TV shows at risk

Top-rating television shows including Survivor and Who Wants to be a Millionaire could be the accidental victims of laws designed to ban internet gambling, broadcasters have warned.

The Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations (FACTS) said laws currently before parliament could also spell the end for viewer hotlines attached to shows such as Popstars and Home and Away.

The government plans to ban Australian gambling companies taking bets from Australian punters, although sports and race betting may be spared after negotiations with minor parties.

But FACTS said many television shows and promotions involving prizes, an element of chance or audience interaction could also be caught under the wide definition of an interactive gambling service.

“The viewing public of Australia will suffer if many of the existing and familiar forms of entertainment are prohibited,” FACTS said in a submission to a Senate inquiry.

“If the bill is not amended it may no longer be possible to run a catch of the series or stroke of the season contest.

“Many viewers would find this an unacceptable intrusion into what they see as their right to long established and harmless forms of entertainment which they consider enhances the television viewing experience.”

The list of programs and promotions potentially affected includes home viewer hotlines on Popstars and Home and Away; Lotto and Powerball; game shows Who Wants to be a Millionaire, The Weakest Link, and Wheel of Fortune; The Mole, Scream Test and Survivor; and promotions such as Seven’s Adopt a Dot.

FACTS also warned the laws could harm the local television production industry.

“If much of the existing Australian content, such as our diverse range of game shows, are classed as interactive gambling services, holders of commercial television broadcasting licences will need to find alternative content,” it said.