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From the Chair and Managing Director

The Hon Paul Fletcher MP
Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts
Parliament House ACT 2600

Dear Minister,

On behalf of the SBS Board of Directors, we are pleased to present the Annual Report of Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (SBS) for the year ending 30 June 2019.

This Annual Report was approved by a resolution of the Corporation Directors on 29 August 2019 and has been prepared in accordance with the relevant requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991. It also assesses the organisation’s performance against the SBS 2018-19 Corporate Plan.

As Australia’s multicultural and Indigenous broadcaster, SBS embraces its important role in Australian society, sharing stories of our rich cultural diversity and inspiring communities to better understand and respect each other.

In 2018-19, SBS connected with more Australians than ever before - a result of a clear strategic focus, effective operations and differentiated content, all underpinned by a strong purpose that resonates with audiences and employees alike.

Since its inception, SBS has evolved alongside Australia as a nation, delivering its Charter in new ways, while continuing to be relevant to all Australians. Today, SBS is one of the country’s most trusted media brands, and remains a purpose-led broadcaster with a clear point of difference in the way it informs, educates and entertains audiences.

Storytelling is a powerful vehicle to make people feel included, connected and empowered. SBS is committed to exploring multicultural and Indigenous stories otherwise untold and giving a voice to communities often unheard, ensuring all Australians continue to see themselves represented within mainstream media.

Whilst this is important for all communities, it is particularly relevant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have the far too seldom opportunity to see themselves portrayed positively in the media landscape. SBS is proud that its First Nations programming also engages all Australians with positive Indigenous storytelling.

SBS’s distinctive stories continue to be an effective mechanism to explore and celebrate Australia’s diversity in all its forms. SBS seeks to increase its impact through aligned outreach activities, including educational resources and community engagement initiatives.

As our nation’s cultural complexity deepens, the need for a media organisation focused on promoting a more inclusive Australia, with the capacity to contribute to positive social change is evident - SBS is that organisation.

In February 2019, SBS launched a new brand position that reflects its ongoing evolution, highlights its unique offering and articulates its commitment to contributing to a more inclusive Australia. ‘A world of difference’ celebrates difference in all its forms, recognising Australia’s diversity as one of its greatest strengths.

The power of SBS’s difference continues to be in its enduring connection to Australia’s diverse communities. This connection has grown over more than 40 years, with SBS’s commitment to meeting the needs of its multicultural, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences at the core of its distinctive offering today.

In 2018-19, SBS’s evolving multilingual offering continued to provide unrivalled services for the nearly five million Australians who speak a language other than English at home, aiding migrants to participate fully in Australian life. SBS Radio serviced 68 languages across its radio and digital portfolio, and its focus on the needs of its audiences saw 1.5 million average monthly radio podcast downloads and 2.4 million unique visitors to language websites each month, a growth of 25 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.

In 2019, SBS also expanded its offering to multicultural audiences through subtitling its Australian commissioned stories in simplified Chinese and Arabic – an initiative that SBS is focused on continuing in the year ahead.

SBS’s connection with communities continued to develop beyond its platforms. Its efforts to contribute to an inclusive Australian society were amplified through educational, outreach and strategic initiatives which provided valuable opportunities for direct engagement with communities.

SBS Outreach activities extended the impact of SBS’s distinctive content through meaningful collaborations with educational institutions aimed at supporting further learning. SBS Radio strengthened its connections with communities through outside broadcast activity at more than 70 events. The SBS Community Advisory Committee continued to provide important insights into the needs, interests and concerns of Australia’s diverse communities, with ongoing consultation informing several projects. With strong community relationships like no other media organisation, SBS’s engagement strategy continues to be invaluable in raising awareness of relevant and emerging issues.

SBS proudly champions the differences that make Australia what it is today and remains passionate about creating content that explores new perspectives, cultures and ways of life to encourage greater understanding, respect and compassion amongst the nation’s diverse communities.

