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SBS aim to triple Oz content forum told

Speaking at a community forum before a group of SBS supporters, SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid AM announced the broadcasters aim to triple Australian content.

The forum, hosted by SBS, was held in Melbourne last month. It was attended by community stakeholders, including Save Our SBS, who met directly with the SBS Board and senior SBS staff.

The late-afternoon event was moderated by SBS journalist Sarah Abo.

After a Welcome to Country, SBS Chairman Dr Hass Dellal AO talked about SBS as did Mr Ebeid.

A sneak preview of a forthcoming drama titled Sunshine – a positive story about some South Sudanese youth in Melbourne – was screened before Mr Dellal and Ebeid answered questions from the audience on a range of topics.

Sunshine is a fine example of SBS at its best and right-on-charter. It goes to air later this year.

The drama was developed in consultation with the local South Sudanese community and has a number of South Sudanese from Melbourne featured in the film. SBS are also releasing this year a complementary documentary looking at some of the negative stereotypes associated with the South Sudanese community.

In discussing local content Mr Ebeid cited: The Principle, Cabramatta, and Punchbowl saying, “All these shows that we’ve done [are] all about communities”. But local programs cost “10 to 15 times” more to produce than imported content. Mr Ebeid said that 9 percent of content on SBS is Australian made.

Mr Ebeid went on to say, “We want to do 30 percent of our schedule as Australian content”.

Over to audience comments and questions — Mr Ebeid was asked if SBS would consider making a program about the dangers of gambling. In answering he said “I like the suggestion and will work with our team to have a look at that in the coming commissioning period”.

After discussing local content some people in the audience commented about the lack of non‑English movies on TV while others said they wanted more foreign language programs on SBS.

Later, Save Our SBS President, Steve Aujard asked if SBS would consider an in-language channel for the future, a channel with a ‘very very high proportion of foreign language content especially in primetime, 6pm to midnight and around the 8:30 time slot’.

Mr Aujard pointed out that SBS television now screens primetime programs in English. He said Save Our SBS is often asked if SBS would create a ‘languages other than English – LOTE TV – channel’.

Mr Ebeid responded saying that is “a really great suggestion”. He said SBS had looked at this a number of times to find out “if there is enough demand for a full in-language channel — but you’re obviously talking about primetime”. Mr Ebeid went onto say that “80 percent” of the online content is in-language.

“We have done a lot of research around – ‘would you watch a linear primetime channel versus online?’ – and concluded it is far more beneficial and cost effective, and it’s the future of media consumption to be able to have personalised viewing of you selecting the language you want or genre — than letting a scheduler tell you what you want”.

Mr Ebeid concluded saying, “Thank you for the [LOTE TV channel] suggestion because what that does is makes us go back and do more research to actually be on top of that”.

Before the forum ended Mr Ebeid publicly acknowledged the work of Save Our SBS and said, “Can I just say to you Steve, as President of Save Our SBS you have played a vital role in supporting us for many, many years — and we don’t take your support for granted and appreciate it”.

Without a doubt, the 90 minute forum was a beneficial exchange of ideas between SBS and community.

Although SBS has been voluntarily meeting with stakeholders, audience and various community leaders on-and-off for years, the Board is now required to meet with the public as a result of Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm voting in favour of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) bill last year. Senator Leyonhjelm voted for the bill on the basis that the ABC and SBS Boards meet with members of the public.

Irrespective of Leyonhjelm’s deal, without any compulsion SBS staff and Board extended their warmest of welcomes to Save Our SBS.

PHOTO (left to right):
SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid AM; SBS Director Bill Lenehan; Save Our SBS member Jan Smith; SBS Director Dot West; Save Our SBS member Anne Tsoulis; SBS Chairman Dr Hass Dellal AO; SBS Director Daryl Karp; Save Our SBS President Steve Aujard; SBS Director Professor Sally Walker AM.

Not present – SBS Deputy Chairman George Savvides, and SBS Director Peeyush Gupta.

Save Our SBS provided printed copies of the Survey 2017 about SBS for each person on the SBS Board of Directors.

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