Foxtel has been given a whopping $10 million worth of taxpayer money as part of a sports grant, without having to detail exactly how the money will be used, according to government documents obtained by the ABC.
Before we get started, it’s important to note that Foxtel is a subscription television service, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Not only is it weird for the government to chuck money at News Corp while cutting money from its own broadcaster (the ABC), but it’s also strange to make taxpayers foot the bill for a service that isn’t even free-to-air.
In documents obtained via a Freedom Of Information request (FOI) lodged by the ABC, it was revealed that the Federal Communications Department gave Foxtel $10 million to broadcast under-represented sports, with no guidelines on how the money was to be spent.
“The Grantee will prepare a ‘Re-establishment and Acceleration Plan’ for 2020-21 and provide the proposed … Plan to the Commonwealth,” an internal email to Communications Department assistant secretary Mike Makin said, according to the ABC.
“The form and structure of the ‘Re-establishment and Acceleration Plan’ will be a matter for the Grantee.”
The $10 million grant is an extension of the $30 million program from 2017, which means that Foxtel has received $40 million of taxpayer money in a matter of three years.
Fox Sports – Foxtel’s sports broadcaster – is a subscription service, which literally means that if taxpayers want to actually watch these under-represented sports, they must pay to both broadcast *and* watch them. Yikes.
The major drawcard in the government’s eyes was Foxtel’s broadcasting of the Matildas international soccer matches. And sure, it’s a win to be able to watch our women’s soccer team kick ass at an international level, but it’s not really doing much for the taxpayers (who are quite literally paying for it) when it’s stuck behind a News Corp-owned paywall, is it?
According to the ABC, Foxtel will eventually need to disclose some information, such as the actual sports they’re paying to broadcast. However, this plans has not actually been developed yet, and Foxtel won’t need to submit it until 2021.
“The plan is not due to be submitted until 2021 so does not yet exist,” Makin said.
So basically, Foxtel just copped $10 million dollars with very few questions asked, and they don’t even have to have a plan for how to spend it until next year. Cool and normal, if you ask me.
Interestingly, Senator Richard Colbeck (yep, the same guy who was recently called out for his handling of the aged care sector during the pandemic) personally intervened in an attempt to block documents about Foxtel’s grant from being released.
“I am authorised… to make decisions in relation to Freedom of Information requests,” Colbeck said on September 30, when he prevented two documents relating to the grant from being released to the public.
“I have decided to redact certain personal and business information from the documents.”
The news comes after Rupert Murdoch – the majority owner of Foxtel – has come under fire as part of Kevin Rudd’s petition for a Royal Commission into News Corp and the Murdoch media empire.
I’m no political expert, but if the Federal Government is quietly chucking $10 million to Murdoch’s companies without a plan, I’m doubtful that Rudd’s efforts will really do much at a government level.