Fri, May 31, 2:15pm by Kevin Pitstock
When Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Sunday an end to betting odds during live broadcasts, people wondered at the full extent of the ban. After a few days to analyse, the broad outline of the plan appears stark and comprehensive, but it also allows for a certain latitude by those being regulated.
Sports pundits and social critics have given their own reviews in the days since. This is a report on a handful of those reactions to the PM’s announcement. Anti-gambling advocates have said the ban did not go far enough, while public spokesmen on the subjects of gambling and sports broadcasting have wondered whether NRL and AFL, and the networks broadcasting those sports, will be as healthy without the annual cash influx from the gambling industry.
The truth is broadcasters should be able to collect revenues as long as they show moderation.
To see why, take a closer look at the prime minister’s words. Julia Gillard said to reporters gathered in Sydney, “From the moment that the players step onto the field, to the moment that they leave the field, there will be no live odds. This is good news for families, because families I think have become increasingly frustrated about the penetration of live odds into sporting coverage.”
While this ban seems categorical, most of this statement is public relations. While Gillard’s statement that no odds will be broadcast from the moment players step on the field until they leave the field sounds complete, further analysis shows advertisements can be broadcast during breaks in the action. Thus the betting talk won’t happen while play is occurring, but during scheduled commercial time, all is fair.
How the ban will work is spelled out in a joint statement between the prime minister and her communications minister. The statement released by PM Julia Gillard and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy gave clear instructions to broadcasters and their potential advertisers in the gambling industry. “All generic gambling broadcast advertisements will be banned during play. Advertisements of this sort would only be allowed before or after a game; or during a scheduled break in play, such as quarter-time and half-time.”
One can see why critics have said the law didn’t go far enough. If children are concerned, then they still see commercials during quarter-time and half-time breaks. Parents concerned about their children being bombarded with gambling ads should take care to turn the channel or distract their children during commercial time. Still, those who want to advertise are going to have difficulty making subtle intrusions in the broadcast.
Gone are the live odds during game-play, for sure. Broadcasters will make no mention of gambling odds as they cover the action. These changes were expected by all, but the ban goes further.
Perhaps the starkest revision for the sake of advertising revenues is the placement of gambling sponsorships in sight of the viewers. The announcement signals the end to banner advertisements and sponsorship logos in view of the cameras during broadcasts. Also, representatives of gambling companies won’t be allowed to converse with the broadcast team and cannot be shown at the venue.
One potential caveat should be noted by advertisers, network executives, and viewers at home. If advertisements during the breaks are deemed “too aggressive”, a total ban will go into effect. Thus the Commonwealth government keeps a foot in the door of broadcast reform, in case gambling advertisements begin to exceed the commonly held notions the public has about broadcasting decency.
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