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SBS’s aspirations

When SBS speaks at public forums about the ways in which it would like to expand its services, to some extent it’s talking about ‘catching up’ with other media outlets. There’s a long list.

For example, SBS is the only broadcaster without a third television network. And there’s a need for an increased number of SBS radio stations too. After all, there are many more languages in Australia now than when SBS radio began 36 years ago. New and emerging communities, especially from African nations are expanding, although under-represented in our media than their established counterparts. Just as the mainly German, Greek and Italian communities of 30+ years ago made their presence on the multicultural and ethnic airwaves, space now needs to be made available for our newer communities. That would be possible if SBS were to expand its digital media outlets. SBS’s POPAsia is an example of digital media. It’s their very successful internet radio station for younger Asians.

The internet is an area that SBS would dearly love to take to its full potential. But SBS has never received government funding directly for this. Although SBS has some mobile apps, its number is few compared to other media. In fact SBS has not received funding for any of the above – more TV and radio networks, nor its internet services.

Recently Save Our SBS approached SBS regarding the above. We also asked if their aspirations had progressed beyond the wish list we had compiled from the public comments SBS had made in the past.

A spokesperson for SBS confirmed that SBS would like to:-

• Develop and expand SBS’s internet services.
• Offer apps across every platform.
• Open more television channels and digital radio stations.
• Improve migrant representation at SBS.
• Extend language skills in the community including English language tuition programs.
• Offer productions in languages other than English (LOTE), both imported and local.
• Innovate multiculturally relevant programs in an Australian context, like, “Immigration Nation” & “Go Back To Where You Came From”.

The spokesperson also said that SBS’s budget was over stretched to the point of restricting any of the above or that below from occurring.

The spokesperson added that SBS was aware of a great need in the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities for things like expansion of:-

• News services relevant to communities within an Australian perspective.
• Audio language services to those areas not currently serviced.
• Local content to convey multicultural Australian stories.

Save Our SBS endorses the above. They are all worthwhile and within the SBS Charter.

The question is how will SBS achieve any of the above with current levels of public funding as they are? It won’t come from advertising. The past year in  particular has seen a massive drop in TV airtime sales. That’s mainly due to multi-channelling which has resulted in the dilution of the advertising dollar. There is general consensus within SBS now that revenue from advertising is no longer sustainable. One senior person described it as “an addiction”. Now with a diminishing return.

The world of multicultural broadcasting has taken a few twists and turns in recent years but now that SBS has a good vision for the future, it’s time for government to fund it – beyond just ‘catching up’. SBS is worthy of a position at the very top of the priority list.

Funding may not be clear, but one thing is; SBS has a first-rate vision for the future and an investment in SBS, would be a worthwhile investment in our rich and culturally diverse nation.

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