While our NSW, ACT and Queensland readers watched the rugby live on Sunday afternoon, those from other states (who don’t have Fox) were subjected to re-runs of ‘The Block’ by Channel 9. This Saturday night the same viewers will be treated to the 2003 Mike Myers stinker Cat in the Hat while the Wallabies go round against the Boks. This simply isn’t good enough, and we at G&GR are supporting the campaign of the Rebel Army to try and change it.
Here’s an article from valued forum and Rebel Army member Gavin Norman (Army Gav on the forum), who is leading the charge:
Rugby is a beautiful sport. From a Victorian’s perspective, at this point in the year I get to put away my Rebels jersey (for now), blow the dust off my Wallabies jersey (although it’s actually new) and immerse myself in national pride. That’s something Australian Rules doesn’t offer.
Luckily for me, I’m privileged to have Foxtel, the pay TV service that shows all Wallabies Tests live and in high definition. Unfortunately, for those without Foxtel, and for everyone not in NSW or Queensland, television coverage is virtually non-existent.
Many know of the Rebel Army and my connection with it. You may remember a campaign run by the Army last year, simply called ‘Rugby On Free To Air’. The aim of the campaign was to have the Seven Network — at that time the holder of free-to-air broadcast rights for international rugby — to broadcast Wallabies Tests live into Melbourne and non-metro Victoria. Now the campaign has been relaunched, this time with much more firepower and support. And in the crosshairs is the new broadcaster, the Nine Network.
Much like Seven before it, Nine is refusing to broadcast Wallabies games beyond NSW and Queensland. The networks have often cited ‘lack of interest’ or ‘poor viewer numbers’ to justify their decisions, due to rugby being a sport popular only in those two states.
As part of the campaign, we’ve begun a series of tactics against Nine. This started with individual calls to the network itself and to talkback radio, emails and constant bombardment of Nine’s Wide World of Sports Facebook fan page. According to the administrator of the fan page, our campaign prompted Nine to organise a meeting with the programming department, with the result being that they’re refusing to budge.
To the intelligent rugby supporter or even the general sports enthusiast, it seems to be a never-ending wheel of ignorance and stupidity run by these networks. The arguments in support of extending coverage have been strong and clear: ‘Why buy the rights if you’re not going to responsibly broadcast the games in a timely and fair manner?’ ‘Have you looked at crowd figures for previous Test matches, and for the 2011 Super Rugby season?’ They have no answer to those questions.
The Australian Rugby Union is reluctant to weigh into the debate, due to much-needed revenue from the broadcaster. But as the peak body for a sport that’s often rated as the nation’s fourth football code, wouldn’t you think they should be trying to get the sport exposed to the widest possible audience?
It’s about this time that the ignorant punch out the ‘just get Foxtel’ jibe. Sure, a Foxtel subscription is necessary for greater rugby content like the Super competition and non-Wallabies internationals, but the fact remains: all Australians should be able to watch their national team perform on the international stage, live and free.
This argument has even greater weight in 2011, a World Cup year. This is rugby’s chance to build audience quantity, not just quality — reaching the maximum potential audience and showcasing for them ‘the game they play in heaven’.
Click here to read more about the campaign and how you can join ‘the good fight’.