In 2018-19, network-wide initiatives exemplified SBS’s unique purpose with distinctive content relevant to all Australians. SBS documentaries reflected Australia’s ongoing evolution and encouraged national debate, commissioned dramas reflected the complexity of modern Australia, and live events united multicultural and multilingual audiences through shared passions. Audience reach remained consistent in a challenging operating market, with an average of 12.3 million Australians engaging with SBS on television each month. An average of 31.7 million chapter views across SBS’s digital platforms, including streaming service SBS On Demand, and 15.9 million unique browsers to SBS’s websites each month demonstrates significant growth in engagement with digital products.

The trust audiences have in SBS was strengthened over the past 12 months with comprehensive, balanced and quality reporting of major local and global news events, including extensive coverage in the lead up to and during the 2019 Federal Election. Audience engagement with news delivered digitally, including via the SBS News app, achieved consistent growth, while television offerings retained strong viewership. Esteemed current affairs programs, Insight and Dateline maintained television audiences, with the latter bucking industry trends to secure increased audiences from the 25-54 demographic. A deliberate strategy to increase digital output for both programs ensured a greater awareness and accessibility to unique stories unexplored elsewhere. The second season of Where Are You Really From? continued to highlight the lives and challenges faced by migrant communities in regional Australia, and Small Business Secrets once again showcased the experiences of Australia’s migrant and Indigenous entrepreneurs.

NITV demonstrated its unique position in Australia’s media sector through its commitment to sharing authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories. NITV News and flagship news and current affairs program The Point, also provided an important platform for the discussion of Indigenous issues from a range of perspectives. In a unique approach to connect wider audiences with Indigenous programming, the new season of Going Places with Ernie Dingo was broadcast on SBS and NITV, and delivered the highest ever audience for NITV-produced content. A focus on new forms of First Nations storytelling has grown the digital and social media presence of the channel, driving increased engagement from younger audiences.

SBS dramas connect audiences with new experiences, exploring relevant topics through compelling storytelling. Thriller Dead Lucky resonated strongly with audiences, including the 25-54 demographic, and supporting resources created in seven languages provided key information for international students. Set in Western Sydney, On The Ropes, explored the complexities experienced by migrant families, alongside the misogyny that can often be found in the sporting world.

Documentaries continue to be an effective vehicle to bring important public discussions to the forefront, with series such as How ‘Mad’ Are You? exploring topics like mental health with the aim of breaking down barriers and misconceptions. Acclaimed series Filthy Rich & Homeless returned to examine the issue of homelessness in Australia. Supported by companion programming and amplified through a number of outreach initiatives, including a partnership with the National Homelessness Conference, the series reached two million Australians on television, and more than 12 million globally via discussions on social media platforms. SBS research found that two-thirds of viewers changed their behaviour towards those experiencing homelessness, demonstrating the tangible social impact that can be driven from compelling content. SBS explored the global refugee crisis with Go Back To Where You Came – Live, a return of the award-winning series but as a three-night live event. Maximising new capabilities in technology, the series was SBS’s most ambitious program to date, broadcasting from five continents including locations across Syria, Sudan and Central America.

Football is a wonderful example of the ability of sport to unite communities and in 2018-19, SBS’s sports coverage was bookended by the world’s largest football events, the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019™. SBS was proud to build on its heritage with comprehensive multiplatform coverage of both events, reaching 9.1 million Australians on television for the men’s tournament, while three million Australians tuned in throughout the women’s event.

Beyond its commitment to diversity on-screen, SBS continued its efforts to provide clear pathways for the progression of diverse practitioners off-screen within the sector. To date, the Diversity Talent Escalator program has engaged 23 creatives from underrepresented backgrounds in SBS commissioned productions, and the Short Form Content Initiative continued its partnerships with several state-based screen agencies to provide opportunities for diverse storytelling for SBS On Demand.

