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The Foxtel Scandal

September 29, 2011

A quick look at Foxtel’s October program guide confirms the contempt this monopoly is showing its subscribers. Cheap reruns of Andre Rieu are back on STVDIO which had been promised as an arts entertainment channel. Programs like the life story of Hitler’s dog Blondie and that old favorite, America’s Fattest Honeymooners, are back on public view.

You might like to nominate your example of the monopoly’s most appalling programming. Also, keep a record of the monstrous advertising schedule with clusters of ads being boomed out every eight minutes. Hey, why did I pay that subscription? And what is the government’s inquiry into media convergance going to do about it?

Most curious Fox offering is the Bio Channel. It has no bio. None. Silly me again, expecting documentary content anywhere on pay TV. Bio broadcasts something called Paranormal State (the Foxtel mob love superstition – extraterrestrials even bob up on the History Channel) Oprah, The Peoples’ Court, Judge Judy and The Dog Whisperer. Why is it called bio?

But then the senior executives don’t watch the programs.

And without quality control inside Foxtel and no power residing with the Broadcasting Authority over programming, we are watching a dumbing down of Australian tastes driven by the worst of American trash TV.

And the ads come every eight minutes.

16 Comments
  1. September 29, 2011 8:41 am

    …and they just sent an email to subscribers as follows for a sneeky little increase in the cost which they have described as “modest”, but with what in return to the subscriber? As you say, a dumbing down!

    “At FOXTEL, we are committed to providing you with a comprehensive line-up of viewing and delivering new, exciting ways to engage with FOXTEL content through great technology. In order to continue that commitment, a small price increase will be incurred from your billing date in November.

    We have worked to keep the increase to a minimum, so that the price of Get Started + Drama & Lifestyle + Sports will increase by the modest amount of $1 per month.”

  2. September 29, 2011 9:06 am

    Simple answer – cancel your subscription. I could never pay a company (espcially Murdoch media) to watch tv. What I have seen from hotel suites is PAYtv is just re-runs, re-runs & more re-runs. Better to go and buy the DVD series of the (American) Civil War by Ric & Ken Burns; watch that over & over again.

  3. Craig permalink
    September 29, 2011 9:52 am

    Bob you are making a great case for the NBN. It will lower barriers to media content distribution and make for more competition in this area, as long as government don’t bend to the media cartels.

  4. September 29, 2011 9:53 am

    Yep. Lotta shite. The original 64 channels and there’s nothin on.

    Gotta also be a story in all the insurance they’re flogging to frightened old people who don’t seem to remember or know that their superannuation will pay for their funeral.

  5. Kieran permalink
    September 29, 2011 9:54 am

    That’s why I always prefer to read a book. I really enjoyed Robert Massie’s bio of Peter The Great too. Keep up the good work Bob!

  6. Jimbo permalink
    September 29, 2011 10:09 am

    And they charge for all the best new drama like Treme and Breaking Bad.

  7. Charles permalink
    September 29, 2011 11:04 am

    I wouldn’t bother with Foxtel – in fact, the first channel I watched on Foxtel was the ABC, much to my son’s astonishment – except that I’m a fan of rugby union. In Australia, rugby seems only to be able to win TV coverage on pay TV and other sports are slowly migrating there despite the new extra digital channels available to FTA broadcasters.

  8. cebastian permalink
    September 29, 2011 11:30 am

    A comprehensive media review would also remove the
    – long-term monopolistic deals that the free-to-air networks have signed preventing Foxtel and the other networks acquiring any compelling content
    – a mindless list of sporting content that the fta’s have first right of broadcast on.
    You can’t wish for a competitive STV model, and then insist that the playing fields are so skewed in favour of the incumbants – and then complain that Foxtel isn’t competitive.

  9. John Little permalink
    September 29, 2011 12:18 pm

    I wish Bob would stop knocking Judge Judy. Especially since under the separation of powers doctrine, her worship is unable to defend herself

    • Bob Carr permalink
      September 29, 2011 12:47 pm

      No separation of powers on this site!

  10. Paul permalink
    September 29, 2011 2:18 pm

    I had a Foxtel subscription for the first few years it was around, and it was great. But I dumped it after 5 or so years due to the crap shows, too many reruns and way too many ads.

