The rift between Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters and the subscription television association ASTRA has intensified amidst a clash over proposed legislative reforms.
The proposed reforms will determine the hierarchy of applications on smart TV interfaces. Expected to be tabled in parliament soon, the contentious bill has already sparked a legal confrontation.
SMH reports Free TV Australia, representing networks Nine, Seven, and Ten, has issued a legal challenge to Foxtel‘s Patrick Delany, ASTRA‘s chair, to retract an advertisement campaign they claim distorts the truth.
In a bold move, ASTRA launched an advertisement early November cautioning, “Warning: Now the government wants to control your TV”. Countering this, Free TV fired back this Monday with their campaign, rallying under the banner, “Don’t let big tech take your free away”.
This dispute is not limited to external parties; it has sown discord within ASTRA itself. Paramount, which owns Network 10 and Paramount+, has resigned from ASTRA following the advertisement’s release, shifting allegiance to support Free TV.
The legislative piece at the heart of the dispute, referred to as the prominence framework, would mandate smart TV manufacturers to prioritise free-to-air broadcasters’ video apps — such as ABC iview, 9Now, and 10 Play — over subscription services including Binge, Netflix, and Disney+ on home screens and in search results.
Free TV‘s legal representatives from Holding Redlich allege that ASTRA‘s advertisement campaign is “false and misleading” and contravenes Section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law. They have demanded not only the campaign’s cessation but also a public correction.
Foxtel and ASTRA, with legal defence from Allens Linklaters, have dismissed these allegations, sending a rebuttal on November 10.
The legislation, set to be introduced during parliament’s final session of the year, could significantly impact Foxtel‘s upcoming product launch, named Hubbl.
Delany has articulated the personal value of television, stating, “It’s not surprising that Australians don’t want the government meddling”, and advocating for a user-centric search functionality over a government-dictated system.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has voiced the government’s commitment to the legislation, emphasising the importance of accessibility to local television for Australian content, live events, and critical information.
This prominence legislation is one among four media reforms on the docket for the Albanese government, including gambling advertisement restrictions, revisions to anti-siphoning laws, and enforced content quotas for international streaming services.
Source – SMH