SBS pushes for local quota

SBS is seeking local content quotas and wants the ability to “second window” titles that attract government funding on Subscription TV such as Wentworth and No Activity.

In its submission to the Environment and Communications References Committee last month, SBS called for a 30% primetime Australian content on its primary channel, to deliver more Charter-aliqned content to audiences.

It follows the 2012 Convergence Review noting that public broadcasters have a mission to support Australian content in meeting their Charter obligations.

But SBS also advised it was not in a position to increase its Australian content without additional funding.

“The implementation of this quota would require an increase to SBS’s current commissioning budget. Actual costs would depend on genre focus, available screen agency funding, and government support,” it said in its submission.

It also wants access to government-funded titles which currently play to limited subscription audiences, such as Foxtel’s Wentworth and Stan’s No Activity.┬áSBS has recommended ‘second-window’ rights in a “timely” manner.

“This will maximise the value of the government’s investment in the content and benefit the Australian community as a whole- not just those who can afford to pay an additional subscription fee,” it suggested. “While projects may appear on a subscription television or streaming services for the initial window, it should be a condition of the grant of public funding that there be a distribution agreement for these projects to have a second window on free-to-air television.”

Lobby group Save Our SBS backs the call for a 30% quota, which it says is currently around 7% across 4 channels, and wants to see a permanent multi-lingual channel established.

Save Our SBS President, Steve Aujard said, “Currently, there is no minimum content quota set for SBS yet to satisfy Charter obligations, clearly a high degree of Australian content is necessary.

“The Charter also obliges SBS present programs in their preferred languages – in languages other than English (LOTE). So we’re asking for two things: 30% (later 55%) first run fully-funded Australian content on the main SBS channel, and a new – separate – SBS channel with programs predominantly in LOTE.

“Surveys tell us that SBS audiences want foreign language movies and TV serials in other languages, as well as quality Australian content. With multi-channelling, both ought to be possible.”

Steve Aujard questioned the current model of advertising on SBS to fund Australian content.

“…evidently the model has problems; no one likes programs being disrupted numerous times for commercial breaks on the public broadcaster, and revenue from advertising is about 1/20th of what is needed if SBS were to schedule 30% Australian drama and far short of that needed for SBS to achieve even half the Australian content regulated for commercial free-to-air television.”

Should all govt funded dramas be available on Free to Air?

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  1. If the government was pushing for a quota I could see sbs requesting more funding, but it’s sbs asking to be forced to have a quota but then saying they need more money to do it.

  2. There is little demand for foreign language films. That’s why SBS has stopped broadcasting them before midnight and turned World Movies into a porn channel before shutting it down. SBS has plenty of spectrum that they can use to broadcast LOTE is they wanted. Instead they use it broadcast SD and HD versions of a US cable channel and a lifestyle channel that shows the same rubbish as 9life and the 6 lifestyle channels on Foxtel (it used to be 7 but there’s a surplus of lifestyle programming so one was shut down). The also run On Demand as an ad funded free streaming service that can serve content in 100 languages at once, instead of one. What SBS is asking for is more taxpayer money to do whatever they want with so that they can expand their little empire, and for the Government to impose regulatory burdens on commercial FTA, cable and streaming services that they directly competing…

  3. The underlying message is “Change our Charter” or give us more money or the ability to raise it ourselves.
    Given the availability of LOTE programs on the Internet the Govt must decide whether we need a FTA LOTE Network at all! Perhaps a country-wide fast Internet service is a better option.

  4. Perhaps if SBS stopped purchasing shows like Homeland and Parks and Recreation it might have some money to produce local content. The biggest question that should be asked of SBS is how they have managed to move so far away from their charter. Not the best use of our taxpayer dollars.

    • I totally disagree, I see no problem in the acquisition of some of these shows. Their place on the schedule is still fairly minor compared to everything else SBS air. Bigger acquisitions like The Handmaids Tale and Good Fight I think so fit nicely into the charter.

      On the topic of having subscription drama counting towards quotas it isn’t something I agree with.

      My understanding of the quota is that it helps create jobs in the industry and keeps our local film/tv industry strong, this isn’t helping that cause.

      I support SBS and I support more funding for them, but I don’t really support their argument here.

      • If that’s the case it doesn’t really make them different to any other FTA.

        The charter states: The principal function of the SBS is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio, television and digital media services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society.

        How does a show like Parks and Rec or Homeland do that?

    • SBS makes a bit of money buying up the Australian rights to US shows airing them, streaming them and plugging the DVDs at JB HiFi. They buy them cheaply, often early risking taxpayer money to get in before other commercial broadcasts can get them. The Good Fight is a US show created by CBS to launch All Access to compete with Netflix. The Handmaid’s Tale is likewise created by Hulu owned by ABC/Disney, Fox and CBS. They in no way can be said to meet any of SBS’s charter and otherwise would be available on Foxtel or, Stan, Netflix, Fetch, iTunes, commercial FTA or the ABC or DVD. I benefit from watching them for free on SBS but I don’t pretend there is any public service in this.

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