Television

Australia's Channel Nine, Seven to skip Ashes coverage

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MUMBAI: While cricket rules the roost in India this piece of news should shed light on how hard it is for the bat and ball game to maintain its television share abroad.

The Australian cricket team may be going from strength to strength but Australians wanting to watch the progress of Ricky Ponting and company against arch rivals England next year will probably have to subscribe to Fox Sports to watch the Ashes series.

While no formal decision has been taken reports indicate that the Kerry Packer owned Nine Network and Channel Seven have decided to not to air the Ashes series in the future. This means cricket lovers wanting to watch the series will need to find at least Aus $50 a month for a basic Foxtel subscription. One in five Australian television homes subscribe to pay TV.

Channel Nine spokesman David Hurley was quoted in The Age attributing the unlikeliness of the network bidding for the series partly to the event clashing with the Australian Football League, rugby league and Wimbledon. A report in ANI indicates that Channel Seven was criticised for restricting coverage of the 2001 Ashes series. This time the broadcaster is blaming the time zone and scheduling difficulties across Australia as the primary reason for cancelling the coverage of the series.

The channels are also most reluctant to air the cricket instead of highly rated shows which constitute primetime programming like CSI or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Meanwhile Australia's cricket legend Doug Walters has cited the popularity of what he described as "stupid soap operas" for the commercial Australian television networks shunning the Ashes series.

"I guess that's the sign of the times. Unfortunately that's what we've got to put up with. People want to watch those other stupid soap operas and movies and they are the ones who have cost us. I think money has been talking. It should be a great series -- hopefully it's their loss."

Cricket Australia meanwhile cannot do anything about the situation. The debate has entered the political arena. Senator Conroy called on Australia's Prime Minister John Howard to have talks with Foxtel about allowing the pubcaster ABC, SBS or community TV station Channel 31 to show the Ashes as well. ABC is believed to have found the cost for the free to air rights that the English cricket Board is asking for to be on the higher side.

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