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by Johnson Leung, reporting for AFANA in Melbourne

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Managing Director Mark Scott has warned of consequences for the AFL if the government-funded broadcaster is not allowed to cover the best Saturday afternoon match as part of the new radio rights.   In a newspaper interview, Scott, who joined the ABC in June, criticised the league of being more interested in money than letting the ABC take the game to a national audience, and not recognising the broadcaster's role of promoting Aussie Rules around the country.

The AFL is close to finalising its radio rights agreement for the next three years, with the major stations all expected to have to pay substantially more for the rights.    The major stumbling block between the ABC and the AFL remains the Saturday afternoon coverage. Under the new rights, Triple M and 3AW will be category A broadcasters, and ABC and all-sport station SEN category B broadcasters. This means that when two games clash on a Saturday afternoon, the ABC is not able to broadcast the best match around Australia on its Local Radio network and internationally on Radio Australia.

Scott said negotiations were continuing between the ABC and the AFL but would not go into details about the negotiations. However he made it clear the AFL had to either allow the ABC to cover the best Saturday game or face the consequences.   "If the AFL walks away from having the national broadcaster calling the main Saturday afternoon match in Melbourne in pursuit of a buck, it does so at its own peril and at the peril of the game," Scott was quoted as saying.

The ABC has been under pressure from its listeners to make sure it secures the best deal possible. It is understood that senior ABC management have now bypassed the AFL negotiators and taken its case directly to the AFL Commission, which has reportedly been infuriated by the stubbornness of the league negotiators, because they now run the risk that there will be no national coverage of major AFL matches on Saturday afternoons.

Story source: Herald Sun

Article last changed on Thursday, September 21, 2006 - 1:45 PM EDT

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