Foxtel has been found to be in breach of broadcasting rules set out by the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA) after it aired a segment that promoted a betting service during the course of an AFL match live broadcast. When not tackling offshore, illegal gambling sites, the ACMA has a strong focus on promoting rules surrounding the broadcast of sports betting services across the country. The occasion at which Foxtel was in the wrong took place on the afternoon of Easter Monday this year.
Following an investigation by the ACMA, it was discovered that the broadcast of the sports betting promotion was in fact in breach of the rules laid out via the Subscription Broadcast Television Codes of Practice. So, what does this mean for Foxtel and the broadcasting of sports betting services going forward?
Details of the Offending Broadcast
The investigation undertaken by the ACMA took place in May of 2021, and this was done under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA). The game in question took place between the AFL teams of Geelong versus Hawthorn on April 5, which was broadcast live on the FOX Footy Channel 504 by Foxtel Cable Television Pty Ltd.
The ACMA received a letter from Foxtel Cable Television stating that it had been handed a complaint regarding a betting advertisement that was broadcast at about 4:33pm AEST. This, it was stated, occurred during a half-time panel discussion of the aforementioned game. Foxtel proceeded to advise the ACMA that it had done its own investigation into the complaint and found that a betting advertisement had indeed been broadcast in contrary to the scheduling requirements provided.
So as to get a full view of the investigation, the ACMA asked various questions, including whether the game was a live sporting event, if the advertisement(s) shown during the game fell within the definition of betting advertising, what the relevant restrictions were, and if it was shown at prohibited times.
In response to those questions, the game was discovered to be a live broadcast of the AFL fixture. It was also discovered that a banner was momentarily shown displaying a betting company’s logo and the AFL logo, with the words “Official Wagering Partner” written on it while a spokesperson was also identified as the company’s “Ambassador.” Furthermore, the spokesperson described the betting service using references that encouraged viewers to use it. Meanwhile, the advertisement was broadcast within the prohibited timeframe of 5:00am and 8:30pm. With this being the case, it was determined that Foxtel did indeed breach clause 1 of Appendix A to the Code.
The official rules set out dictate that betting advertisements must not be aired during or within five minutes of any live sports broadcast taking place between those aforementioned hours.
Disappointment in Foxtel Expressed by ACMA Chair
The Chair of the ACMA, Nerida O’Loughlin spoke of her disappointment in the Foxtel Cable Television Pty Ltd brand and reinforced the reason that the rules are in place. She said:
These rules are in place to reduce exposure to betting promotions. In particular, parents worry about their children seeing gambling ads, especially those associated with shared family activities like sport. Foxtel is well aware of the rules and it is disappointing that this betting promotion was allowed to go to air.
It was found that the betting ad was broadcast as a result of human error. Following the breach, the Foxtel company provided all of its employees with refresher training regarding the obligations it has to betting advertising under the Australian Code. New controls have also been introduced so as to ensure that gambling advertisements are not broadcast in an improper way during live sporting events again.
While there may have been some favour leaning in the direction of Foxtel after it self-reported the breach to the ACMA, this did not stop it from being found guilty of being in violation of the Code.
Nerida O’Loughlin, Chair of the ACMA
ACMA Stringent with Its Control of Australia’s Betting Industry
As noted, the ACMA has been on quite the mission to ensure that a highly regulated and controlled gambling sector is operating in Australia. It has placed a firm foot down on masses of illegal offshore gambling companies trying to operate within the country’s borders. And in more recent times, it has taken the decision to block access to those websites which readily promote online casino platforms.
Multiple stories have been reported on the ACMA also directly blocking access to a selection of online casinos. These have all been added to its blacklist, restricting Australian residents from being able to visit them and sign up for an account. Sites like Planet 7 Oz, Enzo Casino, Reeltastic and Spintropolis have all been targeted and blocked by the authorities. And the number of blacklisted illegal gambling websites just continues to grow as time goes by.
Online Poker and Gaming Still Accessible from Within Australia
Despite the fact that the ACMA has gone to such lengths to try and block access to all offshore gambling sites, various ones remain accessible and available. In fact, we have a guide to playing online poker in Australia that you can read through. This provides information on the sites that we recommend to you if you are based in Australia and want to engage in online poker, sports betting, and/or casino games safely from the comfort of your home.