Sky news have had their request to become a free-to-air channel turned down by the chief executive of the Nine network.
The Nine network own a large part of Sky News while Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox has a 39% share so this has to be a mutual decision made by all of those investing. While Murdoch’s company can see the benefit of the channel becoming free-to-air, the Nine network has to agree.
“The chief executive of the Nine network, David Gyngell, has put the kibosh on an idea floated by the Sky News board that the 24-hour pay TV news service should get a free-to-air channel.
Sky News is owned by the Australian News Channel, a joint venture of Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and British Sky Broadcasting, which is 39% owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
Speaking at the announcement of Nine Entertainment Co’s half-yearly results on Thursday, Gyngell said Nine would never approve such a deal.
If Nine wanted a 24-hour news channel, the network would simply produce its own, he said. Gyngell was responding to questions about a report in Fairfax newspapers that Sky News Australia chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos was pushing for a slot on free-to-air television.
The report said the move would put the News Corp-backed service in direct competition with the ABC’s News 24 channel. Sky News is currently available as a subscription-only service on Foxtel. Putting it on free-to-air television would make it available to everyone.
But a free-to-air Sky News channel would be in direct competition not only with News 24 but also the news services on the three commercial TV channels, Nine, Ten and Seven.
Frangopoulos, the chief executive of the Australian News Channel, has been a long-term critic of News 24 – and of the ABC-run International Australia Network – because they are taxpayer funded competition. The Australian News Channel has previously bid for the Australia Network contract. Frangopoulos recently called for a review of the Australia Network, including ‘shutting the Australia Network for failing in its purpose’.
Frangopoulos told Guardian Australia: ‘Australian News Channel regularly reviews opportunities. Sky News is a subscription television business and any change to that would have to be carefully considered.’
Since it launched in 2010, News 24 has proved very popular: in prime time it has about four times more viewers than Sky News.
News 24 was paid for from the ABC’s global triennial funding, with no extra allocation from the federal government, and has been blamed for stretching the budget for the broadcaster’s main news and sports coverage.
It is understood the office of the minister for communications, Malcolm Turnbull, is aware of the proposal but no formal application for a new free-to-air channel has been made.
When News 24 was launched three years ago, Frangopoulos said ABC managing director Mark Scott’s statement that no other media organisation was better equipped to deliver a 24-hour news service was ‘disingenuous, misleading and simply incorrect’.
‘What we have now is a new channel at substantial cost to taxpayers that will duplicate services already available and, worse, attempt with one channel to emulate services already available on a suite of channels.’”
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