The Australian Association of National Advertisers has asked the federal government to lift the ban on preventing free-to-air TV networks from broadcasting extra channels ('multichannelling').

The ban is currently under review and the AANA claims multichannelling would enable advertisers to reach niche markets as well as offering viewers a wider choice of programmes.

Its members argue that there is no 'technical, economic or public interest reason' not to allow the change and, as suppliers of 80% of the national main media advertising market, their argument is an important one.

But it seems that the AANA faces fierce opposition in the form of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch's News Corp and Kerry Packer's Nine Network which remain vehemently opposed to more channels.

They fear a lifting of the ban would allow free-to-air networks to operate subscription services, increasing competition for digital pay-TV company Foxtel in which Murdoch and Packer have invested heavily.

Nine also claims mulitichannelling would reduce free-to-air programme quality and fragment the mass TV audience with no rise in ad revenue.

The AANA dismissed this argument as 'spurious', and received backing from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance for the introduction of more channels, although with the proviso that this should be limited to two in order to prevent networks transforming into pay-TV operations.

Data sourced from: Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff