Mary Kostakidis joins campaign against more ad time on SBS

Former World News host says increased primetime ads will drive programming, not the SBS Charter.

Former SBS presenter ‘Queen’ Mary Kostakidis has joined a campaign to stop SBS increasing the number of ads it can play in primetime.

Reports claim the government wants to revisit a proposal that allows the broadcaster to focus its allocated ad time where it can maximise revenue. SBS first floated the idea after the government reduced its funding, but the Greens and Labor knocked it back.

Save Our SBS President, Steve Aujard said, “The government are going to have another go at increasing the hourly advertising limit on SBS. They tried in 2015 but 62,000 people signed the petition we ran, and the advertising increase never happened. We have been trying to get SBS to return to their former model with ads between programs only. We certainly do not support even more commercial breaks interrupting SBS programs.”

“If the parliament were serious about improving SBS they would remove the disruptive in‑program commercial breaks. But the government Bill fails to address that,” said former World News Australia presenter Mary Kostakidis.

“When SBS first accepted limited advertising between programs, both the Managing Director and then Communications Minister told me this would not result in advertising within programs. Years later, the goal posts were shifted to advertise within programs in ‘natural program breaks’, even when no such ‘natural’ break existed.

“SBS forces about 6,000 commercial breaks per year under the pretext they are natural breaks. But they are not. We know that from answers SBS has given to Senate questions.

“If the government Bill becomes law, not only will advertising be more intrusive, it will also increasingly become the driver of programming decisions and the public broadcaster will continue to be manoeuvred away from its Charter obligations.

“Even the government’s own report into SBS (the Lewis review) stated that increased advertising will result in ‘risks to the amount of Charter-related content’ by shifting the focus from viewer to advertiser. The report went on to say, ‘there will be a greater pressure on SBS management to consider the trade-off of delivering on commercial expectations, against delivering those functions described in the SBS Charter’.

Lobby group Save Our SBS wants ads between programs only, claiming the SBS Annual Report shows that in the three years to June 30, SBS achieved a 31% increase in advertising revenues, and the latest SBS Corporate Plan forecasts a 27% increase for this year and 35% growth next year.

More on the campaign is available at Save Our SBS site.

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