Following on from last Friday’s news that the Turnbull government looks set to reform media ownership laws in Australia, comes news the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims agrees the laws – in a changing digital landscape – need to be overhauled.
Two weeks ago Sims finally agreed that Foxtel could buy a 15 per cent stake in Channel Ten and it is now being reported that he believes that sports broadcasting rights also need to be looked at with the advent of live streaming.
The current laws (known as the ‘two out of three’ laws) don’t allow for media players to own a newspaper, TV Station or radio network in the same market. While sports rights laws often favour free to air stations where big events must be shown live and for free.
Fairfax Media has got its hands on a copy of a speech Sims is to deliver today to the RBB Economics conference. In it, he will say: “While there are serious questions to be asked about the two out of three and the 75 per cent reach rules, we believe that, also for competition reasons, some form of anti-siphoning regime continues to be required.
“The concern is that, without the anti-siphoning regime, Foxtel could acquire exclusively all premium sport and reduce competition in the television viewing market. Access to this content drives viewers and so advertisers. While the anti-siphoning regime seems pro-competitive now, however, and should be kept in place, this may not always be the case.”
Sims is also concerned that social media players such as YouTube may secure rights to sporting events and charge viewers accordingly. “If this trend of streaming live sport is replicated in Australia, particularly via paid subscription models, the anti-siphoning regime may need revisiting, but we are not there yet.
In regards to the ‘two out of three rule’, Sims will argue it is becoming increasingly redundant as the internet allows people to watch and read any news site in the world.
“Indeed, we need to ask whether the two out of three rule is preventing the efficient delivery of content over multiple platforms, and should be reviewed to see whether it is still relevant for the preservation of diversity.
“Conversely, such a rule may give some firms the impression that they can be protected from technological change.”