SBS has come in for criticism for passing on some of its broadcast rights for the 2018 World Cup to telecommunications company Optus.
While much of the chatter among football fans centred around the fact SBS would now be able to show one English Premier League game live each week, buried somewhat was the fact that Optus now holds the majority of Australia’s rights to screen the World Cup.
During the last World Cup in Brazil, SBS aired all 64 matches live across its channels, reaching 10.7 million Australians.
But for the 2018 tournament in Russia, SBS will broadcast only 25 matches live, showing highlights of the others, while Optus shows the other 39 games exclusively.
Adding fuel to the fire was doubt about how the lone live EPL game SBS is permitted to broadcast each week would be chosen, with the network saying only that each of the 20 teams would be shown once throughout the season.
Although each World Cup match involving Australia will be shown live, the move to slash SBS’s coverage had some experts pondering if the deal between the broadcaster and Optus contravened Australia’s anti-siphoning legislation.
But, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), this is not the case – due to some dubious wording on the legislation itself.
The ACMA’s website states the anti-siphoning laws do not “compel free-to-air broadcasters that acquire the rights to listed events to broadcast the events live, in full or at all”.
“SBS have essentially on-sold those assets,” Professor David Rowe, a sports media expert from the University of Western Sydney, told The New Daily.
“Now, whether you think that is in the spirit of the act is another thing.
“They’ll say that the key thing is we’ll see Australia and the main matches.”
Mark van Aken, a spokesman for Australian football supporters body the Green and Gold Army, says that while his organisation is delighted the Socceroos matches will be preserved, the move was confusing for fans.
“It’s really perplexing that SBS have basically sold their soul for a random EPL game per week,” Mr Van Aken told The New Daily.
“They’re not even guaranteed to get a particularly good EPL game.
“From a Green and Gold Army perspective, we’re obviously all about promoting the World Cup.
“SBS enjoy amazing ratings during the World Cup, they win Logie awards during the World Cup – you just wonder if they’re cutting off their nose to spite their face with this one.”