    It astonishes me that anyone bothers with paying for the Foxtel service these days, what with all the digital free to air channels, DVD box sets, Telstra T-Box etc. Not to mention (cos it’s, er, illegal) the ability to download just about any TV show from the internet!

    And any pleasure I got from Foxtel is far out stripped by the pleasure of NOT giving more money to Rupert.

  11. Colin permalink
    September 29, 2011 2:20 pm

    Didn’t Foxtel in its early days, promote programming without ads as we know it on free-to-air? Those ads inferred that your subscription negated the need for paid commercials.
    If it’s so, Foxtel have a lot to answer for and I’m glad that I don’t suscribe to pay tv.
    Colin of Pascoe Vale-

  12. Patrick permalink
    September 29, 2011 3:37 pm

    Buy yourself Breaking Bad on dvd if you have not watched it. That should keep you going for a while.

  13. Damien Rivkin permalink
    September 29, 2011 4:18 pm

    Bob I recommend that you do what I did recently and cancel your subscription. ABC News 24 is an adequate substitute for Sky News and the top American and UK TV series can be bought from JB Hi-Fi relatively inexpensively. You won’t miss the appalling programming, intrusive ads, monthly direct debit and dreadful customer service! And Fareed Zakaria’s GPS can be watched online.

  14. Adam Suckling (on behalf of Kim Williams) permalink
    September 30, 2011 12:35 pm

    Kim Williams

    Bob Carr (The Foxtel Scandal, Crikey, 29-10-11) blogs like a medieval crusader – and like all crusaders he wants to make the world in his own image and mow over all in his wake. In doing so, Bob has created a fantasy realm bereft of fact. He’s become like a character from Lord of the Rings.

    Back in the real world, I’ve been reading Bob’s rants about FOXTEL with sadness and bemusement turning to bewilderment. I’ve to-date resisted a response given that he so misrepresents and sledges it’s difficult to respond with a straight face.

    He’s become lost in the blogosphere – where one can rant and rave because you are solely in charge of what is written and are rarely called to account. The time for reckoning is upon Bob.

    Bob’s hostile rants against FOXTEL seem to be fixated on 3 channels – that is what he has written about and it reflects the summary of his personal interests (at least as they relate to programming on FOXTEL). Oddly he seems to enjoy chewing on TV he doesn’t like and complaining about it.

    Bob, there are well over a hundred channels on FOXTEL. Many consumers explore and delight in them. They tell us they find attractive programming that meets their needs in spades. Just because it doesn’t interest you, Bob Carr, doesn’t mean it is of no interest and enjoyment to others.

    Bob wrote (29-10-11): “Silly me again, expecting documentary content anywhere on pay TV”.

    Silly Bob must have missed the 16 dedicated 24-hour documentary channels on FOXTEL, including channels provided by world leaders BBC, National Geographic and Discovery. Not to mention documentary content on our 11 news channels. FOXTEL and subscription TV spends close to $600 million a year on original Australian content, including documentaries.

    Bob claims the Bio Channel “has no bio”. Let’s be clear Bob, Bio is an entertainment based channel with a strong ‘showbiz’ take – the audience (except Bob) understands that. Bob seems to be the only one not “in the know”. A quick look at the online program guide for next week shows an Andrew Denton “Enough Rope” profile on George Gregan, profiles on film director John Ford and actor William Holden, and a documentary hosted by Ita Buttrose on the lives of “Australian Women: Shaping the Nation”. Yes, as Bob says, Judge Judy is on the Bio Channel too. Strange as it seems to Bob, some people like it. It’s called choice, and FOXTEL delivers it without judging the audience.

    Bob Carr, with an apparently turned up nose, blogged on August 20 (Foxtel Dumbs us Down) that the SBS- operated STVDIO channel “served up two hours of punk rock”. He means ‘indie’ Irish-American band Flogging Molly which, as the Irish press has pointed out, reached the highest position on the US Billboard 200 of any Irish artist other than U2 and Enya. Many people like that band. Bob doesn’t. So what. He doesn’t have to watch it. Bob continued “Meanwhile, The Guardian website has been able to stream the Glyndebourne Meistersingers for a week. Hey Foxtel, that’s what an arts channel is supposed to do”. I rest my case on personal choice – as a former politician surely Bob (of all people) understands the imperative of delivering to a broad spectrum of interests. It certainly seemed prominent in his political life – many would say supreme in that realm for him!

