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Gambling ads ought have no place on SBS

Forever chasing the commercial dollar, SBS has succumbed to broadcasting advertisements that promote betting in their sporting programs. Viewers watching the recent UEFA Cup competition would have seen Sportsbet ads on SBS at 5:30pm on Sundays and 6:30pm on weekdays.

The broadcaster has proceeded down this path under the SBS Codes of Practice and as an associate member of Free TV Australia, under the advertising and betting restrictions contained in the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. The Code permits betting and gambling advertisements in all sports and news programs, irrespective of time of day.

Although perfectly legal, is it morally right for a pubic broadcaster to carry advertisements that promote betting and gambling? We think it is not.

Pre-empting community concerns about running such ads, SBS has also run ‘anti’ gambling spots.

SBS may argue that revenue from the betting advertisements is needed to acquire programs to fulfil its Charter obligations. However, the Charter does not limit itself to programming only; advertisements are not exempt from complying with Charter requirements.

Nothing in the content of the betting advertisements satisfies that necessitated under SBS’s Charter. On this point alone, SBS ought to abandon such advertisements.

It is well known that the lives of many have been damaged due to gambling. That a public broadcaster should go down the path of promoting such is disgraceful.

As a public broadcaster SBS should be leading the way by example rather than behaving in a predatory manner towards problem gamblers.

Who made the decision to broadcast such advertisements may not be the question to ask, but rather, whose responsibility was it to ensure this did not happen?

This falls fairly and squarely at the SBS Board.

The SBS Act requires the Board “develop and publicise guidelines on the kinds of advertisements . . . it is prepared to broadcast”. Although the Board may palm this off as a matter covered by the Codes of Practice – a document prepared by SBS staff without any community consultation – the Codes are inadequate. There was a time in SBS’s history when the Board had a more ‘hands-on’ approach in such matters in consideration of the community SBS serves.

But in recent years the Board takes the approach that it does not involve itself in operational matters. The types of advertisements to be broadcast are not matters the Board would consider. It should.

In our view, the Board ought to now review its position on the broadcasting of betting and gambling advertisements. If it has a moral conscience, it will ban all future such ads from SBS.

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