Clubs struggling to meet Austar fees
By HUGH KEARNEY
THE chief executive of the Tweed's biggest registered club has joined the chorus of complaints against a 131 per cent increase in fees charged to clubs by regional pay television channel Austar.
Rob Smith, general manager of Twin Towns Services Club (TTSC) said yesterday he fully supported a move by ClubsNSW to ask the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate the fee rise which could see some clubs forced to drop the service and risk upsetting patrons.
A ClubsNSW media statement yesterday claimed Austar was the only channel available to clubs in regional NSW screening all NRL, AFL and Super 14 rugby games and certain soccer, cricket, basketball and tennis events.
Mr Smith said the fee increase meant Twin Towns' Austar bill would rise from $47,000 per annum to more than $100,000.
"That's a lot of money," Mr Smith said. "Especially when it comes on top of the one-thousand per cent increase they put on about 18 months ago."
Mr Smith said the club had little option but to pay the increase because it was a service its patrons had come to expect.
"When they put it up last time, we took it (Austar) off in revolt for a short time, but people expect a club of our size to provide a pay-TV service and provide it at a very professional level, and that's it," he said.
"They can get it in their own homes for $49 a month, so they don't have an understanding of how dramatic an increase the fees are for us."
Mr Smith said together with SkyTV and TVN, Twin Towns would be paying out around $175,000 per year in pay-TV fees with the latest Austar increase.
"Austar is clearly exploiting market expectations where there is no other choice (of pay-TV service) in regional NSW. They have a virtual monopoly," he said.
ClubsNSW CEO David Costello said Austar should have consulted with the industry before setting the fee increase in place.
Mr Costello said the increase would have severe repercussions for some clubs in regional NSW who had had been doing it tough and would have to drop the ser- vice.