When introduced, the anti-siphoning scheme was intended to ensure free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters had an opportunity to acquire broadcast rights for sporting events of national importance or cultural significance. The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth) prohibits STV licensees from acquiring rights to broadcast events on the anti-siphoning list if the rights to broadcast those events have not been already acquired by an FTA broadcaster. The anti-siphoning list includes events the Minister for Communications considers should be made available free to the general public.
STV can acquire the right to televise an anti-siphoning event if a national broadcaster or commercial television broadcasters that cover more than 50 percent of the Australian population have the right to televise the event, or if the event has been automatically delisted (which occurs 12 weeks before the commencement of an event). The minister can override the automatic removal of an event from the list if satisfied that a FTA broadcaster has not had a reasonable opportunity to acquire the rights to that particular event.
The anti-siphoning scheme directly limits competition between FTA broadcasters and STV for a wide range of sports content, representing a regulatory imbalance far greater than necessary to achieve the scheme’s public policy objectives. Reform of the anti-siphoning scheme to encourage greater competition in sports broadcast rights is in the interest of sports bodies and the sporting codes they represent and, ultimately, the general public who will benefit from more and better quality sports coverage on television.