In 2019-20, SBS documentaries provided a pathway for Australians to better understand themselves and the world, exploring places, people and big moments in history, through stories that are thought-provoking, informative and inspiring.
The third season of Struggle Street premiered in October 2019. Over four episodes, the series focused on rural and regional Australians, in particular the Riverina region in New South Wales. The issues explored included the impact of the drought on farmers, unemployment, the lack of access to healthcare, homelessness, the effects of drugs and alcohol, the challenges facing those with mental illness and physical disabilities, and small-town rural Australia.
SBS research showed that seven out of 10 viewers said the series changed their perception of people living in regional Australia. And more than one in three surveyed said that they now start shopping for brands supporting farmers. SBS was inundated with offers from people wanting to contribute goods and services to the people featured in the series.
SBS Outreach and SBS Voices worked with the Matilda Centre, the Social Policy Research Centre and Charles Sturt University, to create a series of videos which busted the myths about regional poverty and hardship in Australia, and the plight of farmers. (See SBS Outreach).
The series averaged 459,000 viewers per episode (40.8 per cent above the time slot average of the previous 12 months), and on catch up was the number one factual program (commissioned or acquired) of 2019-20 with two million chapter views.
Who Do You Think You Are?
May 2020 marked the eleventh season of Australia’s most loved genealogy series, Who Do You Think You Are?, celebrating Australia’s continued evolution as one of the world’s most diverse nations.
Season 11 uncovered surprising and emotionally compelling stories about some of Australia’s most iconic personalities including Lisa Wilkinson, Bert Newton, Cameron Daddo, Denise Scott, Lisa Curry, Kat Stewart, Julie Bishop and Troy Cassar-Daley. Traveling across Australia and the globe, the series revealed participants’ previously unknown ancestry, offering a greater sense of Australia’s multicultural identity.
The program received a strong audience response. Lisa Wilkinson’s launch episode was 63 per cent above the timeslot average for total individuals and up 76 per cent with 25-54s. It achieved a combined reach of 917,000 total individuals, including 130,000 for 25-54s. It was the highest performing launch episode in the past four years.
In August 2019, the fourth instalment of SBS’s critically acclaimed observational documentary series, Untold Australia, explored the life-changing milestones of everyday Australians from hidden, surprising and diverse worlds.
The season contained four unique documentaries that collectively explored themes of love and disability in Love Me As I Am, the challenges of a multigenerational family-run business in Turban Legend, the behind the scenes of the funeral industry in The Secret Life of Death and one transgender woman’s mission to bring a pride parade to her country town in Country Town Pride.
Marry Me Marry My Family
Back for its second season, this three-part series delved into the colourful world of cross-cultural weddings. Marry Me, Marry My Family followed the experiences of six couples navigating a wedding whilst staying true to their culture and family. The series celebrated diversity and love across cultures, while helping Australians to better understand the complexities of multicultural relationships.
The program drew audiences to SBS, as one in four people of the 25-54 demographic who watched the series had not consumed any SBS main channel content in the four weeks prior to its premiere in December 2019. The average audience for the 25-54 demographic was 35.7 per cent above the timeslot average. 90 per cent of audiences felt it was relevant to today's Australia.
Every Family Has A Secret
In the first season of new documentary series, Every Family Has a Secret, host Noni Hazlehurst met six everyday Australians grappling with intriguing family secrets. Dark pasts, lies and half-truths were revealed in three compelling episodes.
The series launched to a strong audience, rating 24.3 per cent above the timeslot average of the previous 12 months, and captured the hearts and minds of the nation with extraordinary stories of Australians traveling around the world to uncover powerful truths about themselves, their families and the country as a whole.
Secrets of Our Cities
In the second season of Secrets of Our Cities, Greig Pickhaver explored the unique makeup of three Australian locations - Footscray, Kalgoorlie and the Gold Coast - by tracing some of the most important moments in each place’s history.
An intriguing narrative of global events, migration and transformation, each episode cut to the heart of the city, uncovering its unique place in Australian society. With personal tales of triumph and tragedy woven through the broader history, a spotlight was shone on the hidden past revealing the secrets of our cities. Showcasing Australia’s diversity and rich multicultural history, the series was entertaining and enlightening.
The Chocolate Factory: Inside Cadbury Australia
Over Easter, SBS aired the commissioned documentary The Chocolate Factory: Inside Cadbury Australia.
In an Australian television first, this fourth iteration of Slow TV took viewers from the sugarcane fields of Queensland to a dairy farm in Tasmania, before revealing the slow journey of millions of Easter eggs and bunnies inside the Cadbury factories in Hobart and Melbourne. This three-hour visual feast highlighted Australia’s multicultural and Indigenous history with fascinating stories from the past.
The program achieved a combined reach of over 1.1 million viewers.
Filthy Rich & Homeless
SBS is focused on creating compelling Australian programming that raises awareness of issues and generates national discussion, with the aim of driving tangible, positive outcomes. The third season of Filthy Rich & Homeless reflected this.
The series once again saw five high-profile Australians swap their privileged lives to experience 10 days of homelessness in NSW, but this year there was a focus on regional Australia.
The five participants were emergency doctor and businessman Dr. Andrew Rochford, Deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne Arron Wood, restauranteur and entrepreneur Pauline Nguyen, comedian and radio presenter Ciaran Lyons and actress and model Ellie Gonsalves. They experienced different forms of homelessness, from sleeping rough on the streets to living in crisis accommodation and marginal housing, including boarding houses and caravan parks.
Filthy Rich & Homeless was broadcast over three nights, recording 25-54 audiences 76 per cent above the timeslot average, demonstrating the keen interest of younger audiences to engage in TV content about social issues.
In 2019, season two of Filthy Rich & Homeless won two international awards – Best Reality TV at the Venice TV Awards and Best Documentary Series in The Asian Academy Creative Awards.