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Consumers Say “No” To Government Picking TV Apps

New research from an independent YouGov survey commissioned by Foxtel found 94% of consumers want the government to butt out of choosing their TV apps, a move which the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA), whose members include Disney, BBC, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros and Foxtel, is against and is urging Aussies to contact their local members of parliament to voice their opposition to the proposed “prominence” legislation.

The reason for the shake-up is that the federal government is trying to pass laws to guarantee local, free-to-air TV services are easily found on Australian smart TVs, which is called a prominence framework for connected TV devices, launched by the Albanese administration.

The majority of 1000 survey respondents were overwhelmingly against the government regulating the order and layout of apps on their TVs.

Roughly 80% of those surveyed said that the apps should be chosen by them only, and 73% want the capability to modify the order and layout of the apps on their TV themselves.

Global Media and Sports director Colin Smith says the prominence issue is “about protecting free to air” television providers.

“And it’s saying they should be, irrespective of who has got the smart TV, they should be prominent in terms of the order of things,’’ Mr Smith said. “Now, I don’t think that necessarily passes the logic test.’’
Smith agrees with the consumers surveyed.

“My personal view is, the market should be the market,’’ Mr Smith said. “I don’t think trying to put in a protection system necessarily is in the interests of the Australian viewer.’’

Additionally, there are worries the proposed prominence legislation could interfere with the market, such as search results showing ABC and SBS ahead of those from other providers, which could also affect live sports programming.

ASTRA is on the offensive and has already launched a television commercial with the message: “Don’t let the government tell you what to watch or limit your search results. You wouldn’t allow it on your phone. It’s your TV. It’s your living room. The choice should be yours.”

The campaign aims to “raise awareness of this issue and galvanise Australians who love their TVs and the content they pay for to act now,’’ ASTRA asserted.

The peak body is advocating for free-to-air broadcasters, and Free TV Australia is also saying prominence legislation to ensure their apps are given precedence, including their channels, BVOD (broadcast viewing on demand) services, and content on smart TVs, including ABC iview, SBS on Demand, 7plus, 9now and 10play.

Foxtel chief executive Patrick Delany said the research results indicated that most Aussies support freedom of choice.

“This is completely analogous to our mobile phones. Australians would be shocked if the order of their apps were controlled on their mobile phones and their ability to search was altered. We will fight for this right for Australian consumers,” he said.

The battle over TV apps will likely continue until the federal government moves to introduce the prominence legislation, which is set to happen before the year closes.

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