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Australian government faces scrutiny over Foxtel payment

The Australian government has come under scrutiny for a A$30m (€20m/$22.8m) payment issued to pay-television operator Foxtel to aid its sports operation.

Foxtel was assigned the funds over four years in May’s budget in order to “support the broadcast of underrepresented sports on subscription television, including women’s sports, niche sports, and sports with a high level of community involvement and participation”.

Public-service broadcaster the ABC has since submitted a freedom of information request seeking explanation over how Foxtel plans to use the funding over the next two years, but this has been denied with the Department of Communications and the Arts stating that there is no documentation associated with the grant.

The ABC said the legal director for the department refused access to the requested documents under subsection 24A(1) of the FOI Act because he was “satisfied that documents falling within the scope of your request do not exist”.

Communications Minister Mitch Firfield also declined to elaborate further on the grant when contacted by the Australian edition of the Guardian newspaper.

“This was a decision of government, announced in the budget as part of the media reform package,” a spokeswoman said. “The department’s FOI process is independent of the minister.”