Sports-mad Australians (that means most of the male population, if not as many females) have to subscribe to pay television to watch the English Premier League and Aussie A-League soccer, Super 14 rugby games, domestic cricket and assorted other contests. But hundreds of spectacles, including the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, Melbourne Cup horse race, Australian Rules Football and Wimbledon, by law, have traditionally been quarantined for free-to-air television and available to pay TV only if the FTA channels on-sell the rights. That situation is changing after the Government announced last July that the antisiphoning regime will be substantially reformed, beginning January 1 2007. A new ‘use it or lose it’ system now applies to some events, and the list itself will be reviewed in 2010.

When she flagged the reforms, Communications Minister Helen Coonan said, “Obviously there will always be a core anti-siphoning regime, at least for the foreseeable future, because we understand that Australians very much enjoy watching events of national significance on free to air television.”