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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 d’être of SBS is more relevant than ever with high levels of immigration likely to prevail for the foreseeable future.

A third of the current population were not born in Australia.

A taxpayer funded public broadcaster which reaches out through multi-lingual radio, online services and television programming which enhances a sense of inclusion and cohesion is an investment in the national interest. In an age of fear and terror it can break down xenophobia, racism and bigotry through intelligent, engaging journalism, talk-back, informed conversation, satire, documentary, movies and entertainment programming.

Public broadcasters view their audiences as citizens in a robust democracy, not as consumers to be delivered up to advertisers.

Please sign our petition. Our immediate objective is to have the Federal Parliament reject any amendment to the SBS Act to extend advertising on SBS through a tactic known as ad-averaging.

Ultimately we want all political parties and the governments they may form to recognise and accept that SBS should not be run on a commercial media business plan. The Australian private sector and its media networks, now confronting global players with broadband access to all domestic households, do not need a taxpayer-subsidised SBS competing for precious ad revenue. The private sector needs this advertising revenue source to underwrite its financial viability. We want a strong and creative private media sector in Australia complemented by the public broadcasters with their independent Charter roles. It is this dynamic which has helped to make Australia a great and peace-loving country.

With the ad-averaging amendment proposed SBS is being turned into Australia’s fourth fully commercial TV channel by stealth.

SBS has already aggravated its support base through re-defining ‘natural breaks’ to allow ads within programs not between them.

Please join us and Save Our SBS in our GetUp! campaign to fight for a non-commercial future for Australia’s great multi-cultural broadcaster.

Margaret Pomeranz AM worked as a writer/producer at SBS where she co-hosted The Movie Show before moving to the ABC with At The Movies. Quentin Dempster AM is former presenter of 7:30 NSW, journalist and well known public broadcasting advocate.


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