Keeping it free: Sport television and public policy in Australia

David Rowe, Rodney Tiffen, Brett Hutchins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This article addresses issues surrounding changes in television in the digital age, focusing specifically on questions of cultural citizenship as they relate to sport on television. It considers the curious neglect of sport in the Australian Government’s 2020 ‘Media Reform Green Paper: Modernising television regulation in Australia’, especially given its focus on the current problems of free-to-air (FTA) television and the importance of sport to it. In Australia, as in many other countries, there is some legislative protection to enable sport ‘events of national importance and cultural significance’ to be broadcast without charge to whole national communities, thereby preventing their ‘siphoning’ by subscription television providers. These regulatory arrangements have come under increasing pressure, including from screen-based content providers offering over-the-top (OTT)
internet-enabled, on-demand streaming services. The article considers the public policy and social equity ramifications of regulating screen-based sport in this dynamic media environment. It is argued that there is a strong case for an antisiphoning list covering selected live sport events to be maintained, revised as necessary and protected from circumvention in an era where FTA television remains a popular, reliable and widely accessible media technology that has minimal barriers to viewing citizens. We conclude that television regulation in Australia cannot be ‘modernised’ by allowing the anti-siphoning regime to wither on the vine in gesturing to technological innovation, market de-regulation and unequal choice.
Such interventions in national media and sport markets can, it is proposed, enable the necessary innovation to enhance rather than erode cultural citizenship rights for the benefit of large segments of society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-123
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Digital Media and Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • sport
  • cultural citizenship
  • technology
  • media policy
  • television
  • nation
  • Globalization
  • political economy

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