Why the ABC wants to gobble SBS, not save it

This opinion piece by Save Our SBS President Steve Aujard, was first published on 23 February 2016 in the New Daily, here

ANALYSIS: A merger of Australia’s two public broadcasters would spell the end of multicultural programming in this country.

While ABC chief Mark Scott is prone to talking up the idea of merging Australia’s two public broadcasters, he has never been able to justify how multicultural broadcasting would be improved under ABC control.

Let’s be realistic about what Scott is proposing. It is not a merger of equals but a takeover of SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV).

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SBS a remarkable institution, part of Australia’s multicultural success

SBS – the Special Broadcasting Service – is the world’s first broadcaster established solely as a multicultural, multiethnic broadcaster. Prior to SBS, other broadcasters including the ABC had aired various foreign language programs (on Sunday mornings) but the Anglo-centric monoculture of the ABC hampered the full potential of multiculturalism in all its glory. The need for SBS to exist in its own right was soon realised.

Established by the Fraser Coalition government, SBS began its own TV transmissions in 1980 broadcasting on channels 0/28. SBS-TV was built on the back of the publicly funded multilingual radio stations

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Parents and teachers to join the fight to protect and enhance the ABC and SBS

Quentin Dempster recently delivered a talk to the Ryde-Macquarie Teachers’ Association Annual Dinner about the threats facing the ABC, SBS and NITV. Here is an extract of his talk.

"The public broadcasters are in grave danger. These institutions – the ABC with an 83 year legacy; SBS with 36 years, have legislated Charters requiring all program makers to regard their audiences as citizens in a robust democracy … and not consumers to be delivered up to advertisers. Programs should be commissioned on the basis of their creative merit, sometimes with risk. On-air conversations should facilitate the

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Why SBS should not be further commercialised

by Margaret Pomeranz and Quentin Dempster

Now is the time for all good Australians to stand up to fight for a sustainable public broadcasting system in our country, in particular SBS.

There are forces at work out to further commercialise SBS through an amendment to the SBS Act and through the dishonouring or an election commitment not to cut funding to SBS (and the ABC).

SBS is unique. It emerged in 1978 as an initiative of the Fraser Government because of the perceived deficiency of the ABC in servicing the needs of increasing numbers of non-English speaking newcomers.

In 2015 the raison

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SBS preparing to double advertising and slash services

In a recent Politics in the Pub talk by public broadcasting advocate Quentin Dempster, the extent of government cuts to the ABC and SBS were outlined. Whilst his talk was mainly about the ABC, chunks of it covered the impact of cuts to the SBS. The cuts are a result of the Communications Department’s Efficiency Study into SBS & the ABC conducted earlier this year. Here is an edited version of his talk – the sections that deal mainly with SBS.

The ABC and SBS are in no man’s land at the

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Ads to double in SBS primetime

Moves are afoot that could see advertising soon double in primetime programs on SBS but government taking the proceeds of the extra revenue from the increased ads as a payment in efficiency dividends.

Effectively, the current cap of five minutes advertising per hour will increase to 10 minutes.

But an increase in one hour will mean a decrease elsewhere. ‘Ad averaging’, as it is called, is a possible outcome of the Communications Department’s Efficiency Study into SBS that was conducted earlier this year. A draft copy of the Study has been given to SBS.

Currently, SBS retains all

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Skrzynski could have done more

The first two Directors ever appointed based on merit to the SBS Board of Directors were SBS’s Chairman, Joseph Skrzynski AO, and Director, Elleni Bereded-Samuel. Their term on the SBS Board is due to expire next month.

The Skrzynski story

In the lead-up to his five year anniversary, Save Our SBS concludes our series on the historic first ever merit-based appointments to the SBS Board. 

Last month we profiled Bereded-Samuel. Now Joseph Skrzynski

Skrzynski entered the world of broadcasting five years ago with experience as a viewer, listener and financier.


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Budget outcome: SBS own worst enemy

There’s been a lot of backslapping all round. If you read SBS’s and Minister Conroy’s media releases about funding SBS in the budget, things could not be better. Offering no criticism, SBS welcomed an increase of a measly "$20 million" over the next three years and SBS’s Managing Director, Michael Ebeid articulated a clutch of corporate speak. The similarity between the Minister’s and SBS’s talk is remarkable.

Looking at the figures and rhetoric, it seems that SBS and the government are happy with the direction and funding model of SBS as public service broadcaster. A

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New law deregulates ads

Although the government withdrew its controversial media reform bills package, the legislation that related to SBS passed both Houses.  

The new law guarantees an Indigenous Director to the SBS Board which Save Our SBS welcomes and incorporates most of the SBS Charter to digital services (online).

In applying the Charter to online, the package did not require SBS online services be "diverse" nor use "innovative forms of expression". These unique Charter obligations will remain on SBS free-to-air but need not apply to SBS online programs and internet only streamed radio or TV services. SBS has four digital

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Media Reform: Impact on SBS

Save Our SBS reviewed the government’s Media Reform Bills Package in relation to SBS.

If passed in its current form, advertising will continue on SBS’s internet service but without any of the constraints that apply on SBS free-to-air.

The package allows online advertising – something SBS does anyway – but provides no mechanism for consumer complaints and in this respect will permit SBS to side step the industry regulator, ACMA. Advertising on SBS digital and online services would not be required to be subject to the SBS Codes of Practice. SBS’s Board would develop digital

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Parliament did not intend in-program breaks

When the SBS was established as a corporation under the SBS Act in 1991, the Parliament granted SBS the right to broadcast advertisements before and after programs, and in “natural program breaks”. Although the Act did not define that phrase, the Hansard of the day clearly shows the Parliament intended that “natural program breaks” meant “half time in a soccer match”. No other definition was given.

On this basis, advice was provided to the SBS that it was not allowed to place ads in programs except sport. Ads only appeared between programs

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Multiculturalism in, racism out

With all the to-ing and fro-ing by the Immigration Minister and the Opposition about a nine year boy orphaned on Christmas Island being shuttled to Sydney for an emotional funeral, then back to Christmas Island and now with the boy returning to relatives on the mainland, the recent Click here to read the full story . . .

Greens & Labor could be best deal for SBS

Although Labor faired poorly at the 21 August 2010 federal elections, it has now been given a second chance in the formation of a minority government.

All the Parties and Independent’s agreement to the way parliament is to conduct itself could result in SBS getting a better deal. Private bills must now be debated and voted on. Labor’s Agreement with the Greens gives the Greens direct access to the Prime Minister on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This could ensure an opportunity for both to act

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Why supporters of SBS voted Greens

Under the 11 year Howard Liberal-National Coalition government, funding for SBS did not keep pace with that required. As a result, in late 2006 SBS began interrupting all programs for advertisements. No one was happy. The Coalition government had abdicated its responsibility for multicultural broadcasting. The Labor party then in Opposition vehemently objected in the parliament and publicly stated in its SBS [election] Policy that “Labor opposes and continues to oppose the decision by SBS to introduce in-program advertising”.

There was some excitement in

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SBS a worthy election issue

In a media release issued yesterday the President of SaveOurSBS.org, Steve Aujard, called on the government and Opposition to include SBS in their election policies.

Mr Aujard accused the Labor and Liberal parties of showing little regard towards SBS.

“Despite more than 12,000 emails sent to leaders of all parties from visitors to the SaveOurSBS.org website in the past few weeks, pleading for a promise to increase funding for SBS to free it from advertising, neither Labor nor Liberal are

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