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Page Archive: FAQ Petition

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.


What’s wrong with interrupting programs on SBS-TV for commercial breaks?

Below are some frequently asked questions about the petition.

It is very annoying to watch any program that is interrupted for anything, least of all commercials. Interrupting programs for commercials destroys the continuity of the program and disrupts the viewing experience. However that is only part of the problem when SBS-TV interrupts programs.

Interruptions are disrespectful to the viewer and to the program maker too.

When relying on commercials for revenue or even to subsidise other income, the quality of all programs will over time diminish. The temptation to please the sponsor may become too great to ignore. Advertisers will be given priority over viewers and with news and information type programs the potential to be influenced by the ‘hand that feeds you,’ i.e., the advertisers, is a real danger.

“The commercialisation of News distorts the truth.”

No ads in news and current affairs programs.

Why not just ask SBS to voluntarily reverse its decision of interrupting programs for commercials, to return to their former way of doing things: No ads in ‘regular’ programs but occasionally a few ads in some really big overseas sports programs?

SBS will get to hear about the petition too.

Many people have complained to SBS about its decision to interrupt programs for commercial breaks. Many people have asked SBS to reverse its current position and to return to the former way of presenting programs, with no ad breaks into programs. SBS have given absolutely no hint that they will even consider going back to their former way of doing things. However the people in charge today at SBS are not the same people who were in charge back in 1991 when the Special Broadcasting Service Act came into force. The previous people were committed to the notion of public broadcasting. Some people have asked the question: Is the current Board and management of SBS committed to the idea of public broadcasting? Do they even understand what public broadcasting really means?

SBS is aware of the public’s distaste for seeing their programs being interrupted for commercial breaks. They could have voluntarily reversed their current policy but have not.

Given the current attitude of SBS, legislative change is the only way that SBS will stop interrupting programs for commercial breaks.

We need legislative change to achieve this. Please sign the petition.

Why not just wait and see what happens? Why sign a petition now?

If you do nothing now, it will get worse.

Most public broadcasters all over the world originally had no commercials but many now do. Australia and the UK are among the few remaining countries that still have public broadcasters either with no ads (such as our ABC or Britain’s BBC) or no ads interrupting regular programs as did SBS until late 2006.

New Zealand lost its public broadcaster to commercials many years ago. The NZBC changed its name many times and so did the related Acts of Parliament that the broadcaster operated under. The NZBC was once a great public broadcaster, a bit like our ABC. Today the New Zealand broadcaster is fully commercial. Many people have said the television service is now unwatchable, due to ad break interruptions. When the decision was made many years ago to ‘commercialise’ the NZBC, to interrupt the programs for commercial breaks, few people objected. People just sat back, felt powerless to do anything and lost their public broadcaster, forever.

In more recent years the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was also ‘commercialised’. It took a few years to stir the public into action. Very recently the public asked the Canadian parliament to legislate to put things back to the way they used to be with no commercials. However it was too late. The request to have no commercials was made to a newly elected conservative government. The response: Why would we want to do that? CBC used to cost us millions. Now it runs itself… from commercials…

SBS is in danger of going down a similar path to the above. By SBS deciding to interrupt programs for commercial breaks, their funding from government will gradually decrease and SBS will have to rely more heavily on advertising than before. By then, you, the viewer, will not have a choice. You now do. However, only if you voice your objection now.

Please sign the petition.

What is the difference between a community broadcaster, a commercial station and a public broadcaster?

SBS is a public, national broadcaster and does not have a community or commercial broadcast licence. The ABC is also a public broadcaster.

Community broadcasters are not-for-profit organisations. They are operated and funded by their local communities. They are not funded by the government and run at a very ‘grass roots’ level. A few stations employ some people and most rely heavily on volunteers.

Most enterprises have a product. Mainstream television is no different.

SEVEN, NINE & TEN are licensed as commercial stations.

Commercial TV seeks to run at a profit. Their Shareholders demand that. To run at a profit they need to sell their product to a buyer. The product to be sold is the viewer. The commercial TV station introduces or sells their viewers to the advertisers. The advertisers are the client of the TV station. The programs are merely a catalyst, a draw card to get you into the business of the advertiser. The commercial TV station does not actually care about you. You are simply their product to be sold by the TV station to their client, the advertisers.

