Push for SBS foreign language channel

Should SBS have a multichannel devoted to programming other than those in English language?

Lobby group Save Our SBS made a submission to the SBS board that it curate a channel devoted to programs in Languages Other Than English, with English subtitles, as a way of returning to Charter.

In recent years the amount of LOTE titles in primetime has diminished on SBS, SBS VICELAND and SBS Food. International dramas from Europe and other international markets will often premiere first at SBS on Demand before late night broadcasts some weeks or months later.

But North American dramas such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Good Fight, Project Blue Book and Vikings are given prime 8:30 and 9:30 slots to attract better advertising. It’s a trend that has been criticised by rival networks as being too far off Charter.

Save Our SBS President, Steve Aujard, said: “SBS have assured us that the submission was included in the notice papers for the Board’s April meeting and it was discussed at their meeting just before Easter.

“The submission, which was driven by community views and drew on published evidence from reputable sources including four separate studies of different cohorts totalling 6,202 viewers from every metropolitan and rural region nationwide, also presented the case for a different commercial format, one that is commercially less intrusive than that of existing SBS channels.

“For more than a decade Save Our SBS has publicly presented the case – and in meetings told SBS – of the need for this type of channel. It’s what viewers have told us they want.

“Our submission cites independent evidence of a correlation between the decline in primetime LOTE content on SBS and a decrease in social cohesion in the community. After the Christchurch tragedy, it’s obvious that a channel like the one proposed is also needed for social cohesion.”

SBS VICELAND is dominated by US-produced youth-skewing titles while SBS Food, which recently lost its output deal with US-based Scripps Network, was launched after government cuts hit the broadcaster’s revenue base. NITV includes Indigenous titles from Australia and overseas.

The proposal also wants to see less advertising on a proposed LOTE channel, running ads before / after shows, rather than in the middle of content.

“Our members have not forgotten that prior to late 2006, advertisements were between programs only on SBS and the broadcaster specialised in presenting movies and a variety of TV programs in other languages. With the commercialisation of SBS, most foreign language content was moved to SBS On Demand and as a consequence, a number of communities who prefer free-to-air viewing, are now ‘missing out’. These people are no longer served by any Australian free-to-air TV channel,” Aujard continued.

“SBS was created in 1978 to fill a void, then on the ABC and commercial channels. It is time again for SBS to step up again, as it is better placed than any other media to include those who are now ‘missing out’.

Save Our SBS is a not-for-profit organisation and while SBS is under no obligation to consider the proposal, it is understood to have met with serious consideration from Board Directors.

Aujard added, “The previous management did not represent community views in favour of such a channel to the Board so it is a significant step that our proposal has now been brought to the direct attention of each individual SBS Director.”

30 Comments:

  1. Our interest in some content genres has been driven by the availability of LOTE content on SBS. For example, SBS ran many Scandi Noir TV series including “The Eagle: A Crime Odyssey” and these brought about our interest in this genre of crime fiction. Other LOTE content that is part of pop culture is Japanese content associated with “Cool Japan” like anime / manga content.
    But a question that will be raised regarding the kind of LOTE content that SBS runs in a traditional broadcast form is how much airtime will be devoited to Continental-European languages compared to, say, Asian languages. Here, it may be about requiring two or more of these channels to exist alongside each other with one dedicated to European content while another is dedicated to Asian or similar content.
    But it will be about the political willpower to maintain two or more linear TV channels dedicated to this…

    • Political willpower? How about the cost? I’d happily pay a subscription for Scandi Noir, but I bet I’m in the minority! How about we all pay for what we want to watch? Oh yes, Netflix, Foxtel, etc thank god for them!

  2. “Our submission cites independent evidence of a correlation between the decline in primetime LOTE content on SBS and a decrease in social cohesion in the community.” – Correlation does not equal Causation.

    I do think they ought to change their programming to better align with their charter.

  3. So in other words the SBS will return to its roots as a foreign language/culture channel which if I remember correctly was usually themed to one country or another month by month, it could backfire with some viewers who probably don’t mind the current mix and match content (including football) currently provided, besides there’s nothing stopping the SBS increasing non English speaking content right now without having a LOTE channel which will require additional money spent from their already limited budget, especially if advertising revenue is reduced, which sounds like a scheme proposed by enemies of the SBS to me.

  4. Honestly in this era i don’t think there’s a real need for non english content on fta, there are many pay tv services that specifically cater to other cultures with content in their languages, Chinese, Indian etc. One might say why should they have to pay for it, but i don’t see how one fta channel like SBS can cater to everyones needs enough, with a few shows/movies here & there in each language, seems a bit pointless. The only content that is essential for them to provide (& which they currently do) is the news in foreign language.

