“The prejudice I faced wasn’t a network problem – it was mine.”

Another former employee recounts problems within SBS workplace culture.


Another former employee from SBS has written an opinion piece criticising the public broadcaster for shortcoming in its workplace culture.

Nick Bhasin, who was culture editor at SBS, has detailed in the Sydney Morning Herald how he was subjected to racial profiling by colleagues.

“I pleaded for some kind of action. An email sent to all staff. Something that acknowledged that making insulting comments like that at SBS – with all its banners advocating for diversity and inclusion and meetings about cultural sensitivity and the importance of representation in media – there was a zero-tolerance policy towards that kind of thing.

“I was told that no email would be sent – that’s what the online code of conduct test was for. I was offered therapy services and a senior executive encouraged me to put the episode behind me while congratulating me for not making a scene.

“Basically, the prejudice I faced wasn’t a network problem – it was mine.

“I felt unvalued and unwelcome. Weak. Embarrassed and ashamed of my powerlessness. I withdrew from my team, sitting as far away as possible. I was silent in meetings. And when I sat with the loneliness of my anguish and looked around at all the (very nice, very well-meaning) predominantly white people at different levels of power, to me, the message was clear: this place was not for people who looked like me.”

He also adds, “If there were more diversity at SBS, maybe there would be a different approach to making content. Maybe every show commissioned wouldn’t have to scream obvious stuff like ‘racism is bad’ and feature ‘diverse’ casts led by a white ‘star’ for marketability purposes. Maybe there would be fewer documentary series featuring white British presenters leading us on cultural adventures. Maybe there would be more shows like The Family Law. Maybe instead of having to acquire the US comedy-drama Atlanta, Australia could make its own. Maybe we’d find the Aussie Never Have I Ever.”

Last week former SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said, “I wouldn’t judge any media organisation by just looking at the executive team.

“To me, what’s on screen, who’s on screen and the stories they tell are far more important than who is running the company.”

He noted Sunshine, set in a South Sudanese community in Melbourne, had a white production crew but was informed by advisers from the Sudanese community. “Just because a director or producer happens to be white it doesn’t mean they can’t tell diverse stories.”

Yet current managing director James Taylor has taken a pro-active approach to addressing criticisms which emerged first through former SBS cadet journalist Kodie Bedford.

The Guardian reports central to his plan is the appointment of two Indigenous elders in residence “to provide support and cultural empowerment to staff” and the training of a number of “SBS inclusion champions”.

“I see this as our moment in time to enhance those attributes that make SBS an extraordinary place, with an extraordinary team, and implement some positive changes to make us a leading inclusive workplace – not just in the media sector, but across all industries,” Taylor said.

12 Responses

  1. Originally coming from the UK some decades ago, receiving patronizing and puerile observations of my heritage was like water off a ducks back for me. My Irish heritage gave just as much back as I received.

  2. Newsflash, Mr. Bhasin. Minorities don’t have the market cornered on feeling unvalued, unwelcome, weak and powerless in the workplace. I’ve had a couple of experiences as a white male where I found my values didn’t align with those of the company I worked for. I moved on, found a better fit and was happier for it.

  3. It feels like an out of touch network stuck in the 90’s and somewhat cold and sterile.
    How embarrassing for SBS their whole point of existence is to reach out to our multicultural and diverse viewers and most importantly the indigenous community. Maybe the government need to take complete ownership of this network it’s too grey as is.

      1. The government can only do so much because of freedom of SBS’ programming. There became less foreign film broadcasts and for a long time and SBS had a lot of programming that could be considered to be dubiously connected to charter, such as South Park, Mythbusters, Top Gear etc. But they seemed to have moved back towards the charter with NITV and SBS World Movies channels in recent years.

  4. So my takeaways from reading that piece were: a) the “network-wide” problem is based on one interaction with a probably ignorant person and b) he profiled all the “white” people around him without knowing or understanding their own cultural heritage.

      1. mixman000’s takeaways are their takeaways. I tend to agree with them. It seems like some former SBS employees have unrealistic expectations about work workplaces should be. You get all sorts of people at different organisations and teams within organisations. It doesn’t mean the organisation is bad.

  5. Any comments about racism is a fraught minefield at the best of times. Including requesting less on air documentary content featuring White British Presenters. How is the sentiment of that not in itself racist? SBS doesn’t have the big enough budgets to probably achieve its original aims. Its prime time offerings do seek to impact on the ratings for its advertisers and as a result are risk adverse leading to a lack of cultural diversity

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