Free TV Chairman, Harold Mitchell has dismissed the latest attempt by the pay TV lobby group to try and force Australians to pay for sport that they currently see live and free on free-to-air television.
Mitchell said "Pay TV's call last year for the antisiphoning list to be dismantled fell on deaf ears. So now they are having another go, but this time they are trying to do it by stealth."
Foxtel who are using their partners News Corporation and Telstra to lobby the Federal Government on their behalf are keen to get exclusive access to a big draw card sporting event that will stop consumers from ditching their Foxtel pay TV service which is among the most expensive subscription TV service in the world.
Desperate for any form of subscriber Foxtel is now giving three months away free at JB Hi Fi as consumers in their thousands dump their service which with live sports coverage can cost over $130 a month. With Churn rates rising the pay TV operator is running out of options after major investments in NRL, AFL and soccer along with exclusive entertainment content deals has failed to attract new subscribers.
Currently the network is counting Telstra T Box customers who get 10 free Foxtel channels when they invest in a T Box service via the national carrier.
Mitchell claims that over 72% of Australians choose to rely exclusively on free-to-air television for their sport, news and entertainment and that in the last three years under the existing antisiphoning rules, sporting codes such as the AFL, the NRL and Cricket have all negotiated record broadcasting rights deals - proof that sporting rights in Australia are fully valued.
Mr Mitchell says, "Pay TV is trying to trick the public and policy makers with a call for the current system to be replaced with a 'dual rights' scheme where free-to-air and pay TV rights for listed sports are sold separately.
"It's nonsense to suggest that a dual rights scheme would deliver the same amount and quality of sport on free-to-air television. This is a ploy to force Australians to pay to watch their favourite sport on television."
Mitchell adds, "You only have to look at the UK where a dual-rights scheme has seen major sports like the Ashes cricket migrate to pay TV, depriving millions of viewers from watching the game live and free.
"Now that all Australians have converted to digital television, the only change that the Parliament should consider is to enable free-to-air broadcasters to show listed sports on all their channels."
Last year Foxtel snared the rights to BBC content that has been seen free on the ABC for decades, now Australians have to pay Foxtel to get access to high quality British Drama series.
They are also trying to charge $47 a month for consumers to get access to episodes of Games of Thrones. In the past Australians could get access to the entire series of the highly popular HBO program for $33 via iTunes.
Renai LeMay writing on his Delimiter web site said when the deal was announced "When Foxtel signed its initial deal with HBO to block the timely release of Game of Thrones via iTunes, I was outraged. What. A. Big. Fat. Fucking. Joke. Screw you, Foxtel.
He went on to say "It doesn't get much more anti-competitive than this. If you want to watch Game of Thrones in Australia, it turns out, you can't just pay $33-odd per season any more, at least for Season 4 and beyond. You'll need to pony up a cool $47 per month for Foxtel's essentials package, plus another $25 a month for Foxtel's Movies and Premium Drama offering. Well screw that."
He then revealed that Foxtel completely locked out all legal access by Australians to Game of Thrones episodes unless you sign up to its monthly subscription plans or buy the DVDs.
He added "We should have expected Foxtel to screw Australians over as much as they possibly could. And we should have expected HBO - which has always demonstrated that it doesn't care at all about the international market outside the US - to completely ignore the fact that Foxtel is completely screwing Australian fans of its hit TV shows. This is all just to be expected. Hell, it's a Machiavellian move worthy of the plot twists within Game of Thrones itself. This is what Big Content does best in the 2010's - make it almost impossible for people to easily access its products without mortgaging their souls".
Foxtel PR who love to gush over their extensive coverage in News Corporation publications refuse to return calls to SmartHouse.
They have also taken to banning journalists who don't write what Foxtel spin doctors want to see in the media.