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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26341


Senator CONROY (2:54 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. Is the minister aware that SBS has shown a live match from the English Premier League once a week for a couple of years and a highlights package for close to a decade? Is the minister also aware that Australian soccer fans may soon be denied the opportunity to view these programs on SBS and will have to pay hundreds of dollars a season to watch Socceroos Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell and Mark Schwarzer on television if all coverage of the English Premier League moves to Foxtel? Given that soccer is one of the most popular sports in the country, will the minister step in to assist negotiations between SBS and Foxtel to encourage SBS and Foxtel to reach an agreement and to do everything possible to ensure that some premier league soccer remains on free-to-air TV?


Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —I thank Senator Conroy for his question. My approach to these matters is that it is a matter for commercial negotiations between SBS and Foxtel as to how they will in fact deal with programming. I am aware that there is a lot of interest in the broadcasting of sports, and there is certainly a lot of interest in the government's rationale behind changes in the antisiphoning list, but that matter has been recently dealt with by the government. It has been well canvassed and it is not something that should be revisited in the context of the question that Senator Conroy asked.


Senator CONROY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the new sports broadcasting antisiphoning list released by the former minister in April this year. Minister, why does the list, which runs from 2006 to 2010, include the 2006 FIFA Soccer World Cup but not the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup? Is it the intention of the government to deny soccer fans the opportunity to watch the Socceroos at the 2010 Soccer World Cup on free-to-air television? Will the minister now join with Labor and guarantee to restore the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup to the antisiphoning list so that Australian soccer fans can continue to watch the World Cup on free-to-air television—and, if not, why not?


Senator COONAN (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —As I said in my earlier answer, we have reviewed the current arrangements. The government has determined that, with less than one in four Australian households currently having access to pay television services, the rationale for the antisiphoning scheme still exists. The government has developed a list which will protect listed events which take place between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2010. The new list retains nationally significant sporting events and adds new ones—specifically, the Olympic and Commonwealth games, both of which are obviously important to the Australian public. It is important that as many people as possible can have access to these events, and that is the rationale for the antisiphoning list: that as many people as possible can see these events without paying.