Foxtel gets COVID funds
Media giant Foxtel has been given $10 million to broadcast women’s and under-represented sports, but the money came from a federal COVID-19 response fund.
Foxtel has been granted $10 million in addition to a previous $30 million it received in 2017 under a program to show more under-represented sports.
Earlier this year, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young called the additional $10 million “another public handout to the Morrison government’s Murdoch mates”, claiming it was unfairly granted at a time when the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) was subject to an indexation freeze on funding.
A Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 found out more details of the new money in a hearing last week.
As part of the hearing, Senator Hanson-Young questioned the communications department over the $10 million granted to Fox Sports last month, because it had been listed as part of the federal government’s COVID-19 Response Package for the communications, cyber safety and arts sector.
“I don’t think it was announced as a specific COVID measure, as such,” said Richard Windeyer, deputy secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
“It’s the extension of that under-represented sports program… to extend the program, which was otherwise terminating.”
The Government has listed the new $10 million as funding “to extend the Supporting Television and Online Coverage of Under‑represented Sports Program to provide further support for the broadcasting of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation.”
It was mixed in among measures that specifically support the arts and entertainment sectors to resume after COVID-19 shutdowns, including $90 million in concessional loans for artistic productions and $400 million to entice international screen productions to film in Australia.
The government officials said the funding came from the COVID-19 response package because it would support sports that would resume when shutdowns are lifted.
“This is an extension for when those under-represented sports come back on, so that we can prioritise coverage of those sports,” said department secretary Simon Atkinson.
“It was put in through that as an extension to ensure the under-represented sports had proper coverage as they started to re-open up through the back end of COVID.”
The department said the money would pay for the broadcast of women’s sports including AFLW, soccer, cricket, hockey and several others which had previously been broadcast on the ABC.
Department officials also said that the initial $30 million funding for Foxtel was a “grant”, and so the additional $10 million could not have been applied for by other broadcasters.
Labor’s shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland said there has been “absolutely no accountability” around the funding, slamming the government for “putting taxpayer-funded sports broadcasts behind a paywall”.