How does this happen?

Part of the equation is that the TV station that runs commercials sells the air-time in the program to the advertiser. The advertiser pays big money to the TV station to be sure that you, the viewer, then buy from the advertiser.

The TV station that runs commercials must consider the advertiser first, last and always. To do otherwise will mean that it might fail in its attempt to sell its product (you, the viewer) to their client (the advertiser).

What about public TV?

Public TV also has a product. If there is no advertiser for the program, the product is the actual program content. However when a public broadcaster, like SBS, starts to interrupt programs for commercial breaks, the whole relationship changes. Even though SBS (currently) has no Shareholders (just tax payers who fund it via government) the goal of interrupting programs for commercials becomes identical to that of commercial TV. You the viewer of SBS (now with commercials in program) by definition become merely a product to be sold by SBS to their advertisers. For this reason alone, the idea of a public broadcaster interrupting programs for commercial breaks is against the spirit of public broadcasting. It conflicts with the reason for even having the broadcaster publicly owned by tax-payers. Therein lies a real danger and a threat to SBS and to public broadcasting in general.

To protect against this threat we need legislative change. Sign the petition.

Should SBS be allowed to put ads in sport?

In the past SBS-TV did place some commercials in some special event programs taken on direct relay from an overseas broadcaster and some of the very big live sport events. When this first occurred the placement of the ads was few and far between. Over the years the trend to run more ads, more often in the sports shows increased. Some might argue that these programs paid for themselves. We do not have any evidence to confirm that. In their early days, under a different Board and management, SBS acted responsibly and made certain that their ‘regular’ programs were never interrupted, even if sporting programs were rarely interrupted. That is no longer the case. What commenced as a service to a particular audience perhaps at some point changed to a means to try and raise money for the station. Hence the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) was thought by some to stand for the Soccer Broadcasting Service.

Perhaps if SBS had not made the decision to interrupt ‘regular’ programs for commercial breaks commencing late 2006, and had continued the way it was, then Save Our SBS and the petition would be less likely to get up and running.

By its recent actions of December 2006 and onwards, it is the opinion of many that the current Board and management of SBS has now misunderstood the whole notion of public broadcasting and is acting against the spirit of their Charter. SBS disagrees.

It is almost impossible to word legislation with exceptions to the rule. In any case even having ads in sport conflicts with the notion of what a public broadcaster should be.

It would be very, very difficult to word legislation that states that advertisements are only allowed between programs however during some special sports shows the program could occasionally be interrupted for a commercial break in special places, like ‘after a goal is scored’ etc. Legislation with exceptions to the rule are clumsy and may even fail to achieve the desired outcome. In any case placing commercials in sports programs begins to shift the emphasis away from providing a sports service for that community to one of chasing a dollar which conflicts with the purpose of public broadcasting. That is the role of a commercial TV station.

Make certain that SBS never becomes a commercial TV station.

Protect public broadcasting and strengthen SBS. Please sign the petition.

Why have any ads on SBS at all? Isn’t it against the spirit of public broadcasting to have advertising (even if the ads are placed between programs only)?

We do not support the notion of having any form of commercial sponsorship on any public broadcaster, including SBS. Our ultimate goal is for SBS to not supplement its revenue from advertising at all. The legislation that the ABC operates under prohibits them from broadcasting advertisements on radio or television. Unfortunately the legislation that SBS operates under does allow limited advertising: “5 minutes per hour”. It would have been preferable if the SBS legislation had been written differently.

We want SBS to be fully and properly funded by government as an independent public broadcaster free of all commercial advertising and sponsorship. To achieve this will take a lot of hard work. It may take many years. The petition calls on the Minister to urge the SBS Board to stop interrupting programs on SBS for advertisements. This might be considered a transitional stage before advertisements are phased out completely (achieved by legislative change and proper government funding, referred to in the petition).

Of course it is by no means an ideal scenario that in the short term SBS will rely on some money from sponsorship but this may be the only way to eventually achieve our final goal of banning advertising on SBS altogether. When advertisements are placed between programs only, there is a certain disconnection from the program itself. However we acknowledge that this is not perfect but it’s better than interrupting the program for ads.

However we are calling for no ads at all on SBS and that SBS be fully funded by government.

Support amendments to the legislation. Please sign the petition.

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.


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