New laws could change the experience for millions of Australians accessing their favourite streaming content through smart TVs.

Proposed legislation aims to give prominence to Australian free-to-air services on smart TVs, addressing concerns raised by free-to-air broadcasters about unfair advantages given to certain streaming apps.

Media giants are engaged in a battle over the presentation of streaming services, arguing that some apps receive preferential treatment. 

In response, the federal government is drafting new laws, though critics view it as an attempt to control TVs and influence viewing habits.

New smart TVs often feature pre-installed streaming apps for subscription services, and free-to-air broadcasters claim Australians are forced to manually search for apps like ABC iview, SBS OnDemand, 9Now, 10Play, and 7Plus, missing out on free content.

Legislation, expected to be introduced soon, would compel television manufacturers to ensure Australian free services are prominently featured on smart TVs. 

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland says there is a need to update regulations for the digital age.

Major television companies, including Free TV Australia, back the proposal, saying that it levels the playing field and benefits the local media sector.

The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) leads the opposition, stating that the proposed prominence framework could grant special access to certain providers, undermining fair competition.

ASTRA has launched an advertising campaign with the tagline “now the government wants to control your TV”. The association argues that manipulating search results and prioritising certain apps constitute undue control, potentially upsetting viewers.

In addition to the prominence debate, the government is considering extending rules on local content production to streaming services. 

Legislation expected next year will also cover the ‘anti-siphoning list’, ensuring certain events are aired on free-to-air television rather than being exclusive to subscription services.