Network bosses are unhappy with SBS and ABC moving further away from their Charter, with SBS under fire for its increased US content.
Seven’s Tim Worner, Nine’s Hugh Marks, TEN’s Paul Anderson and Foxtel’s Peter Tonagh have all weighed in recently on the public broadcasters seemingly moving in on their turf, with public funding in tow. They argue that covering the same terrain is not why the public broadcasters were set up.
SBS has recently screened, or is about to unveil, Fargo, Roots, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Good Fight, Outlander, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, while its multichannels have aired Uncle Buck, The Brothers, Scarface, 8 Mile, Purple Rain and Batman reruns.
“It is clear they are now chasing the same programs and audience as us. They are not playing the distinct and special role set out for them in legislation. In particular the steadily growing amount of UK and US content on SBS does not seem consistent with its multicultural objectives,” Tim Worner told The Australian.
Hugh Marks said Nine was increasingly finding itself going head to head with SBS for content, which is raising prices.
“The landscape has changed so a full review of the role of public broadcasters in that landscape is a necessity. And this must include an update of their charters to reflect a more detailed social contract, including obligations around local content.”
But SBS has had to become increasingly nimble in its revenue raising after cuts in funding together with a knock back for plans to increase primetime ads. SBS On Demand is becoming a quiet achiever for the network, much to the concern of commercial rivals.
SBS has long-argued ‘multiculturalism’ extends beyond ethnicity, to include other cultures: gay, senior, youth, disabled and more. It says the broadly appealing titles help underpin its locally-distinctive titles.
In a statement it said, “Many of the programs identified would not have been considered by Seven and Nine, and these claims are only being made after seeing SBS’s recent success. SBS is bringing Australians more diverse content exploring cultures and celebrating diversity than it ever has before, including telling stories otherwise untold in the Australian media through its distinctive news and current affairs, our more than 70 in-language radio programs, and TV series such as The Family Law, Filthy, Rich and Homeless and upcoming drama Sunshine.”
Marshall Heald, SBS Director of Television and Online Content, recently told TV Tonight, content was also chosen for its thematics.
“A show like The Good Fight, when you pick it apart, is about an affluent, white lawyer working in a black law firm and having to engage in a whole ecosystem that she has no experience with. So there’s a strong Charter alignment there,” he said.
“As an acquisitions network, and one of the few networks in the world with our kind of ‘purpose’, it’s very difficult for us to consistently acquire content that 100% meets our needs. We could really only do that if we had more local commissions.”