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SBS Ombudsman

The Office of the SBS Ombudsman received 290 contacts during 2018-19. Of these, 139 were identified as code complaints and were investigated by the SBS Ombudsman. The remaining 151 were assessed as general complaints and actioned either by response or by referral to the relevant SBS division, or both.

Code complaints allege a breach of the SBS Codes of Practice in relation to content broadcast or published by SBS. Complainants in relation to SBS television or radio content, who are dissatisfied with the outcome of the SBS Ombudsman’s investigation, may refer their complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) for external review.

During 2018-19 most code complaints (81) concerned television content broadcast on SBS, while 23 concerned content broadcast on SBS VICELAND, 23 concerned SBS online content, five concerned SBS Food content, four concerned SBS Radio content and three concerned content broadcast on NITV.

Almost all complaints were received electronically either by email or by online complaint form.

Types of Code Complaints

The following graph shows the SBS Codes of Practice issues raised in code complaints during 2018-19.

A graph showing complaint types in 2018-19, to visually depict the statistics written in this section of the annual report.

The most commonly raised code issues concerned Code 2 (News and Current Affairs), which attracted a total of 61 complaints. These included a range of concerns about accuracy, impartiality and balance in news and current affairs, with a total of 54 complaints received about these provisions. There were also seven complaints concerning the use of distressing audio and images in news and current affairs content.

There were 38 complaints about the classification of programs, and 22 complaints about prejudice, racism and discrimination. There were also six complaints concerning editorial integrity, six concerning diversity of views and perspectives in general content, and six about advertising.


SBS reports the activity that takes place in a particular financial year; complaints received during the year and investigations completed during the year.

During 2018-19 the SBS Ombudsman completed 152 investigations, upholding 28 complaints, and dismissing 124 complaints.

Australian Communications and Media Authority

During the 2018-19 year the ACMA did not commence any program investigations relating to SBS content as a result of appeals from code complainants.