So there was I thinking, as I walked home from work last night with Test Match Special in my ears courtesy of Radios 4 and 5 and my iPhone’s 3G connection to teh interwebs, that with 8 or so overs still to play at the end of the first day of the first test in this year’s Ashes series, that I’d make it home in time to catch some play on the TV.
WRONG! Of course I was forgetting that this is Australia, where the TV networks have a cavalier disregard for their viewers. “That’s an awfully long ad break”, I thought to myself as I switched on Channel 9 when I got in. I remembered where I was when the ads continued even as Test Match Special started to talk me through the next over, and then Channel 9 returned from their ad break to the end of their half hour nightly news bulletin and the start of their shabby, tabloid telly evening magazine show, A Current Affair. Over on their second and third free to air channels, “Gem”, and “Go”, they were showing some even more important and unmoveable telly: The Flintstones and The Nanny.
And here was me thinking that Australia was a sports obsessed sort of place. Apparently not: cartoons, reruns of ancient sitcoms, and Tracey Grimshaw are more important than the only broadcaster with the rights to show The Ashes live actually, you know, broadcasting it live all the way to the end of play.
Australia’s free to air networks have form in this department: I’ve seen Channel 9 do it before for other cricket matches, Channel 7 just love to cut away from the Aussie Open (which, of course they also have exclusive rights to broadcast live) to show Home And Away, and heaven help the AFL fans in this country, who almost never get to see a game live on free to air telly, with most of them showing with half an hour or more delay (heaven forbid that Channel 7 might have to move Better Homes And Gardens…)
Frankly I’m amazed that the sports-mad Aussies put up with it. Of course I’m well aware that not everyone likes sport, and there would surely be plenty of people annoyed at missing their nightly news bulletin to see some blokes in white throwing a small ball at each other, but the issue is that no one else has the rights to show this stuff, because the right of the free to air networks to dick around with their coverage is enshrined in Australia’s “Anti-Siphoning Laws“, a piece of legislation designed to ensure that key events like the Melbourne Cup, the Aussie Open and the big Cricket matches remain on free to air. Unfortunately although the legislation ensures that at least one of the free to air networks will always get the rights to show these events, it doesn’t apparently require them to actually show the event, live and in full.
Not that I’m the world’s biggest fan of the Murdoch empire, but at least his channels show things live and stick with them all the way to the end…
So it looks like I’ll have to fill in the gaps with Test Match Special and whatever streams I can find on the interwebs.
[And the less said about England’s performance so far, the better…]