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What Each Party Will Do With SBS: Election 2007

The SBS policies of each party explained:

What are the policies of the political parties about SBS funding and advertising on SBS?

Save Our SBS wrote to the each of the major political parties requesting them to tell us their party policies on SBS for publication on www.SaveOurSBS.org.

We asked a series of questions covering SBS funding and advertising. We wanted to know whether or not each party had a policy to ban all advertising on SBS; or, insist that SBS restrict ads to between programs only; or, leave the current arrangement of allowing SBS to continue to interrupt programs for advertisements. We also asked each party if they planned to merge SBS with the ABC. The replies are below in the order that each party responded.

Each of the major parties has been made aware of the Save Our SBS web site and the petition to fully fund SBS and stop the advertising on SBS.

LABOR:

 

Read the reply from the Shadow Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy in which he explains the ALP policy. His comment is below Our Interpretation & Comment.

Our Interpretation & Comment

It seems that the general thrust of the Labor ‘SBS policy’ is somewhat encouraging to Save Our SBS.

Labor believes that SBS should be “free from commercial and political influence” and “Labor has opposed and continues to oppose the decision by SBS to introduce advertising into its programming”. Senator Conroy also said that Labor is committed to “ensuring adequate funding . . . for the SBS”.

Despite these fine sentiments, Save Our SBS was not able to establish if a Labor government would actually fully fund SBS as Labor has only said it will provide “adequate” funding. Does that mean full funding?

Although Senator Conroy stated that Labor believes that SBS should be “free from commercial influence” we were also not able to establish if that means if a Labor government would actually ban all advertising on SBS so that it is truly commercial free.

One thing that is clear is that Labor “opposes advertising into [SBS] programming”.

At the very least it seems that a Labor government would insist that if SBS were to continue to advertise, then the advertisements ought to only be placed between programs and not in them (as used to be the case). If this were to be the case (again) no explanation is offered by Senator Conroy as to how that might be achieved. Save Our SBS had already addressed that issue on this web site at http://saveoursbs.org/faq-sbs-advertising-legislation/ which essentially says that the words: “or during natural program breaks” ought to be deleted from section 45(2)(a) of the Special Broadcasting Act (1991) to absolutely prevent SBS from interrupting programs for advertisements in the future. Save Our SBS is not sure if Labor considers such an amendment necessary because “Labor is concerned that the SBS’s action [of interrupting programs for advertisements] may place it [SBS] in breach of the Act” presumably because the Act does not define “natural program breaks”

All of the above, although encouraging, has left many questions unanswered. As a result, we still urge all people who care about SBS, to read and sign the petition to stop the ads and have SBS fully funded by government. Click http://petition.saveoursbs.org and wait while you are redirected to the petition server.

The following was received by Save Our SBS from Senator Stephen Conroy by email dated 11 October 2007.

Labor considers the SBS an icon of Australian broadcasting. By providing both multicultural and multilingual broadcasts that aim to educate and entertain Australians of all backgrounds, the SBS plays an important social and cultural role in Australia and one that Labor champions.

Funding of the SBS

Labor recognises that greater Commonwealth funding would assist the SBS to produce and broadcast more programs and news and current affairs bulletins for Australian viewers.

At its National Conference in April 2007, Labor acknowledged the importance of the SBS and committed Labor to ensuring adequate funding and support for the SBS, to enable it to continue to provide Australians with high quality services, free from political and commercial interference.

Advertising at the SBS

Labor has opposed and continues to oppose the decision by SBS to introduce advertising into its programming.

SBS maintains that they can put advertisements into their programs without there needing to be a change to legislation. Section 45 of the SBS Act 1991 provides for advertising only during periods before programs commence, after programs end, or during natural program breaks. Accordingly, Labor is concerned that the SBS’s action may place it in breach of the Act.

I pursued this matter with SBS at Senate Estimates in October 2006 (see: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S9768.pdf ) and again at Senate Estimates in May 2007 (see: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/commttee/S10314.pdf ).

The introduction of in program advertising to the SBS in effect makes the SBS a de facto fourth free-to-air commercial television station and serves to erode the fundamental tenets of public broadcasting- that is, that it should be free from commercial and political influence.

Thank you for writing to me about these important issues.

Senator Stephen Conroy

Deputy Opposition Leader in the Senate

Shadow Minister for Communications and Information Technology

Save Our SBS has asked Senator Conroy to clarify if a Labor government would maintain SBS as a unique and independent public broadcaster and fund SBS fully, or, merge SBS with the ABC; ban advertising completely on SBS, or, only allow ads between programs but not in them (as used to be the case). We await Senator Conroy’s reply. When we receive a response we will publish that here.

 

Senator Conroy sent us a follow up email on 12 November, 2007 which was the same as his email of 11 October 2007 above except that this later email contained one extra paragraph. It is published in the box below.

