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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 moment.

Both these public broadcasting institutions are waiting for the Abbott Government’s Expenditure Review Committee (ERC) to set the funding envelope for 2014/15 and beyond.

The ABC and SBS face an awful period. We are expecting forced redundancies of journalists, production staff and program makers in the hundreds when the ERC finally determines the future funding envelope. But more importantly, the funding reduction looks like it will significantly affect programs and services for audiences.

ABC-ONE & ABC-3 may merge and perhaps ABC-2 closed. To save transmission costs SBS-2 is expected to be closed down. The deletion of free to air channels for the Australian people is not back office.

A few [more] things about SBS.

You’ll remember SBS was established by the Malcolm Fraser Coalition government in the late 1970s because of the then deficiencies of the ABC in servicing the rapidly growing non-English speaking population of Australia.

SBS has been funded on a shoe string in spite of this country’s mass immigration program. We are going to be a big Australia and the SBS raison d’etre has been to make the newcomers feel included with multi-lingual radio and television programs and English language subtitles on fascinating foreign movies.

Recently SBS gave us the award-winning documentary series Go Back to Where You Came From to confront this country’s xenophobia. I regret to report that SBS is now in for a rough time.

The Abbott Government is expected to amend the SBS Act to allow for 14 minutes of advertising and promotion per hour – capped at 10 minutes of advertising per prime time hour up from five minutes currently. Apparently the SBS board will be offered a choice: offer up the additional revenue to be derived from this extended advertising to the Federal Government, or meet a set ‘savings’ target.

Ladies and gentlemen, it appears SBS is being coerced into taking the additional advertising option.

Advertising on SBS television and radio undermines SBS’ audience loyalty.

Advertising infuriates SBS’ audience trying to engage with Jenny Brockie’s excellent Insight, the courageous Dateline, their movies and great documentaries.

Just what Free TV Australia, representing the commercial TV networks [who are] already scrambling for advertising revenue in a now dis-aggregated TV market make of this remains to be seen.

This is no way to treat SBS which has made a remarkable contribution to the success of Australia as an inclusive and cohesive multi-culture. And you’d think in terms of counter terrorism the role of SBS in inclusion and cohesion would be more important now than ever before.

What we’ve got here is an ideological aversion to public broadcasting.

Quentin Dempster presents 7.30 NSW on ABC-TV each Friday night and is a public broadcasting advocate. His Politics in the Pub talk took place at the Harold Park Hotel on Thursday 9 October 2014. You may read or watch the full unedited version and the Q&A session.

8 comments to SBS preparing to double advertising and slash services

  • A Samson

    I seem to recall Mr Abbott telling Anton Enus just before the election there would be no cuts to the SBS. I wonder if this new Chairman donor to the Liberals will let the government slowly stave the SBS or defend these attacks on the SBS. Mr Gupta, I do not want the SBS to have even more and more commercials. I could not stand it. Don’t do it under any circumstances even if the government allows it. I am sure I am not alone in saying I want you to get rid of the advertisements especially in the programs but I do think the SBS still does some worthwhile programs. Quentin Dempster is right. This government has an ideological aversion to public broadcasting.

  • Petro

    I am not surprised by this latest news. I think it stinks though. Where is Turnbull in all this? I haven’t seen him fighting for SBS. When SBS decided to mimic commercial broadcasters surely they must have known it would lead to this. Such a shame. Such a loss.

  • Sammy Tee

    I can’t see the commercial stations agreeing to increased advertising on SBS but then again they remained silent when SBS started breaking into programs with adverts.

    SBS does not deserve to have its funds cut. Who said it was efficient to cut off SBS’s income and replace it with more advertising. Where is the proof? Without SBS we would not have these excellent programs like Go back to where you came from.

    We turn people back who arrive by boat but for those who do make it by plane, we just underfund and dismantel the only broadcaster in the country who tries to make them feel welcome.

    Cuts like the ones Dempster spoke of are ideological based but dressed up as efficiency savings. They are not.

    I highly recommend watching Dempster’s talk. I did. It’s worth watching. I’m glad someone is speaking out about this. Thank you Save Our SBS for putting this on your site. Keep up the good work.

  • Lis

    SBS should NEVER have been forced to take advertising in the first instance. Advertising must NOT be increased AT ALL! Hands off SBS and its funding. This government will mess with SBS at its own political peril. Australians will not put up with cuts tto their cultural treasures indefinitely. Listen up, Abbot!

  • JO

    I recall when a nights viewing on SBS was totally in foreign languages with nothing in English. This changed with the onset of advertising some years ago and let’s face it, the advertisers moving in with more and more airtime and intrusion has only caused SBS to pay less attention to their charter. This is not a reason to close SBS or cut it’s funding but it is a reason not to allow even more advertisements. That would seriously threaten the charter. We haven’t heard anything about the efficiency study if they considered this.

  • Ken

    Exactly when did Save Our SBS commecne? The site is very easy to navigate. The total glance is great and content more in depth than eleswhere. Thanks for keeping the public informed!

  • Federico E Cav

    Mr Grassby in the Whitlam government started SBS radio and Mr Fraser started multicultural television SBS. That’s what happens when there is a bipartisan policy. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey could learn a thing or two from this.