Australian PM Announces New Ban on Advertising During Live Sports
Gambling on sports is a huge industry in Australia, with Australians spending more on gambling per capita than any other nation in the world. Television networks are angry that their share of the gambling pie is now threatened by a new reform. Australian PM Malcom Turnbill recently announced at a press conference that the government would institute a ban on all gambling-related advertising during sports broadcasts before 8:30 p.m. Currently, there is a general ban on such advertising before 8:30 with sporting events being a longstanding exception. The new policy, which has just been approved by the Australian Cabinet, would do away with this exception. The ban will also ban such ads during sporting events broadcast on the radio and the Internet.
Despite the Turnbill government’s steadfastness on the issue, the ban has generated a great deal of controversy, with television networks and sports leagues scrambling to do what they could in order to block the change. Their efforts have been largely in vain, however.
Turnbull, who leads Australia’s center-right Liberal Party, believes that the proposal will meet with support from Australian parents, who are concerned about the potential effect of advertising on their children. Several executives from professional sports leagues objected strenuously on the basis that it will be disastrous for television revenues. The Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL) have been pressuring the government to drop the plan since word of it came out. The NRL currently has a $60 million agreement with Australian sports-book giant Sportsbet, with many individual teams also receiving sponsorship from the industry. In addition, the AFL and CrownBet have an ongoing $10 million a year relationship. Cricket Australia has also expressed its opposition to the measure.
The NRL and AFL have also argued that the move could end up backfiring, causing gambling operations to go offshore, despite the government’s claim that the gambling industry supports the reform. The two leagues each sent representatives to meet with the government’s Communications Director in a last-ditch effort to persuade the government to scrap its plans.
Broadcast networks also opposed the plan, adding that licensing fees charged by the government to broadcasters would have to be reduced in order to compensate for the resulting shortfall in advertising revenues. The government has also noted that the gambling industry, through the Responsible Wagering Council, in general, has supported the measure, recognizing the need for tighter restrictions. It is expected that this will be first of several moves by the government to reform Australia’s broadcast TV system, cutting licensing fees paid by television networks and loosening ownership restrictions.