    • Yes, but wouldn’t it be better to have a free-to-air prime time, and easily accessible, channel which showcases different cultures and shows. In some cases, these shows actually are brought back to Australia and perform very well… It’s about giving people the ability to broaden what they watch, including shows from around the world, that we might not normally watch. A channel dedicated to shows we might not normally watch, if provided easily on free-to-air, can better our society as well as sharing innovative shows from all culture with each other.

  5. For a long time, SBS did have a channel called World Movies on Foxtel and Optus. There’s definitely experience in operating a foreign language channel. I think it’s a good idea and such a channel should also include other programming alongside movies and have English subtitles.

  6. >> These shows could happily sit on a Seven2 or a 9Gem.

    Maybe – the fact is those shows aren’t on the commercials. And comparable shows are buried in the schedule given half-a-chance (or possibly with good reason). Say, Julie Walters’ Coastal Railways from Channel 4; here on 7 at 10:30 on a Friday night; and impossible to find in the AFL States. I really think historical programs would have an even smaller audience on the commercials, partly because they would get the same scheduling treatment.

    • The common criticism of SBS is that it is buying up programs that the commercial stations would ultimately buy up, if they were not outbid by SBS.

        • In the last budget, SBS received around $295 million plus advertising revenue…. they have enough money. Remember the controversy when both SBS and the ABC were both bidding against each other for the Asian Cup rights.

    • You wouldn’t even need to do that. There’s currently a Viceland in SD and a Viceland in HD.

      So all you’d need to do is use one of those chunks of bandwidth for a new channel. If they wanted to keep Viceland in HD, start the new channel in place of Viceland in SD, or of course, vice versa.

      • Fair call, but you could also say the same for Rage in and of itself which is quite often used as a schedule filler. Plus, ABC would have a considerable library containing a lot of obscure content that is not readily available on YouTube or perhaps anywhere else.

  7. thedirtydigger

    Right now , and for some time, SBS has been running a Foreign Channel – its the United Kingdom Channel… judging by all the British documentaries on the Royal Family and London Sewers not to mention those interminable train journeys its viewers are subjected to every single night.
    SBS Off Charter ? Off the planet I would submit your Honour.

  8. Networks need to stop with multi-channels. Take 10 for example, multiple aren’t working for them, they are spreading their viewers to thin. We don’t need 50,000 channels. they are only on average 4 million viewers each night watching TV, we don’t need 100 ABC channels which all end up showing the same bottom of the barrel programs, We don’t need 100 SBS channels.

  9. Never understood why they were allowed to have so much english speaking shows on there. Thought that was the reason for their existence. I remember the slogan well ‘We are SBS, Bringing the world back home’

  10. No. Stop wasting taxpayers money.

    ABC and SBS should be merged and the number of channels reduced. The internet is available for shows if anyone wants to watch.

    Shouldn’t the question be why has SBS strayed so far from it’s original charter?

    • Better yet, sell them both. Tax payers shouldn’t be in the business of funding TV or radio networks in 2019. There are plenty of entertainment and news options available without the ABC or SBS. Shows that strike a chord will still get made. If Chris Lilley can still keep rehashing the same rubbish time and time again and now with Netflix money, anyone should be able to get something to air.

      • I agree.
        I moderated my comments because I thought I’d be howled down. Seems like a lot of people agree.
        No need for so many channels in the digital age wasting taxpayers money.

    • Yes! We are a rich country compared to most, but we still have queues at hospitals and people sleeping on the streets. We should not be funding ABC and SBS now that so much free content is available to most people. Spend our taxes on helping people, not entertaining those wealthy enough to pay for their own viewing.

  11. >> It’s a trend that has been criticised by rival networks as being too far off Charter.

    They would say that, wouldn’t they. Too many lose sight that beyond the provision of “multilingual and multicultural services” the Charter also requires SBS to “contribute to the overall diversity of Australian television”. Diversity doesn’t always require subtitles.

    • Too many lose sight that beyond the provision of “multilingual and multicultural services” the Charter also requires SBS to “contribute to the overall diversity of Australian television”.

      I’d agree, but all the main SBS channel is at the moment is UK documentaries on Trains, Nazis and Medieval British Royalty, with the odd US drama (tonight’s one is the Good Fight). These shows could happily sit on a Seven2 or a 9Gem.

      • >> These shows could happily sit on a Seven2 or a 9Gem.

        Maybe – the fact is those shows aren’t on the commercials. And comparable shows are buried in the schedule given half-a-chance (or possibly with good reason). Say, Julie Walters’ Coastal Railways from Channel 4; here on 7 at 10:30 on a Friday night; and impossible to find in the AFL States. I really think historical programs would have an even smaller audience on the commercials, partly because they would get the same scheduling treatment.

        • ” I really think historical programs would have an even smaller audience on the commercials, partly because they would get the same scheduling treatment.”

          Hypothetical really, the Martin Clunes travel documentaries did good numbers for Seven and Seven2 in their timeslots. SBS was set up as multicultural broadcaster, not as a specialist UK documentary channel

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