Media groups appeal Australian ad ban exemptions

Business News

Australian TV and radio stations are trying to secure a slew of controversial exemptions to the Turnbull government’s new siren-to-siren ban on betting ads during live daytime sports events, documents show.

One of the biggest reforms of the federal government’s latest gambling crackdown is a prohibition on “all gambling promotions” during “all live sports broadcasts” between 5am and 8.30pm, taking effect from five minutes before the start of play to five minutes after the finish.

But broadcast industry bodies have now released their new draft codes of practice, all of which are seeking changes that critics say will “water down” the impact of the ad ban on events including cricket, tennis and the Olympics. Some forms of gambling advertising, under the proposed changes, would be excluded altogether.

The federal government’s siren-to-siren ad ban is aimed at reducing children’s exposure to betting ads and has been broadly supported by anti-gambling campaigners and the gambling industry alike.

In the past week, Free TV Australia, Commercial Radio Australia and the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) have received submissions condemning their proposed exemptions contained in their draft codes.

 Among the objectors are online bookmakers including Sportsbet, CrownBet, Betfair and Ladbrokes, who said in a submission through lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) that they recognised the public’s concern about levels of gambling advertising, “particularly the volume of gambling advertising that is viewed by minors”, and believed the reform was appropriate.

RWA’s submissions and others raise serious concerns about exemptions that would allow broadcasters to air one gambling ad every two hours during “long-form” sports like the cricket and multi-sports events like the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. They also take issue with exemptions that would exclude lottery -betting companies, like the controversial industry newcomer Lottoland, from the ad ban, and amendments that would allow broadcasters to continue naming wagering companies in sponsorship statements, such as, “This event was brought to you by…”

ASTRA’s draft code also contains further exemptions that would allow gambling advertising to continue on “low-audience” subscription TV channels, like ESPN, ESPN2 and Eurosports. The ASTRA document states these channels provided “niche coverage of overseas events to a small number of highly devoted fans”.

Anti-gambling campaigners and the peak body for financial counsellors, Financial Counselling Australia, said that although they would prefer an outright gambling advertising ban, they were supportive of the government’s intended reform.