Thirty-million dollars of taxpayer’s money awarded to Foxtel in this year’s budget appears to have vanished, a report by the ABC has found.
The cash was promised to Foxtel’s Fox Sports to help promote women’s and other underrepresented sports; however, there are now suggestions it was merely a sweetener to the Rupert Murdoch-owned media organisation after competitors Seven, Nine and Ten had their TV license fees cut.
This year’s federal budget included a measure worth $30 million over four years to “support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports, and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation”.
However, when ABC Radio Melbourne’s Mornings program requested a Freedom Of Information request seeking correspondence between Foxtel and the Department of Communications regarding the missing millions it found no such documents existed.
The ABC reporting: “In declining access, the Legal Director for the Department of Communications and the Arts ‘refuse(d) access to the requested documents under subsection 24A(1) of the FOI Act, as I am satisfied that documents falling within the scope of your request do not exist’.”
Neither Foxtel nor the communications minister, Mitch Fifield, have made any public comment on the ABC’s allegations.
Other bodies, such as Women Sport Australia, a non-profit organisation that advocates for women and girls in sport, has also queried why the promised money hasn’t materialised into more women’s sport coverage on Foxtel.
“This is $30 million of taxpayers’ money so I think the public would also like to know what the terms and conditions around this deal are,” said Women Sport Australia’s Louise Evans, her comments reported on the ABC.
While Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland was equally as scathing, saying the $30 million “package is not based on evidence, has little substance, and contains no real vision for the future of Australian media”.
“The Australian media industry has been waiting over four years for meaningful reform, but all Mitch Fifield is capable of is poorly planned political deals and trade-offs,” Rowland said.