Turnbull swings back at Murdoch over sports on free
to air TV - 17th March
minister Malcolm Turnbull says saying Australians
should still be able to watch major sporting events
like the AFL and Olympics for free. Photo: Andrew
The right to watch top sporting events on free-to-air
television is a "very Australian arrangement"
that should be protected, Communications Minister
Malcolm Turnbull has declared.
comments that threaten to widen a rift between Mr
Turnbull and the billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch,
the minister said his decision to keep key sports
rights ringfenced for free-to-air broadcasters ensured
a "fair go" for all Australians.
Murdoch has criticised Mr Turnbull's decision to omit
changes to sports rights arrangements from his media
reform proposals to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott,
accusing him of pandering to his "buddies"
at free-to-air network owner Nine Entertainment Co.
chairman of News Corp, which owns 50 per cent of local
cable TV monopoly Foxtel, wrote on social media site
Twitter on Monday morning: "Aust! Turnbull's
plans to scrap certain rules suit buddies at Nine.
Can't oppose dumping all regs but not this. Nice to
see how MT plays."
in an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Turnbull
gave a robust defence of his decision, saying ordinary
Australians should still be able to watch major sporting
events like the AFL and Olympics for free.
policy question for government is simply whether we
want to continue with a free-to-air television system
where ordinary Australians, who may not be able afford
a Foxtel subscription, can nonetheless watch their
favourite sport on free to air TV?" Mr Turnbull
is a very Australian arrangement. In many countries,
pay TV has been able to secure the rights to major
sporting codes thus requiring sports fans to pay for
arrangements, which are very long-standing and are
amended from time to time, strike a balance between
egalitarianism and our sense of a fair go on the one
hand and strict economic rationalism on the other."
Turnbull said he had "encouraged" free-to-air
broadcasters, pay TV and sport organisations to work
together to see if they could agree on areas of reform.
"To date they have not been able to do so,"
had called for the anti-siphoning list of 1300 sporting
events currently reserved for free-to-air television
to be trimmed to allow the pay TV company to
bid directly for the rights to show the preliminary
rounds of overseas tournaments such as Wimbledon and
the US Masters Golf. It currently has to buy any sports
rights it gets from free-to-air owners if they are
wiling to sell.
minister also scotched suggestions by News Corp Australia
CEO Julian Clarke and Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein
that Foxtel customers would be forced to pay more
as results of changes Mr Turnbull has proposed to
would only mean that pay TV companies would have to
seek permission from the free-to-air networks in order
to rebroadcast their signal, just as, in fact, a free
to air broadcaster would need to seek permission from
Foxtel to rebroadcast one of its channels," said
idea that the free to airs would demand a fee for
such retransmission is hypothetical and in my view
minister's central recommendations, which he is seeking
the Prime Minister's approval to put to cabinet, are
that the government scrap Keating-era cross-media
ownership rules, a move which would allow more mergers
between TV networks, radio stations and newspapers.
has told Mr Abbott that he has found a broad consensus
for abolishing the 'reach rule', which limits coverage
of any TV network to 75 per cent of Australians, stopping
metropolitan broadcasters Seven, Nine and Ten
from merging with their regional affiliates.
Turnbull also said the industry supported his plan
to scrap the 'two-out-of-three rule', which bans a
company from owning a radio station, television network
and newspaper in the same market.
sources of news and entertainment have never been
as diverse as they are today so there is a very powerful
argument for not having industry specific rules of
this kind," he told Fairfax Media, adding the
internet has made the media market "more competitive
Turnbull said there was a "very powerful argument"
for letting the Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission ensure the market remained competitive.
he has suggested forcing less-regulated, lightly-taxed
tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter
to collect GST on advertising they sell in Australia,
saying it would "recover very substantial amounts
Australian media is under enormous pressure from online
platforms, notably Google and Facebook," Mr Turnbull
modest amounts of company tax both companies pay in
Australia has been a matter of great concern, here
as well as in other countries."
Entertainment Co chief executive David Gyngell welcomed
the idea. "I think it's a must," he said.
"I support the government in collecting taxes
from advertising sales on Google so it can offset
Gyngell has advocated the removal of the three commercial
networks' $160 million annual television licence fees.
A previous 50 per cent rebate on the licence fee was
made permanent in 2013.
Corporation declined to comment on the GST proposal,
as did Kerry Stokes's Seven West Media and Fairfax
Media, owner of BusinessDay and The Australian Financial
Review. Fairfax has already welcomed Mr Turnbull's
TV Australia chairman Harold Mitchell supported a
review of television licence fees, saying "we
have the highest licence fees in the world in a dramatically
changing media environment". "We put it
to the government that this needs immediate review,"
Mr Mitchell questioned the GST proposal. "A GST
on the products of Google and others does run the
danger of them passing it immediately on to the consumer,
GST doesn't taxes the company, it taxes
Turnbull's proposal] doesn't attack the real need
for a greater taxation on profits derived from Australia."
has been estimated that Mr Turnbull's plan could raise
up to an extra $240 million a year in GST revenue
for the states, considering Australian advertising
and search engine revenues are about $2.4 billion.
MinterEllison partner and GST specialist Bastian Gasser
dismissed this calculation. He said the actual amount
collected would be considerably lower because bigger
Australian companies who advertise on the digital
behemoths would simply claim back the tax.
should not impact on large advertisers who are registered
for GST because they would simply claim back any new
GST charged by Google etc as a result of Turnbull's
changes, as they currently do when they use local
websites/newspapers to advertise," Mr Gasser
Sydney Morning Herald)