SBS’s multichannel strategy continues to be effective in the acquisition and retention of audiences. While engagement of the 25-54 demographic remains challenging, it has been a record year for youth-focused SBS VICELAND, with the channel experiencing its highest metro audience share in its decade, at 4.5 per cent. An evolution of SBS’s existing food offering, SBS’s free-to-air food channel became SBS Food, and now provides a broader range of programming with a focus on premium Australian content. The channel struck a chord with Australian foodies with audience growth of more than 20 per cent within the first three months of the new look channel, and importantly provides an additional opportunity to bring new audiences into the SBS network.

Digital innovation is critical to the sustainability of SBS and its relevance to all Australians, with demand for a greater array of programming available at convenience at an all-time high. SBS’s login across digital platforms, now at more than 6.5 million registered users, reflects the strategy to provide audiences with a more personalised viewing experience and is critical to deepening engagement. SBS On Demand continues to be a distinctive market proposition; it enables SBS to leverage the growth of streaming audiences nationally by providing a diverse catalogue of premium content from around the world and one of the best viewing experiences in Australia. A focus on providing programs not found on other platforms remains at the core of SBS On Demand’s content strategy, including 75 per cent of premiere and exclusive international drama being in a language other than English.

A best in class operational focus continues to deliver further process improvement and increased productivity. SBS’s capacity to reinvest efficiencies has been a crucial component of its ability to produce more Australian content. SBS welcomed its funding of $887 million over the next three years as part of the 2019-20 Federal Budget. The funding received is critical to SBS’s ongoing ability to provide vital services to Australia’s diverse communities. In a challenging advertising market, SBS’s ability to reach diverse audiences also provided stable revenue outcomes to further invest into the production of local content. Maintaining its leadership position of championing diversity beyond its content, a number of commercial initiatives aligned to SBS’s Charter proved particularly impactful, including SBS’s Cultural Competence Program, an online training course aimed at building capability around cultural diversity in the workplace, which is now licensed to 270,000 employees across more than 260 organisations.

An engaged workforce is at the core of any successful organisation and SBS is proud that its employee engagement continues to achieve consistent growth - now at 81 per cent - 10 points above the media and creative industry average. Ninety-two per cent of employees believe in SBS’s purpose, and it is this shared commitment and focus that is key to delivering on Charter obligations.

In reviewing the year, we also pay tribute to former Managing Director, Michael Ebeid AM, who departed SBS on 1 October 2018, having made a significant contribution to the organisation during his seven and a half years of service.

Looking ahead, SBS is more relevant than ever, as we remain focused on meeting the needs of Australia’s communities like no other media organisation.

As we navigate the changing face of modern Australia, shifting needs of audiences and an ever-changing media environment, a mindset of innovation will remain at the core of SBS’s strategy, ensuring that it remains valuable to all Australians, and continues to make a vital contribution to Australia’s success as an inclusive society.

Signature of SBS Chair

Dr Bulent Hass Dellal AO


Signature of SBS Managing Director

James Taylor
Managing Director


Roy Morgan MEDIA Net Trust Survey 2018.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016 Census.
Feedpress, Jul-Aug 2017 + May-Jun 2018 + Jul 2018 – Jun 2019, Unique Downloads.
Adobe Analytics, Jul 2017-Jun 2018 + Jul 2018-Jun 2019, Unique Visitors.
OzTAM + RegTAM FTA Database, Jul 2018-Jun 2019, SBS Network, Sun-Sat 0200-0200, Combined 5min Cons Reach, Total Individuals, Consolidated 28.
Adobe Analytics, Jul 2018-Jun 2019, Chapter Views + Unique Visitors.
The Exchange, Filthy Rich and Homeless S2, Aug – Sep 2018, “Which of the following have you done as a result of watching the series?” Base: Respondents who watched FR&H S2 = 400.
OzTAM + RegTAM FTA Database, SBS VICELAND + SBS Food, Jan 2019 + Nov 2018-Jan 2019 + Oct 2018-Nov 2018, Sun-Sat 1800 -2400, Combined Average Audiences + Metro FTA Share, Total Individuals, Consolidated 28.
Adobe Analytics, Unique Visitors + Registered Users, Jul 2018 – Jun 2019.
Culture Amp 2019 Australia Benchmark.