Australia: TV broadcasters argue further restrictions on gambling ads may end free sport coverage

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Free TV Australia, the top body for free-to-air commercial broadcasters in Australia, has strongly opposed appeals for additional restrictions on gambling advertisements and warned that free coverage of sports may be reduced as a consequence.

According to the organisation the extent of gambling advertisements on television has been greatly exaggerated by some anti-gambling activists, and the society, as a whole, has a poor understanding of the restrictions that are already in place.

In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry investigating the harms caused by online gambling, Free TV Australia stated that additional restrictions would make “the provisions of sports for free” more challenging.

Bridget Fair, Free TV Australia’s chief executive, stated that majority of the broadcasters work in a very competitive market. “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,” she said, as quoted by The Guardian.

Similar arguments were raised in a submission to the inquiry by the apex body for Australia’s sporting codes, which claimed that less amount of money would be available for grassroots sports development due to decreasing advertising revenue from gambling businesses.

The committee has recently received evidence that the current regulations, which prohibit sports gambling commercials between 5am and 8.30pm as well as during live games, are no longer protecting kids from gambling exposure.

Following a twofold increase in complaints during the previous fiscal year, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has recommended the government to take into account how minors are exposed to gambling.

“Assessments about the effectiveness of the gambling advertising rules, particularly for protecting children, should also take into account the changed viewing behaviors of children,” the ACMA submission said.

Similarly, an associate professor of public health at Monash University, Charles Livingstone said, “The extent of ads had been exaggerated was nonsense and impervious to reason. I would have thought any sports fan watching regularly would not only confirm, but perhaps suggest the expert estimation was an underestimate.”

“Anybody who watches sport on TV regularly knows that the gambling ads are endless, incessant and constitute a bombardment,” he further added.