Free Aussie Sports Coverage Threatened by Restrictive Gambling Rules

As reported by The Guardian, Free TV Australia, the peak industry body that represents Australia’s commercial free-to-air TV broadcasters, warned that additional restrictions to gambling ads can have consequences. Free TV Australia dismissed such proposals and explained that rights to sports events are very expensive. Moreover, the peak industry body’s chief executive officer, Bridge Fair, said that sports rights are difficult to acquire and reiterated that they are “one of the most expensive types of programming.”

According to Free TV Australia, further restrictions on gambling ads may impact the free sports coverage delivered by broadcasters. Fair also explained that the sector is significantly competitive. At the same time she outlined that for many broadcasters, advertising represents “the only source of revenue.”

“Sports rights are incredibly expensive. They’re one of the most expensive types of programming that we acquire so obviously that’s going to be harder.“

Bridget Fair, chief executive officer of Free TV Australia

A report from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation claimed that in 2021, there was an average of 948 gambling ads on free-to-air TV broadcasted daily. Speaking about that report, Fair rejected the claim that there are close to 1,000 gambling ads, saying that the average number was less than 200. Furthermore, she pointed out that if a person, on average, watches two or three hours of TV a day, they may come across two or three gambling advertisements.

Sports Events Should Be Broadcasted for Free

Under the existing regulatory framework, gambling advertising is restricted between 5:00 am and 8:30 pm. Additionally, gambling ads are also not permitted during live sports events. Those restrictions seek to reduce the exposure of children to gambling. Besides Australia, the UK uses a similar method known as the “whistle-to-whistle” ban, which prohibits gambling ads 5 minutes before, during and after sports events.

The latest warning about the potential impact of gambling advertising on free sports content comes after back in December, Free TV Australia showed support to keep sports content free and available for all fans in the country. At the time of the announcement, Fair warned that there is a “real risk” for sports events to be hidden behind payable subscriptions. She also acknowledged the negative impact of the rising cost of living in Australia. At the same time, Fair stressed that iconic sporting events shouldn’t be limited by subscriptions. “There is nothing more quintessentially Australian than live and free sport on TV,” she said at the time.