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Prime Minister Stands by Smart TV Legislation

However, the plan has been likened to Orwell’s books by the Opposition.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has defended proposed legislation that would provide certain television stations with prominence on smart TVs.

The federal government opened consultations on a “prominence framework” for smart TVs from Dec. 23, 2022, to Feb. 24, 2023.

The government is currently considering the issues and views provided in the submissions with a view to legislate in the future.

Free-to-air television stations such as the ABC and SBS may be given more prominence than commercial television stations on Foxtel.

In an interview with Sky News, Mr. Albanese revealed he believes it is appropriate people can access free-to-air TV.

“This isn’t about controlling what people can watch. This is simply about making sure that people can get access in a reasonable way. That’s why we’re consulting, to make sure we can get the detail right,” he said.

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“When I turn on my smart TV, it certainly has some free-to-airs there on the front page, that’s appropriate. It is appropriate that people be able to access free-to-air TV and so we’re examining that. We’ll consult and we’ll respond appropriately.”

However, Coalition Senator Hollie Hughes recently likened the plan to George Orwell’s books. Orwell is well-known for his novels “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

“Next we’ll start seeing they’ll want a ministry of truth. I think they’ve read some of Orwell’s books and taken them too literally,” she said.

“I think this is really dangerous as we start to see things culminate together. It’s not just smart TVs, it’s misinformation.”

Polling By YouGov Australia

Recent YouGov polling commissioned by Foxtel claims 94 percent of Australians do not wish to see the government controlling the order and layout of apps on their television.

In addition, 73 percent of Australians indicated they want to be able to tailor the order and layout of the apps on the television themselves.

However, 21 percent of Australians are happy for manufacturers and service providers to prepare this order and layout for them.

A public submissions page explaining the plan states “the Australian Government has committed to legislating a prominence framework to ensure Australian TV services are easy for audiences to find on connected TV devices.”

A Smart TV (Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images)
The government says a legislated prominence framework would shape the way TV applications and content are presented to Australian audiences.

“It would seek to ensure that local TV services can be easily found on TV devices, so that they can continue to contribute to Australia’s public and cultural life,” the government said.

Recently, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman revealed the government is hoping to legislate on the prominence framework “in the new future.”

“We recognise that there are always in these things, a range of different views, and that’s why we’ve gone through a very thorough consultation process to make sure that we hear all of those views and we land it in a way that is right for the Australian people,” he said.

Public Campaigns

Both the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) and Free TV Australia have now launched public campaigns on the issue.

Free TV legislation Australia launched a new campaign “Don’t let big tech take your free away” on Nov. 20.

The campaign includes television ads on commercial free-to-air networks that highlights the “importance of the federal government” introducing legislation to help people find local free television channels.

“Free local TV services bring our communities together—it doesn’t matter where we live, or how much we earn, free TV entertains, informs and unites all Australians. ” Free TV Australia CEO Bridget Fair said.

ASTRA, who represents subscription media, launched a public campaign warning viewers that the government “wants to control your TV.”

“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.”ASTRA said the recent Foxtel commissioned YouGov research shows consumers have spoken, and “free TV services should be given presence via their primary FTA broadcast linear channels not their apps.”

“Services should not be hidden from consumers or altered both in terms of app accessibility and in search. That control should sit with the Australian public who are paying for their devices and the services available on them. Overwhelmingly they have said they want this control,” ASTRA said.

In a public submission (pdf) in response to the government consultation, Google said user choice should be “respected and promoted.”

The technology giant said the regulatory framework should focus on ways to offer opportunities to consumers that they may or may not take up—rather than “forcing particular choices on consumers.”

“When a person searches for something, the results should be the best attempt at responding to that request—without any overlay of regulated prominence,” Google said.

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