The communications minister Mitch Fifield has said documents relating to the government’s $30 million taxpayer grant to Foxtel will remain confidential.
In the May Budget, treasurer Scott Morrison announced the taxpayer money would be used to promote women’s sport on the pay TV provider.
However, details of how the money would be spent remain sketchy and no additional programming has ever been scheduled.
Commentators at the time suggested the $30 million was merely a sweetener to the Rupert Murdoch-owned broadcaster following Seven, Nine and Ten having their licence fees slashed in the Budget and there was no intention to actually increase women’s sport coverage.
Yesterday, Fifield told ABC Radio Melbourne that the documents relating to the $30 million did not need to be made public as they were “cabinet documents, exempt under section 34 of the Act”.
Fifield also inferred the money was all part of the government’s media reform package that included a clamp-down on online gambling ads.
The minister also used his radio appearance to praise Foxtel for its coverage to women’s sport.
“We recognise that the free-to-air TV operators had the opportunity to offset some revenue losses against the licence fee reduction part of the package,” Fifield said.
“But we also recognise that subscription TV has a different operating environment. They don’t pay licence fees and therefore they don’t have the same offset opportunity.
“What we as a government didn’t want to see happen was that the effects of a decision in one part of the package, such as the gambling ad restrictions, would be to the detriment of women’s sport coverage on subscription TV.”
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