Harold Mitchell slams Foxtel's sport crusade

Harold Mitchell slams Foxtel's sport crusade
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Harold Mitchell has come out swinging in defence of the anti-siphoning list, after Foxtel’s Richard Freudenstein accused the free-to-air industry of a “medical addiction” to media regulation.

Mitchell, chairman of the FTA industry’s lobby Free TV, dismissed Foxtel’s calls to reduce the anti-siphoning list and argued for retransmission fees.

“It’s no surprise to see pay TV out there crying foul over television sporting rights. It’s more of the same from an industry that is about one thing – making people pay for stuff they would otherwise get for free.”

The comments came in response to Freudenstein, Foxtel’s CEO, address to the American Chamber of Commerce yesterday where he called again for a dual rights scheme for sporting broadcasts.

“Under this scheme there would be nothing to stop the free to airs acquiring exclusive rights to those events, if they were prepared to pay the market price,” Freudenstein said.

He said the anti-siphoning list was a “classic example” of seeking regulatory protection over market solutions.

“This addiction to media regulation is not a solution to anyone’s long-term problems.”

He also repeated the arguments he presented at last week’s Screen Forever conference in Melbourne where said handing the decision to sporting bodies would have benefits for all levels of sport.

Mitchell dismissed the dual rights scheme as a “fantasy” and a “pea and thimble trick that will see sports disappear from the television screens of ordinary Australians”.

Mitchell also said it was “not unreasonable” to expect subscription platforms to pay to retransmit FTA channels, like their counterparts in the US.

“The absence of a retransmission right in Australia is an outdated anomaly and we will be arguing that it should be fixed as part of the governments’ general regulation review.”

Freudenstein labelled the likening to the US experience “ridiculous” and said: “The idea that citizens who elect to take and pay for another service will be charged for what they are otherwise entitled to for free is offensive.”

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