Coalition gives another $10m to Foxtel to boost women's sport on TV

Handout brings to $40m the amount Murdoch’s subscription service has received since 2017, and comes as government slashes ABC funding by $84m

The Morrison government has given another $10m to the Murdoch-controlled Foxtel to boost women’s and underrepresented sport, bringing to $40m the total handout to the subscription TV service since 2017.

The Greens spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said any government support for women’s sport should be going to the public broadcasters.

“Giving tens of millions to Fox Sports while cutting funding to the ABC really is the height of arrogance,” she said.

The ABC has cut services and 250 staff after the Coalition reduced its funding by $84m.

Labor also criticised the funding for its lack of transparency and because the televised sports would not be free for everyone to watch but only those with a Foxtel subscription.

“At a time when Australia is in recession, many households are facing unemployment and money is tight, $10m would go a long way to supporting sports coverage to which all Australians can see for free,” Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said.

The handout comes as Foxtel’s subscription revenue continues to fall and the company admits its decline contributed substantially to News Corp’s global loss of $US1bn earlier this year.

News Corp’s subscription television business is struggling to compete against streaming services such as Netflix which are much cheaper, and the pandemic has sped up Foxtel’s decline as there was no live sport to broadcast.

When the Turnbull government allocated $30m for women’s sports in the May 2017 budget, very little detail was given by either party, except that it was to “support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports, and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation”.

Congratulations to Newscorp for securing $10m from the government. I know many of you worked very hard for it.

— Barrie Cassidy (@barriecassidy) July 22, 2020

The minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts, Paul Fletcher, said on Wednesday the $40m in total funding extended the support to the subscription television company for another two years.

“With six dedicated sports channels and a wide range of sports news, Fox Sports has a strong commitment to broadcasting sports and events that may not otherwise receive television coverage,” Fletcher said.

After criticism about the lack of accountability for the first round of funding, Foxtel now has to report “deliverables associated with the funding” to the department of communications.

Foxtel told the government its acquisition and broadcast of underrepresented sports exceeded the $7.5m in government funding for 2018, “reflecting its passion for bringing more diverse coverage of sports to fans”.

The report for 2019 says Fox Sports broadcast more than 4,888 hours of content covered by the grant, including 1,167 hours of live broadcast.

Coverage included more than 3,050 hours of women’s sport, which is an increase of more than 100% since 2016.

Sports broadcast include AFLW, WNBL, W-League, Rugby Sevens, hockey, softball, baseball and lawn bowls. More than 3,800 hours or 65% were coverage of women’s sport.

Foxtel said 43 different sporting competitions benefited from the grant and the coverage reached more than 4.2 million Australians.


Amanda Meade

The GuardianTramp

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