Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull faces an uphill battle to avoid Senate defeat of his proposal to allow SBS to double its advertising during prime time.
SBS will be on struggle street if the bill does not pass the Senate. With the broadcaster set to lose an estimated $28.5 million over four years, SBS has warned it will have to axe jobs and programs if it cannot combat the impact of last year’s brutal budget cuts.
Earlier this year a media release from SBS said that the broadcaster supported the Turnbull’s proposal: “The Bill proposes an amendment to The Special Broadcasting Services Act 1991 which would enable SBS to use its current 120 minutes per day of advertising differently, by allowing it to average the minutes to a maximum of 10 minutes per hour instead of the current five minutes per hour, but importantly, the Bill does not allow SBS to exceed its current daily limit of 120 minutes per day of advertising.
“SBS supports the proposed amendment as it would allow SBS to deliver on the savings measure of $28.5 million over the next four years, as part of the $53.7 million in Federal Government funding cuts, through supplementary advertising revenue. Without the passing of this legislation, SBS is unable to fully deliver this savings measure.”
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir have said they will vote against the bill. Xenophon argued increasing SBS’s advertising will create a fourth free-to-air broadcaster.
“This is actually about protecting a public broadcaster that has done very well over the years in terms of its content and its impact on the Australian society for the better,” he told the ABC.
“If you go down this path there [is] nothing to stop future governments saying … ‘you’re going to get more money from commercial revenue, from advertising revenue; we’re going to cut your budget further’.”
Palmer United Party Senator Zhenya “Dio” Wang has expressed support for the bill. Independent senator Jacqui Lambi has been tight-lipped on her views.
The final vote is expected to be extremely close, with a margin of only one or two votes.