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The introduction of advertising to SBS and the interruptions into program for advertisement breaks in particular, has changed SBS from a very special broadcaster into a defacto commercial look-a-like. The strong commercialisation of SBS, has morphed it to a generalist broadcaster with fewer programs in languages other than English (LOTE) with subtitles in prime time, than previously was the case.
Under the current management and Board, aside from the lack of true commitment towards multiculturalism and a reduction in LOTE programming, SBS has demonstrated a loss of respect for its viewers through annoying commercial interruptions that only serve to on-sell viewers as a product to the clients of SBS, its advertisers. This is at odds with how a good public broadcaster should be. This approach lacks good corporate public service broadcasting governance.
A strong government policy is required (such as the pre-election expression of the current government that opposed SBS interrupting programs for ad breaks) backed up with strong supportive legislation to stop our multicultural public broadcaster from that practice. Such would pave the way for a true commitment to multicultural programs and greater emphasis on LOTE programming. This amendment of legislation should occur as part of the 2009 Budget package, where upon SBS ought to be funded more adequately for the above to occur.
SBS deserves to be supported financially to a very much greater extent by government that previously was the case.
Fundamental to the inspiration to establish SBS was its enabling document, the SBS Charter. It served SBS well for many years and could again but the current Board and management have been misguided in their interpretation of the Charter in recent years. This is a reflection on the current Board and Managing Director, not the Charter per se. As such the SBS Charter does not requires change.
The SBS Charter should stay, unaltered, as it currently is.
Rather than change the Charter, if anything, a more immediate process of accountability is required so that where sufficient people believe the broadcaster might be abusing the Charter, the broadcaster and individual Board members may be brought to account, quickly and directly.
Unlike its television counterpart, SBS radio with its various community language programs, has remained more faithful to the SBS Charter. Just as the commercialisation of SBS serves to erode the fundamental tenets of public broadcasting, so too would any requirement to charge each web user for live streaming or program access downloads. Few programs are made directly by SBS. Some are backed by SBS through their independent arm, SBSi. These programs ought to be totally free of charge to download in their uninterrupted entirety. This is a completely different concept from purchasing a nicely packaged program from a retailer or an online shop where there is no concept or expectation of 'free' public access for all.
Unfortunately SBS-TV is already behind in the digital revolution. Although other broadcasters currently transmit an extensive EPG (electronic program guide) for the entire week, SBS-TV does not. It should.
SBS should and must in every sense remain separate and independent of the ABC at all levels. The sharing of some resources would over time, ultimately lead to the larger broadcaster, gradually consuming the smaller one. A strong government policy that opposes the interruption of programs for commercial breaks, backed by supporting legislation that prohibits such practice is urgently overdue to facilitate the 'special' intended purpose of SBS as a multicultural broadcaster.