The subscription TV industry today renewed its plea to the federal government to deregulate the broadcasting sector, including lifting the anti-siphoning rules on live sports.

Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association chairman Tony Shepherd said the long-overdue reforms are supported by his sector as well as newspapers, every sporting code and a majority of commercial free-to-air broadcasters.

“Today I renew our call on the federal government – one that believes in freer markets – to seize this historic opportunity to unleash a wave of growth and innovation by releasing the regulatory handbrake,” Shepherd said in his opening address at the ASTRA conference in Sydney.

He told the 400 delegates that media deregulation enjoyed widespread industry support and would serve the national interest by boosting competition, jobs and investment.

Current laws comprising 1,000 pages regulating the industry are redundant, having been written before the spread of the Internet, he argued.

“Free-to-air broadcasters have come to enjoy special protections like the anti-siphoning scheme, an outright ban on competition or discounts on licence fees. In return for these privileges, they sometimes face certain regulatory obligations," he said.

"Subscription television is partly swept up in this regulatory net, even though we enjoy none of the protections, make no call on the public purse, and contract directly with paying, voluntary customers.

"The amount of regulation and red tape generally must be rolled back so that the people in this room can spend less time on paperwork and more time on doing what you do best.”

Subscription TV businesses invest $700 million each year in local television production, creating nearly 7000 jobs and growing the economy by $1.6 billion.

Last year the sector broadcast 267,000 hours of local television production – a quarter of which was first run—representing more Australian content than the public broadcasters combined.

Shepherd cited dramas such as Wentworth, Top of the Lake, factual programs such as Coast Australia, entertainment such as The Recruit and lifestyle programs like Selling Houses Australia.

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