In order to ensure the independence of the SBS, Labor will make sure that all future SBS Board candidates are selected on the basis of merit. Candidates will be considered by a panel established at arm’s length from the Minister. The Minister will then appoint Board members from a short list prepared by the panel.

In the meantime, sign the petition to protect SBS and stop ads on SBS.

 

THE GREENS

We asked The Australian Greens for their policies regarding SBS. We asked a series of questions. Anna Sildever from the Office of Senator Bob Brown supplied the answers by email dated 23 October 2007.

 

Q: Do the Greens agree that the SBS should be kept as a unique and independent, multicultural public broadcaster or would the Greens want to merge the SBS with the ABC? If so how, in what sense?

A: The Australian Greens’ Media and Communications policy specifies that media diversity is a right of all Australian and that we support a strong, independent public and community media. Given our support for diversity of Australian media, the Greens would not support merging the SBS with the ABC. We recognise the contribution SBS makes as an independent, multicultural public broadcaster.

In September 2006, the Greens vigorously opposed the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2006. We opposed this legislation because these laws will allow for greater cross-media ownership and reduced media diversity.

Senator Brown said, “ensuring that all Australians have access to a diversity of opinions from a diversity of news sources is essential for a vibrant democracy and these changes undermine democracy.”

Our Arts and Culture policy further emphasises the importance of diversity, as well as encouraging innovative artistic and cultural endeavour. It is important that Australian arts and culture reflects the cultural and linguistic diversity of the Australian population. SBS has a key role to play in achieving this diversity on our television screens.

Q: Do the Greens believe that the SBS should be fully funded by government and not reliant on revenue from advertising?

A: The Greens believe that a strong, independent public and community media is essential. Australian content should be strongly supported and well-funded.

Our Media and Communications policy specifies that we will make funding to SBS and the ABC comparable to current per capita funding models for public broadcasting in the United Kingdom.

Q: Would the Greens vote or move a motion to amend the Special Broadcasting Service Act (1991) to ban all advertising on the SBS? When?

A: WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert raised the issue of commercialisation of the SBS in the Senate when she addressed the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment Bill 2006 in May 2006, saying,”…a number of us are deeply concerned about the commercialisation that has taken place at SBS and that the SBS charter has been further marginalised.”

In terms of banning advertising, the Greens would support a move to ban advertising on SBS, however, we believe that the principle aim must be to secure sufficient public funding to ensure program funding via advertising revenue is not required.

Q: OR would the Greens vote or move a motion to amend the Act that would allow the SBS to carry some advertising but between programs only and not in them, and if so, given that the current management of the SBS believe (wrongly in our view) that they are not in breach of Section 45 of the Act, how would the Greens propose to actually prevent a future SBS from interrupting programs for advertisements?

A: We would support reducing the advertising schedule to between programs only as an improvement to the current situation which also allows for advertisements to interrupt programs.

The Greens polices are encouraging too for SBS and public broadcasting in general.

In the meantime, sign the petition to protect SBS and stop ads on SBS.

 

THE DEMOCRATS

Senator Lyn Allison Leader of the Australian Democrats wrote to Save Our SBS. Her letter is below dated 30 October 2007.

Senator Lyn Allison Leader Australian Democrats 30 Oct 2007 reply to Save Our SBS

The Democrats also supplied to Save Our SBS their action plan statement for SBS (and the ABC). It is available here in PDF: Public Broadcasting AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS ACTION PLAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS PUBLIC BROADCASTING [SBS & ABC Policy] 30 Oct 2007.

 

The Public Broadcasting policies of the Democrats are very encouraging for the future of SBS.

 

As SBS is still not fully funded by government, and continues to interrupt programs for advertisements, and, there appears to be no end in sight for the commercialisation of SBS, and, the Board of SBS pays lip service to multicultural programming, Save Our SBS strongly urges people to sign the petition now to protect SBS and stop the ads on SBS.

THE OTHER POLITICAL PARTIES

Save Our SBS has not received a policy statement from any of the other political parties.

However the office of: Senator Helen Coonan (Liberal Senator) and Minister for Communications, Information Technology & the Arts; AND, the office of: Mark Vaile (Leader of the Nationals) and Deputy Prime Minister, and, Minister for Transport & Regional Services; have both given notice to Save Our SBS that in time their Offices will forward their comments about SBS regarding advertising on SBS and SBS funding. When those comments from the Liberal & National coalition parties are received by Save Our SBS we will publish them here.

We urge everyone who cares about SBS and public broadcasting to send a clear message to our politicians that we expect SBS to be fully funded by government and without any advertising at all.

Sign the petition to protect SBS, stop the ads and maintain our multicultural public broadcaster funded fully by government. Click http://petition.saveoursbs.org and wait while you are redirected to the petition server.

SaveOurSBS

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