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Australia’s free networks want prime position on smart TVs

Australia’s commercial free-to-air TV channels have called on the federal government to introduce legislation guaranteeing them prominence on smart TV home screens, the Guardian reports.

They claim they are becoming hard to find among global streaming rivals such as Netflix.

Televisions increasingly include apps for the various streaming services available, including Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and ABC iview, as well as the commercial channels’ own apps.

Free TV Australia, which represents free-to-air stations including Seven, Nine and Ten, has flagged growing concern that the commercial stations are becoming increasingly hard to find on smart TVs.

“TV manufacturers and operating system developers increasingly exert control over which options are displayed to consumers, directing viewers to those services that can pay the highest price for preferred placement on the home screen,” it said.

There was also concern that streaming-specific buttons on remote controls as well as favourable placement on smart TV home screens for other streaming services were diverting viewers away from free-to-air TV.

The organisation argued that streaming companies could never replace the value of free-to-air TV.

“Global entertainment platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime cannot cut to breaking news to cover health advice updates from government or provide critical bushfire updates,” Free TV Australia said.

“Prominence and accessibility of free TV services are therefore essential to ensuring the government’s policy goals are achieved, including those relating to accurate, impartial, and trustworthy news; iconic sporting events; and provision of emergency information.”