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Free-to-air sport

17 January 2001 Media Statement

Free-to-air sport

Major sporting events such as rugby tests should be on free-to-air television, as they are in many other countries, Deputy Prime Minister and Alliance leader Jim Anderton said today.

Commenting on news that Telstra-Saturn is the only remaining bidder for rights to cover the All Black tour at the end of this year, Jim Anderton said he would renew his push for broadcast anti-siphoning legislation. Similar legislation operates successfully in Australia, the UK and Canada. The policy was an Alliance party commitment at the last election.

"Major sports events like All Black tests are part of our national identity, how we feel about ourselves and how others see us. We don't charge for entry to Te Papa to see our national icons, and we shouldn't charge to see the All Blacks beat England on television," Jim Anderton said.

Anti-siphoning laws generally work by creating a secondary market for certain events specified in regulations. For example, Telstra-Saturn might win its bid for a package of the whole All Black tour tour, and hold on to the rights for tour games, but would have to on-sell the test matches.

Compensation would have to be available for sports bodies faced with loss of revenue.

"Many major sports depend on the sale of broadcast rights and compensation would may be needed to avoid the risk of making New Zealand sports less competitive. The last thing the All Blacks need right now is to be even less competitive than they were last year. Any compensation wouldn't amount to huge sums, because there is significant competition between free-to-air broadcasters such as TVNZ, TV3, Prime, regional broadcasters and the TAB.

"Requiring major events to be on free-to-air can't be all that devastating because the soccer world cup and the Olympics require broadcast rights to be on free to air and they seem to survive OK.

"It takes time to phase in these laws, and there is no prospect of legislation affecting this year's All Black tour. Existing contractual undertakings need to be respected," Jim Anderton said.


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