SBS defends controversial UK drama, The Promise.

Last November when SBS controversial UK drama The Promise, The Executive Council of Australian Jewry branded it as being “in direct violation” of SBS’s own codes on prejudice, racism and discrimination.

It followed a furore when it screened in Britain, including 44 complaints to media watchdog Ofcom.

Now Liberal senators have questioned SBS’ moves in screening the series at a Senate Estimates Committee.

The synopsis of the show described it as: ‘a love story that spans the ages, this four-part drama intercuts between the experiences of Erin, an 18-year-old Londoner in present day Israel and Gaza, and those of her military grandfather, Len, who was part of the British peace-keeping force in Palestine at the end of World War II.’

SBS broadcast a message before episodes advising viewers that the program was fictional.

But SBS managing director Michael Ebeid told Victorian Liberal senator Helen Kroger that SBS entered into a pre-sale deal with the producers knowing the subject matter would be controversial.

Senator Kroger said, “SBS appears to have put a business decision ahead of independent assessments, which determined that it was offensive to the Jewish community.”

An SBS spokesman told The Australian, “SBS did review the program carefully before it went to air and determined that, despite the potential for controversy, it was of sufficient quality and interest to warrant being broadcast,” he said.

“SBS accepts that it will, from time to time, broadcast programs that offend some individuals or groups.”

The series was nominated for the British Academy Television Awards 2011, the Banff World Television Festival, and won Best Drama at the One World Media Awards.


  1. So according to Senator Kroger no show that runs any chance of offending any group in society should be broadcast? Man is that going to give us some boring and uninformative TV!

    No more WWII movies (might upset the Germans or the Japanese), no more stories about the Iraq war, the Vietnam war or the Korean war (might upset the Americans), no more A Current Affair stories about dodgy builders (might upset the builders), no more Dancing With the Stars (sure to offend professional dancers), no more politicians on TV (they offend everyone). It rapidly becomes a very long list once you go down that path.

  2. Thank you, SBS, for showing The Promise. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen on TV for years. It left me in tears.

    But I am not at all surprised by the hysterical reaction from some people. The problem has gotten so bad that now even Pro-Israeli Jewish people who criticise Israel’s Prime Minister are labelled “anti-Semites”. The term has lost all meaning.

    Such outrage should be directed towards the actual anti-Jewish hatred which still plagues us, not historically accurate (however uncomfortable) and compelling television dramas.

  3. My congratulations and support to SBS for screening The Promise. Perhaps the Liberal senator should go and read some history about the Jewish settlement of Palestine and how the rights of the existing people, the Palestinians were overwhelmingly ignored despite the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which allowed controlled Jewish settlement subject to the rights of these existing inhabitants. The Palestinians became the victims of colonial powers and the result has been one of the most embedded political conflicts for nearly a century now with no end in sight. Good on Michael Ebeid for defending the program despite it being acquired prior to his appointment. Send Helen Kroger back to the library however after her poor performance on Q&A last Monday night I don’t think she could ever be considered ministerial material.

  4. You can’t/shouldn’t deny or pretend certain parts of history, certain events didn’t happen. Most importantly not when it’s to do with ongoing conflicts.

    It is not ” prejudice, racism (or) discrimination,” to not white wash history. It’s a case of showing inconveniently realities of a conflict people don’t want shown.

    No one would suggest anything that doesn’t show the white settlers of Australia as anything other than positive as “prejudice, racism and discrimination.”

    The fact that this drew so much criticism should be of concern to all Australians. Especially when it’s about an on going conflict directly supported by our major political parties.

  5. I watched ‘The Promise’ and thought at the time it was a bold move from SBS to air it, but I personally believe that it was a story we needed to have screened here. It opened my eyes, further, to the conflict between Israeli and Palestine people, one that I would otherwise not have known. We are naive in the west and the character of Erin, despite the frustrations I had with her decision making gave us a dramatic view of life for others we may never experience ourselves. I take my hat off to SBS for having the guts to screen such a brilliant series.

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