Industry body Free TV Australia has called for greater regulatory oversight to ensure that the roles ABC and SBS play in Australian’s media landscape are in line with their charters.
In a submission lodged with the Competitive Neutrality Inquiry Panel on Friday, Free TV argued that over the last five years, SBS TV has moved away from its principal role as a multicultural broadcaster.
“Much of its programming is now indistinguishable from the existing commercial networks,” Free TV chairman Harold Mitchell said.
Free TV CEO Bridget Fair noted that independent analysis has confirmed that of the top 150 shows across SBS One, SBS VICELAND and SBS Food Network, over 55 per cent was commercial content unaligned with their charter.
“We need less Brooklyn Nine Nine and Batman, and more Eurovision and Kabul Kitchen,” she said.
“That’s why we need greater regulatory oversight by the Australian Communications and Media Authority to ensure that our national broadcasters remain distinctive, deliver on their charters and do not duplicate commercial services.
“But more importantly, deliver the public policy outcomes they were set up for.”
Under the model proposed by Free TV, a new requirement would be introduced for SBS to take account of the services provided by the commercial sector – mirroring the requirement that already applies to the ABC.
The ACMA would be tasked with undertaking annual competition and charter reviews to report on the performance of the national broadcasters in delivering on their charters.
Free TV has also called for the ABC and SBS Codes of Practice to be registered by the ACMA in the same way as the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.
“We have recommended that the panel reinforce the crucial role that national broadcasters play in the lives of Australians. Our proposals are absolutely focussed on that,” Fair said.
“All Australians need strong and vibrant national broadcasters that deliver strongly on their existing charter obligations.”