Labor SBS Policy for the 2010 Federal Elections

Q1. Does the ALP support SBS being a strong and respected multicultural public broadcaster?

A: The Gillard Labor Government believes that SBS is one of Australia’s most important cultural institutions.  It provides a unique broadcasting service that reflects and promotes multicultural Australia. 

Q2. Would the ALP be accommodating of SBS in a desire to not interrupt programs for advertisements and to what extent would the ALP commit to increasing funding to specifically support such?

A: Editorial decisions and policies are a matter for the SBS Board and management, which were responsible for the change in advertising policy on SBS Television in 2006.  In 2008–09, SBS earned gross revenue of $52.5 million from television advertising sales.  Advertising revenue is an important contribution to SBS’s capacity to acquire and commission new content. 

Q3. Would the ALP amend the SBS Act 1991 to prohibit SBS from disrupting programs for advertisements?

A: The Government does not support imposing new restrictions on in-program advertising as it would substantially reduce the amount of funding available to SBS to support the provision of high quality and diverse programming.  In the current economic climate is not appropriate to require the SBS to change its approach to advertising. 

Q4. Is the ALP in favour or against the merger of the SBS and ABC either in whole or part and if so, to what extent?

A:  The Gillard Labor Government is committed to maintaining separate ABC/SBS identities – we would not support any proposal that would erode their integrity and independence.  However, if the broadcasters were able to identify opportunities to achieve efficiencies without eroding independence these would be considered. 

Q5. What are the other major policies of the ALP in regard to SBS?

Under the Howard Government, Australia’s national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, were chronically underfunded and their boards stacked with political mates who showed little interest in or knowledge of the tenets of public broadcasting.  Among other noticeable and unwelcome on-screen changes, this led to an enormous decline in the amount of high quality, first run Australian content on both the ABC and SBS, and forced SBS to increase its reliance on commercial income.

The Labor Government is committed to restoring the voices of our national broadcasters.  That is why, in October 2008, a discussion paper – ABC & SBS: Towards a Digital Future - was released.  The intent of the discussion paper was to stimulate comments about the future of our national broadcasters by inviting submissions from the Australian public.  Submissions in response to the discussion paper closed on 12 December 2008 and more than 2,400 submissions were received.  The outcomes of the discussion paper process informed the Government’s approach to the triennial funding for the ABC and SBS in the 2009-2010 budget.

The Labor Government is providing SBS with funding for the 2009-10 to 2011-12 triennium which maintains SBS’s base funding in real dollar terms from 2009–10, and provides an additional $20 million over the triennium.  This is the largest increase in Government funding for production and programming that SBS has had since the creation of the Special Production Fund in 1994.  This investment will provide an important economic stimulus to the Australian production sector, increasing jobs in Australia’s creative industries, and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to SBS.

The Labor Government has also instituted a merit-based process for appointments to the ABC and SBS Boards.  Legislation to enshrine the new appointments process is currently before the Parliament. However, the Opposition has indicated it will not support this legislation without significant amendments.

The process we have put in place and are now legislating is transparent, independent and accountable.  It involves an independent assessment panel considering applications from members of the public.  Neither the Minister nor his Department has any role in the appointment of the independent Nomination Panel. The legislation provides for the Nomination Panel to be appointed by the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. Further, the legislation clearly states that the Nomination Panel is not subject to direction by or on behalf of the Government.

The Labor Government has so far appointed three outstanding candidates to the SBS Board under the merit-based appointment process, including the new Chair of SBS, Mr Joseph Skrzynski, and board members Elleni Bereded-Samuel and Hass Dellal. All appointments made by the Government through this process have been from the short list recommended by the Nomination Panel.



20-July-2010 at 12:46





Emma Dawson
Policy Adviser, Broadcasting and Digital Switchover

Office of Senator Stephen Conroy
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy

T: (03) 8637 8107
F: (03) 9650 3251
Level 3, 4 Treasury Place
Melbourne 3002

T: (02) 6277 7480
F: (02) 6273 4154
Suite MG 70, Parliament House
Canberra 2600





Subject: Position of the ALP on SBS for publication of the website [SEC=IN-CONFIDENCE]
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2010 12:46:24 +1000
From: Dawson, Emma <>
To: ''