Australian free-to-air channels demand guaranteed prime position on smart TVs | Television

Australian free-to-air commercial TV channels have called on the Federal Government to introduce legislation to ensure they are visible on smart TV home screens, saying they are becoming “increasingly difficult to find” among global streaming rivals such as Netflix.

TVs increasingly include apps for the various streaming services available, including Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and ABC iview, as well as apps specific to commercial channels.

However, Free TV Australia, which represents free-to-air stations such as Seven, Nine and Ten, has reported growing concern that commercial stations are becoming harder to find on smart TVs.

“TV makers and operating system developers are increasingly exerting control over the options displayed to consumers, directing viewers to the services that can pay the highest price for preferred on-screen placement. ‘home,’ Free TV Australia said in a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into social media and online harm this month.

There were also concerns that streaming-specific buttons on remote controls as well as favorable placement on smart TV home screens for other streaming services could turn viewers away from free-to-air TV.

“This means that decisions about the availability of free and licensed terrestrial services, as well as streaming video-on-demand (BVOD) applications to Australian viewers, and if so on what terms, are increasingly taken in conference rooms in Japan, South Korea, and the United States,” said Free TV Australia.

“This risk becomes even greater as manufacturers seek to monetize significant placements on user interfaces and strike lucrative deals with global streaming services in addition to local Australian FTA streaming services. Manufacturers see themselves as distributors and expect a “ticket extract” or some form of payment to access their screen space. »

The organization argued that streaming companies could never replace the value of free TV.

“Global entertainment platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime cannot jump to breaking news to cover government health advice updates or provide critical bushfire updates,” said Free TV Australia.

“The visibility and accessibility of free television services is therefore essential to ensure the achievement of government policy objectives, including those relating to accurate, unbiased and trustworthy information; iconic sporting events; and the provision of emergency information.

The organization said legislation was needed to ensure TV makers make it easy for Australians to find free channels and apps, proposing a ‘prominence framework’ requiring ‘free, easy and universal access’ to services free, and for Australians to be aware of free services.

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“Action is needed now to ensure the long-term availability and prominence of Australian FTA commercial content services for Australian viewers,” Free TV Australia said.

Guardian Australia has sought comment from Australia’s two biggest TV companies – Samsung and Sony. Samsung declined to comment.

Free TV Australia has also welcomed the Government’s Social Media Exposure Bill, released for comment late last year, as a way to reduce the risk of defamation that media companies currently face for their comments on social media following the High Court’s Dylan Voller libel ruling late last year.

The ruling found that owners of social media pages and groups are considered editors for third-party comments on posts and can therefore be held liable for defamatory comments.

The legislation would make social media platforms the publisher of the content, but provide a defense for companies if they make it easier to identify the user who made the comment. Free TV said that since the judgment, media companies have significantly limited comments on their stories on social media.

“The news media have limited the number and range of stories they share on social media and are closing the comment section more often, preventing any discussion of the news and current affairs they report.

“While the Anti-Trolling Bill is still under consideration, media companies continue to be legally responsible for this material. It will be important in the final drafting of the Anti-Trolling Bill to ensure that social media services cannot outsource legal liability.

The inquiry has closed submissions and will report to Parliament in February.

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