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by Johnson Leung, reporting for AFANA from Melbourne

Internet Radio Service to Remain Free

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is the big loser in the new capital city radio rights deal with the AFL, which sees the public broadcaster's coverage not only restricted further, but also facing increasing competition on Sundays over the next two years.

AFL Chief Operating Officer Gillon McLachlan said the current radio rights with the ABC, 3AW, Triple M, SEN, Perth's 6PR and Adelaide's FIVEaa would now extend through to the end of the 2011 season, bringing the radio rights in line with the TV rights deal with Channel Seven, Channel Ten and Foxtel.

Under the new deal, 3AW and Triple M agreed to pay even more for their tier-one licenses in return for the option (but not obligation) to broadcast the Sunday twilight games, which the two commercial broadcasters were forbidden to do under the current agreement. This means starting next season 3AW and Triple M will compete with the ABC on Sunday twilight games if it involves a Victorian team. The two stations will retain first pick of two Saturday afternoon games to broadcast, if they are played in Victoria at the same time.

Currently the Sunday 1:10 PM and 4:40 PM games must be broadcast by the holders of the cheaper tier-two rights, ABC Radio and SEN, although the ABC has the right to broadcast the 2:10 PM match if there are no Victorian teams involved in the early game. But for the next two years, ABC will be forced to broadcast the 1:10 PM game whether or not a Victorian team is involved, and will not be able to broadcast the 2:10 PM game at all. However if the 2:10 PM game involves a team based outside Victoria, then the ABC can broadcast the game into the state where the team is based. For example, a match between Essendon and Adelaide played at Sunday 2:10 PM can only be carried into South Australia. "We didn't have much choice in the end, unfortunately," ABC Radio's Head of Sport, Peter Longman, told The Age.

As with the current agreement, every AFL club will have every match of the home and away season broadcast into its primary market by one of the AFL's radio partners, along with all public holiday matches and finals matches. It also guarantees coverage of all games featuring the new Gold Coast team in 2011. All radio broadcasts will be available on the AFL website for free, and the ABC's Saturday afternoon broadcast will continue to be heard on Radio Australia, the ABC's overseas shortwave radio service.   AFANA posts the list of matches for each network on this page every week:  www.afana.com/drupal5/aflradio

McLachlan praised the radio broadcasters for signing on the new radio rights deal despite the difficult economic climate. He said extensive radio coverage was an important element in the AFL's media agreement. "It was vital for the AFL that supporters could access radio coverage of their team for every single match they play and this was the highest priority for the AFL in our negotiations with our partners," he said. "Teams based outside Victoria have always had coverage of every single match they play, since they entered the competition, but similar coverage for the Victorian-based sides was only achieved in 2007."

Ben Amarfio, Austereo Melbourne General Manager (which is responsible for the running of Fox FM and Triple M in Melbourne), welcomed the contract extension, which ensures Triple M's coverage (which began in 1997) will continue to have the pick of the best matches with more exclusive terms, and enables the station to broadcast the games on digital radio.

The AFL is close to finalising arrangements for regional markets, with an announcement expected in the near future.

(Note: The Age, 3AW and 6PR are all owned by Fairfax Media)

Sources: AFL and Triple M press releases, afl.com.au, The Age

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