy!

MELISSA CLARKE: But for the Bunnies fans watching at home it wasn't quite as good as it could've been. Channel Nine's broadcast of the grand final was in standard definition, not high definition.

But that's not Channel Nine's fault. It has to.

All free-to-air broadcasters are forced to use standard definition for their main channels and major sporting events can't be shown on secondary channels where high definition is permitted because of anti-siphoning laws.

So that leaves major sports events stranded in low resolution, but not for much longer.

SPEAKER: The question is that this bill be now read a second time. All of those of that opinion say aye.

(Sound of people saying "aye")

Contrary no. I think the ayes have it.

MELISSA CLARKE: Last night the Government and Opposition rushed a bill through the House of Representatives to scrap the restriction.

The Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull says it'll pass the Senate swiftly too.

MALCOLM TURNBULL: At least there is no legal impediment to the football grand finals being broadcast in high definition. Of course, it's entirely a matter for the broadcasters to do that.

MELISSA CLARKE: Despite the haste a high-definition grand final or Melbourne Cup might not be seen this year according to Labor's communications spokesman Jason Clare.

JASON CLARE: That may not be possible. I understand from the briefings we've received that a number of technical upgrades and changes are required.

And this legislation, to be fair, could've and should've been introduced a couple of months ago to enable that to happen.

Australians justifiably expect that the shows and events they want to watch will be broadcast using the best technology available.

MELISSA CLARKE: The restriction was introduced nearly 15 years ago at the beginning of the switchover from analogue to digital television broadcasting.

At that time few people had HD-enabled televisions and the mandate to broadcast in standard definition ensured no-one was left without coverage.

But HD is now close to universal, making the restriction redundant.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Communications Paul Fletcher says the Government has recognised times have changed.

PAUL FLETCHER: This is a measure which reduces, removes a regulatory requirement which is out of date, no longer does useful work, and will, as a consequence, deliver a significant consumer benefit.