    Clearly Bob pays no regard at all to the diversity of taste and interests satisfied by FOXTEL – for example he makes no mention of sport, in which FOXTEL despite the government protectionism afforded the free-to-air networks, excels. Sport doesn’t interest Bob, so apparently we are all meant to have no regard to sport. Phooey to you Bob.

    Bob likes to call FOXTEL a monopoly. It’s catchy. But it’s a pretty odd monopoly that has a universally available free substitute in the free-to-air networks and their multi-channels, as well as growing IPTV with Fetch TV, Apple TV and Google which compete for the audience’s attention. Bob behaves as if he is a prisoner to FOXTEL.

    Bob goes even further, suggesting that subscription TV enjoys some preferment and unique privilege from government (Bob’s blog 20-8-11). He’s on another planet. Subscription TV is in fact restricted by government in relation to sports rights, the revenue we can earn from advertising, we must pay for our own spectrum, and there is no limit on new licences for competitors. Bob must be mixed up with free-to-air TV which is protected from new licences, enjoys protected sports rights, tax rebates, and free access to digital spectrum.

    Bob reckons senior FOXTEL executives don’t watch the programs he dislikes. But he doesn’t watch TV with me or my team, more importantly he does not watch with the actual audience that does.

    Unlike Bob, FOXTEL talks to the audience and has over 500,000 conversations every month with individual households across the spectrum of the community.

    Unlike Bob, our audience likes the diversity of sports, movie, kids’, music, news, and lifestyle channels, as much as documentaries.

    Bob would seem not to care – he just wants to impose his own “Bob’s World” taste under his personal control or by a controller nominated by him. In fact, if Bob wants a FOXTEL channel manager’s job, he’s welcome to apply. But he’ll have to listen to the audience, not himself.

    Bob wants his approach to be one of government intervention to stop the “dumbing down of Australian tastes” on TV. There is more choice and a profusion of opinion and interests on television now than ever, but Bob seems not to like that. I think most Australians do not want Bob to be their Big Brother. Does Bob Carr want a return to the Soviet Union’s commissars of culture? Surely a profoundly dangerous and historically repulsive approach to communication generally?

    Most people know that Bob has a deep interest in American history. How about some credit to FOXTEL for the premiere screening of one of the great documentary dramas “John Adams”, the 7-part series on the second American president that won 13 Emmy Awards and 4 Golden Globes.

    There are too many great original Australian and international dramas, documentaries and other programs to begin listing them here – the audience actually knows them – which premiere on FOXTEL. Bob would seem not to know or care because he only ever nominates three channels to criticise (and even there he is unfair and inaccurate).

    Bob is a keen observer of politics and was once a player. He like FOXTEL was tasked with understanding and serving as many different perspectives in the community as possible. Bob no longer seems to recognise those principles. Odd that he repudiates them so ferociously.

    Does he ever watch or credit Sky News, a leader in Australian political news and analysis, and the only television broadcaster to have covered nationally every federal, state and territory election for the past decade and dare I add every New Zealand election with an unusual consistency in Australian media delivery? Sky News, with FOXTEL‘s and Austar’s backing, also provides Australia’s only public affairs channel A-PAC with all the wealth of debate and presentation it provides free from editorial judgement. But that of course in, Bob Carr’s crusade is an unwelcome fact to be cast aside.

    Most of us in the media spend our lives defending and protecting fact from fiction; analysis from hubristic bombastic assertion; and above all the right of the public to choose what they want and to exercise independent rights. It is called living in a democratic culture.

    Bob Carr has the same right as everyone to choose or reject what we offer.

    Kim Williams
    CEO
    FOXTEL

  15. Ivan Pagett permalink
    October 1, 2011 8:30 am

    Bob! When do you get time to watch Foxtel?? there I was thinking that you had a life.
    The same complaint about advertisements applies to the free to air commercial stations too. We sat up a couple of nights ago to watch an episode of Ruth Rendell’s “Inspector Wexford”. The last 40 minutes took 90 minutes to watch because of constant ads. Infuriating.

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