There are renewed calls for SBS to become fully government funded again after claims the broadcaster had become basically a fourth commercial network “by stealth”.
The vocal viewer group, Save Our SBS, has called for the end to advertising at the public broadcaster and a return to its multicultural roots.
“The problem with advertising is that it has caused SBS to chase commercially attractive programs,” Save Our SBS president Steve Aujard said.
“Advertising on SBS leads it to compete with the commercial sector. That affects content at, and beyond SBS, and has a range of ramifications.”
SBS has been under attack of late for showing (and bidding on) programs that many believe are more suited to the free-to-air networks (The Handmaid’s Tale, as an example) and contravenes its editorial charter.
The federal government has also reduced its funding but, at the same time has curbed the amount of time it can actually air ads.
As an example, many pundits believe SBS had to relinquish many of the rights to the current World Cup after it couldn’t match Optus’ (ill-fated) offer.
For their part, Seven, Nine and Ten would love to see SBS go ad-free, as it is just another competitor fighting over the shrinking pot of TV ad dollars.
Aujard added: “SBS was established to fill the void of the ABC and commercial broadcasters but now it often looks pretty similar, especially in prime time.
“We know many viewers love SBS but want it re-established as our leading multicultural multilingual broadcaster, envied all over the world — as it was once.
“Unfortunately there is strong evidence, which cannot be ignored, that SBS has challenged the commercial sector head-on. That has not only tested competitive neutrality principles but also the very essence of what SBS is supposed to be about,” he said.