The Auditor-General is considering an inquiry into $40 million in federal government grants provided to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Fox Sports was paid $30 million by the federal government in 2017 to boost coverage of women’s, niche and community sport over a five-year period. 

In 2018, Fox Sports merged with Foxtel (which was jointly owned by Telstra and News Corp). 

In July 2020, another $10 million of taxpayer funds was provided to Foxtel as a coronavirus response measure.

The $40 million in total funding was provided without tender, meaning Nine Entertainment Co, Seven West Media, Network Ten and the public broadcasters were not able to bid.

To meet its grant obligations, Foxtel has made some women’s AFL and cricket matches free for non-subscribers of its streaming service Kayo Sports under its Freebies section.

Greens media and communications spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has written to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) to request a review of the funding arrangements.

“Australia has two public broadcasters who could have received the funding instead. In order for taxpayers to watch women’s sport on Foxtel they need to pay for a subscription, effectively paying twice,” she said in her letter.

She suggested the sports would gain maximum exposure by being broadcast on a free-to-air network. 

She also noted that the $10 million provided in mid-2020 came despite many sports not being played due to COVID-related restrictions.

Auditor-General Grant Hehir has replied to the Greens senator, saying he will look at adding an examination of the funding to the ANAO’s 2021-22 annual audit work program, which is due to be published in July.