History airing ad-free on SBS

SBS is airing its new documentary series First Australians commercial-free.

The landmark series will air without ads for the entire run of its series. So far two episodes have aired.

A spokesperson for SBS confirmed to TV Tonight that the unusual move reflected the original commissioned contract for the series, locked in over six years ago -before SBS had advertisements. With so much research, interviews and photographs to gather, the series took an extraordinary length of time to complete.

Due to the original agreement and the nature of the material, SBS has chosen to air the series commercial-free.

First Australians is based on a similar concept used to document US history, made by the PBS network. It next airs 8:35pm Sunday night on SBS.

Six years in the making, First Australians, premiering on SBS on Sunday 12 October at 8.35pm, is the most ambitious television project to be undertaken on Indigenous Australia. Produced by Australia’s leading Aboriginal filmmakers, the series chronicles the birth of a country and the collision of two worlds. It is an epic story that comes alive through the struggles of individuals, both black and white.

Beautifully filmed, the series blends landscape, art, interviews and first-hand accounts with a vast archival collection to present the birth of contemporary Australia as never seen before, from the perspective of its first people — the first Australians.

The story begins in 1788 in Sydney, with the friendship between an Englishmen (Governor Phillip) and a warrior (Bennelong) and ends in 1993 with Koiki Mabo’s legal challenge to the foundation of Australia. First Australians chronicles the collision of two worlds and the genesis of a new nation.

First Australians will continue to air on Sunday and Tuesday evenings through to Sunday, 2nd November.


  1. David, Thanks for following this up. I don’t buy the ‘original agreement’ line at all. “Nature of the material” on the other hand is open to all manner of interpretation. Yep, SBS are pandering to a minority group by showing this un-interrupted. Whilst every other minority group who watches SBS gets treated like …

    I’ve enjoyed the first two episodes, with the following qualifications:

    1) So, where’s the balance in the presentation of the material ?

    2) That female professor with the white hair (sorry, don’t know her name) is chock-full of the angry pills – I can do without her. I had forgotten the word “belligerent” until she showed up.

  2. Good move to show it ad free, I didn’t even notice when I watched the first one Sunday.

    IMO it’s not a good move to also air new eps Tuesdays when it’s such a busy night, maybe if they have New on Tuesday then re-run on Sunday?

    Guess I’ll wait for the DVD for the missing eps, or watch them on SBSs web site?

  3. “Original agreement” my arse.

    Basically, SBS knows all too well it’d be crucified for running ads for erectile dysfunction treatments and all the other shonky crap they are happy to peddle during a doco series that’s just a teeeeeensy bit politically sensitive.

    SBS should not be running ads at all. Ever. Over to you, Senator Conroy, for the fulfilment of that electoral promise. Senator Conroy? Bueller? Bueller?

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