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.