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2GB Sydney Live with Ben Fordham

FORDHAM: 
A lot of frustrated cricket fans out there. Because under this broadcast deal announced this afternoon, from cricket Australia, the 1.2 billon dollar deal over 6 years with Foxtel and channel Seven.

Test matches you will be able to watch them on free to air but not one-day international‘s and not T-20 internationals, even though the anti-siphoning laws clearly state that those events should be on free to air TV. So how do they explain all of this? Well, I figure we should go straight to the Communications Minister and that’s Mitch Fifield

He joins us live on the line. Mitch Fifield, good afternoon sir.

MINISTER: 
Good afternoon Ben.

FORDHAM: 
I’m guessing you are right across the details of this deal?

MINISTER: 
Yes, the CEO of Cricket Australia gave me a buzz this afternoon, just as a courtesy, to let me know of the agreements that they had entered into. But, there’s a few things here which I think need spelling out in relation to the anti-siphoning list. And let me make clear, the government doesn’t have a role in the negotiations between sporting bodies and commercial broadcasters. They called the anti-siphoning list. And it has a range of sporting events across different codes. And what the anti-siphoning list does is it gives free to air TV the first opportunity to negotiate for sporting events. It doesn’t guarantee or mandate that those sporting events are on free to air TV. It just gives those free to air broadcasters the first opportunity.

FORDHAM: 
So the anti-siphoning list, you’re saying it does not require these sporting codes to enter agreements whereby these events will be on free to air TV even though, that is the way you’d have to expect most people in the general public understand it, that is why you have the list Minister, you have the list there, so we know that we are going to be able to watch the AFL grand final or the rugby league grand final or one-day international cricket or T-20 international cricket on free to air?

MINISTER: 
Well, as I say, the anti-siphoning list, it gives the free to air broadcasters the first right to negotiate. It doesn’t mandate that free to air broadcasters have to purchase events. It doesn’t mandate that if they do purchase events, that they’ve got to show them. And it doesn’t mandate that if they do purchase events, that they can’t then on-sell them to other platforms.

FORDHAM: 
Well, what is the point of the list?

MINISTER: 
Well, the list which has been around since well before I was the Minister and well before we were in government, is there to increase the likelihood that some of these significant events are on free TV. But it is not possible for any government to mandate that free to air broadcasters have to purchase certain events. What it does, is it gives them the first opportunity and makes it more likely that these events will be on free to air TV.

FORDHAM: 
Did you express your desire as Minister to see these events, like one-day international cricket and T Twenty international cricket remain on free to air TV?

MINISTER: 
Well, as a minister, all I can do is ensure that there are certain events on the list. They’re there. It’s then entirely up to the sporting bodies and the free to air broadcasters to enter negotiations...

FORDHAM: 
But you can’t say as a minister, “listen you do realise this is going to go down like a lead balloon, when people find out that they are no longer going to be able to watch these events on free to air TV”. You can express that to them surely?

MINISTER: 
When I’m asked, I always say that there are certain events that Australians hold dear. And that Australians would like to have ready access to. That is a view that I put when I’m asked. But beyond that, the law is the law. It gives the free to airs the opportunity to negotiate, to make that first offer. But beyond that It is then up to the sporting bodies and the broadcasters.

FORDHAM: 
Are you disappointed Mitch, that sports fans are not going to be able to watch one-day international’s and T-twenty internationals on free to air TV?

MINISTER: 
As a minister, I really have to leave it to the broadcasters. I really have to leave it to the sporting bodies. It is not my role, it is not the role of government, to be in there as part of negotiations.

Obviously, I am very happy that test cricket will be on free to air TV. And I don’t think Australians would accept for a second if test cricket wasn’t on free to air TV.

FORDHAM: 
So you think they will cop it because it is not test cricket, it is one day International and T Twenty international. I can remember being in Parliament House when Stephen Conroy was the Communications Minister and the anti-siphoning list was up for discussion and, I remember him being very passionate, Mitch, about saying these things need to remain on the list and I think the general public had an expectation that the list is there for a reason as opposed to the reasons you have outlined today – which is, “look it is the likelihood that it should be on free to air TV”.

I think the bloke at the pub will say “rip up the list, the list is useless.”

MINISTER: 
Well the list does give a degree of protection. And I heard Tim Worner, the CEO of Seven at the press conference today, say that because of the anti-siphoning list there is more cricket on free to air than would’ve been the case in its absence. So, the list is there. We are not altering the list. And we do have to, as a government, allow sporting bodies and broadcasters to enter their own arrangements. But having the list there is a degree of protection and does increase the likelihood that more events are on free to air.

FORDHAM: 
It is a very thin form of protection, I’d have to say Minister, because based on what we’ve seen this afternoon, there is a likelihood that down the track test cricket, AFL grand final, NRL grand final, could go exactly the same way. Because they are on the same list…

MINISTER: 
Well, I guess the question is, should any government have the power to mandate and force any private business to purchase particular products and particular events?

FORDHAM: 
I reckon you better rip that list up. But, anyway, you will deal with the general 
public and the cricket fans who are pretty dirty about this this afternoon. But I suppose a lot of that anger will be directed towards Cricket Australia - because they are the ones that did the deal right?

MINISTER: 
Well, look, ultimately it is up to the broadcasters and it’s up to the sporting bodies to justify the arrangements that they have entered into and justify the deals that they have done to the sporting public.

FORDHAM: 
Do they have to offer it some other way? Does Foxtel have to offer those cricket matches in some other way, whether that be by devices or streaming or something else?

MINISTER: 
Well, there aren’t any regulations that cover what it is that subscription TV needs to do when they have these particular events but I would imagine that they would be endeavouring to give these the widest possible access.

FORDHAM: 
I appreciate your time minister. Thank you very much for joining us. Mitch Fifield speak exclusively to us this afternoon.

[ends]