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SBS WorldWatch new channel this year

A new news channel, to be called SBS WorldWatch, is soon to launch and feature an extensive line-up of bulletins from leading international broadcasters in more than 30 languages.

A spokesperson for SBS did not say if any of the in-language bulletins on WorldWatch will be subtitled in English. In the past they weren’t.

Two new 30-minute Arabic and Mandarin language TV news programs are to be produced locally by SBS and broadcast in prime time every weeknight.

These new services – SBS عربي News and SBS 中文 News – will provide Australia’s large and diverse Arabic and Mandarin speaking communities with trusted coverage, context and insight into the major national and international stories of the day. The news programs will premiere on SBS On Demand this month ahead of the new channel launch.

WorldWatch is the banner under which SBS has televised TV news bulletins in original languages from around the globe for decades providing a valuable resource for migrants, second and third generations, Australian audiences, and language learners.

But last year SBS cancelled the news bulletin in Mandarin from CGTN and CCTV after coming under fire for broadcasting allegedly biased coverage of local and world news. This was despite SBS always placing an alert disclaimer graphic before each overseas news bulletin, no matter the language or from which country the bulletin originated:

WoldWatch brings you the news as broadcast overseas. It may not reflect SBS standards and may contain distressing material.

Nevertheless, all news from CGTN and CCTV were singled out at a time of increased tension with the People’s Republic of China, a time when Australians may well benefit from knowing what this vast population is given to believe about their own country as well as world politics.

Retired UK resident and now fairly new Australian citizen, Anne Gran, wrote to SBS saying that she learnt Mandarin and used the Chinese news program in order to maintain her language skills and understand Chinese news and culture. Ms Gran told Save Our SBS:

I have a good understanding of freedom of speech and the need for people to be able to access a variety of sources in order to be able to formulate a well considered opinion about anything.

Ms Gran said she was incensed that the SBS management had decided what she should be able to access in terms of information about China.

Ms Gran went on to say the CCTV news is:

quite mild mannered, largely reporting the government’s/CCP’s latest policies and local stories about China itself [and] not dissimilar in content to our news broadcasters’ news reporting.

But on 7 April last year, Safeguard Defenders sent an open letter to SBS alleging human rights violations in CGTN and CCTV news bulletins. SBS suspended the services on the basis of the allegations, pending their assessment.

It is yet to be seen if the new initiative of SBS 中文 News will remedy the absence caused by the deletion of the Mandarin TV news originating from China. SBS has not revealed if their locally produced program will draw on material from CGTN and CCTV. SBS still takes the Hong Kong news from TVB in Cantonese.

The new Mandarin and Arabic programs will build on SBS’s commitment to providing comprehensive news and information across its network – in English through SBS World News, and in more than 60 languages across SBS Radio services, podcasting, and digital platforms – and the multilingual services that SBS has been delivering for more than 45 years.

SBS WorldWatch follows the launch last year of SBS 中文 – a dedicated digital service for Australia’s Mandarin and Cantonese speaking communities.

WorldWatch also comes in addition to SBS’s investment in a growing collection of current affairs, documentaries and dramas available with subtitles in six languages on SBS On Demand (including Arabic and Simplified Chinese), where audiences may login and navigate the platform in those languages.

For SBS Managing Director, James Taylor, this expansion of multilingual offerings in 2022 represents a welcome extension of the network’s services for the one in five Australians who speak a language other than English at home. Mr Taylor said:

to evolve our services and find new and innovative ways of enhancing and strengthing our language offerings [and] ensure SBS’s content and trusted news coverage is increasingly accessible to audiences.

This channel provides the essential connection between language, culture, community in Australia and hence–

supports a strong sense of belonging and inclusion in our increasingly diverse and complex multicultural society

said Taylor.

SBS Director of News and Current Affairs, Mandi Wicks, adds:

SBS is uniquely placed to reach and engage the many Australians who speak a language other than English, and our truly global newsroom is a real point of difference in the media landscape… Ensuring access to relevant, up-to-date news and information for all Australians promotes civic, cultural and social participation, which is at the heart of our purpose.

The new free-to-air channel will be the home of the SBS Arabic and SBS Mandarin TV news services as well as television news bulletins in languages other than English from around the world.

SBS WorldWatch will be SBS’s sixth free-to-air television channel, joining SBS, National Indigenous Television (NITV), SBS VICELAND, SBS Food and SBS World Movies.

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