Inquiry into the Competitive Neutrality of the National Broadcasters
competitive neutrality of the national broadcasters (the Inquiry). The Competitive Neutrality Review Panel – Mr Robert Kerr, Ms Sandra Levy AO and Ms Julie Flynn – provided its report to the Minister for Communications and the Arts on 28 September 2018. The Minister released the Inquiry report on 12 December 2018.
The Inquiry found that SBS and the ABC are operating in a manner consistent with the principles of competitive neutrality. It recognised the competitive and dynamic media environment within which SBS operates, and the way that it has adapted to the challenges this presents for the benefit of the public. The Inquiry made a number of recommendations relating to process and reporting, and these were taken into account by SBS.
During the reporting period SBS undertook a competitive neutrality assessment ahead of the re-launch of its dedicated free-to-air food channel, Food Network, as SBS Food in November 2018. SBS also undertook a competitive neutrality assessment ahead of the launch of its new free-to-air channel, SBS World Movies, which commenced broadcasting on 1 July 2019.
2018 National Broadcasters Efficiency Review
In May 2018, the Government announced the 2018 National Broadcasters Efficiency Review (the Efficiency Review).
On 13 August 2018, the terms of reference were published and noted that the Efficiency Review, to be conducted by Mr Peter Tonagh and Mr Richard Bean, would assist the public broadcasters as they approached the next funding triennium, commencing in July 2019, and would provide advice to government and the national broadcasters’ respective boards on areas where efficiency can be enhanced in the community interest. It was also noted that this review would build on the earlier 2014 ABC and SBS Efficiency Study. Certain matters were identified as out of the scope of the review, including editorial policies, content quality and delivery, privatisation and merger of the ABC and SBS.
The Efficiency Review was completed in December 2018, and in March 2019, the SBS Chair received a letter from the Minister for Communications and the Arts thanking SBS for its participation in the review. The letter, published on the website of the Department of Communications and the Arts, noted that the Efficiency Review was for SBS to use and consider as it sees fit, and any actions arising from the recommendations of the Efficiency Review are matters for the SBS Board to independently consider.
Digital Platforms Inquiry
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) completed its Digital Platforms Inquiry at the end of 2018–19. The inquiry examined the effect that major digital platforms—digital search engines, social media platforms and other digital content aggregation platforms—have on competition in media and advertising services markets. In particular, it looked at the impact of digital platforms on the supply of news and journalistic content and the implications of this for media content creators, advertisers and consumers.
SBS will continue to engage with relevant policy development processes arising from the inquiry’s findings and recommendations. These are likely to focus on the inquiry’s four main themes: content creation – news and journalism; digital platforms in the Australian regulatory system; consumer issues – privacy; and, digital platforms and advertisers.
Support measures for Australian content
During 2017–18, the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and Screen Australia conducted a review into support measures in place for the production and delivery of Australian and children’s screen content. A number of Parliamentary Inquiries have also recently explored the Australian screen industry and the policy framework supporting the creation of Australian content.
As part of these reviews, SBS has indicated a desire to commission more Australian content, subject to funding.
Any reforms arising from these reviews are likely to directly affect SBS and independent producers commissioned by SBS, as well as the competitive environment for Australian content.
Audio Description (AD)
In March 2019, the Government invited SBS and other broadcasters to propose a plan for the introduction of audio description on its services. SBS is committed to telling stories that matter and recognises that AD can provide meaningful benefits to blind and vision impaired Australians by increasing access to these stories. There are a number of technical and resource issues that require further assessment, however SBS will continue to work with industry and government to examine its introduction.
During the reporting period progress is expected on the development of a new legislative framework governing the allocation and management of radio frequency spectrum, replacing the Radiocommunications Act 1992.
A key element will be a simpler licensing scheme, which will involve broadcasters, including SBS, transitioning to new licence types over time.
SBS continues to distribute a bi-monthly e-newsletter to approximately 1,000 key public stakeholders across government, community and industry. SBS Connect shares the latest SBS news and events, including community engagement activities and content highlights to ensure these stakeholders are informed about key SBS activities and achievements.
SBS supported an innovative and diverse media sector through a range of national and international industry bodies and initiatives.
International Media Alliances
SBS is a member of the Public Media Alliance, and the International Institute of Communications.
Membership and participation in the Public Media Alliance provides SBS with connections to other public broadcasters to advance the interests of public media organisations and to promote their indispensable contribution to modern society.
Involvement in the International Institute of Communications allows SBS to contribute to global conversations on communications, technology, and digital development and access international perspectives on policy and regulatory issues.
Public Media Organisations
SBS maintains an ongoing dialogue with public media organisations around the world to strengthen strategic partnerships, compare approaches to the adoption of new broadcasting technologies and explore content sharing arrangements.
From global media organisations to emerging industry players, SBS welcomes opportunities to meet with international delegates and share information about Australia's unique multicultural and multilingual broadcaster.
NITV’s membership of the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (WITBIN) continues to provide content sharing and strategic partnership opportunities.
Locally, SBS works closely and constructively with stakeholders across the screen production sector including Screen Australia, state and territory screen agencies, Screen Producers Australia, and many other partners to further strengthen and support Australia’s screen industry.
SBS remains committed to increasing the representation of diverse Australian creatives both on and off the screen, with the continuation of the Diversity Talent Escalator and the introduction of the Short Form Content Initiative (see Diversity on and off screen for more), providing tangible pathways for development.
SBS is a founding member of the Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network, a network of broadcasters, screen funding agencies, business associations, guilds and industry-aligned education and training organisations that have committed to working together towards a more inclusive and diverse screen industry.
SBS is a shareholder of Freeview Australia Ltd and participates in industry-wide collaboration towards new television platforms. SBS continues to be a leader in the effective and efficient provision of free-to-air content, maintaining its Charter commitment to inform, educate and entertain all Australians.