The Death of Free-to-Air TV

For most Australians, free-to-air TV is both the bane of our existence and a right (such as breathing).
The former annoys us to no end, but without the latter we’d be extremely annoyed.
Presently there is some contraversy about Free-To-Air having the broadcast rights to live sporting events, and then not actually broadcasting the content, making it unavailable to thousands of sports fans.  This has created a stir amongst pay-tv companies who would both pay for the rights AND broadcast the events.  This has led to an advertising frenzy as both sides attempt to appeal to the heartstrings of Australian TV viewers.
Free-To-Air appeal to the common Aussie who can’t afford pay-tv and invoke the memories of Australian triumph in th olympic games and rugby and so forth, and how it would be a national tragedy if such moments were withheld for paying viewers only.
Pay-Tv operators are rightly challenging this appeal, on the basis that (and this is historically accurate) free-to-air stations do not do justice to either the sport or the viewers.  Broadcasting has always been flung onto viewers to the advantage/discretion of the broadcaster and that in particular extends beyond just live sporting events.
It’s hard not to see where I side on this issue, really.  I believe that Australians do deserve to watch our sporting elete succeed, and to not have to pay for it.  However Free-To-Air operators need to live up to that expectation and, should they acquire the broadcasting rights, must broadcast said events.  Treatment of the Soccer World Cup this year is a good sign that the message is heard by some.  SBS deserves the highest acknowledgement for screening as much soccer as their rights allowed.
Having said all that, what about the internet and the downloading of TV shows?
There are reports that many Australians download the latest TV shows (in particular US TV shows where Australia is in many cases more than six months behind).  This begs the question, what effect will it have on local TV stations?
Trying to follow a TV show like Lost (which has a rather complicated plot) is exceedingly hard when channel 7 decides to vary the broadcasting (rescheduling, random repeat episodes etc).  In some cases, a station shows no regard to viewers at all.. Channel 9 decided to cut "The West Wing" mid way through season 5 last year (the show concluded it’s final season 7 in the US, this year).
When we moved from Sydney to Vancouver a few years ago, Channel 9 had decided to drag out broadcasting the final season of Friends and Frasier.  By the time we arrived in Vancouver both shows had long finished.  When we returned to Sydney a year later, amazingly, Channel 9 still hadn’t aired the final episode of Frasier.  We ended up missing the entire last season of Friends, and most of Frasier.  Amazing!
I’m interested to hear what people think about this issue in particular.  Is it fair to be at the mercy of the broadcaster’s whims?  Do we not have the same fair expectation to be able to view current season TV programmes as they go to air in the US?  Why are we a second class nation when it comes to TV?  Add a comment!

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