Videos promoting health and safety messages
In response to a request from the Australian Government Department of Health, SBS created videos in 31 languages in 10 days to promote key health and safety messages about the coronavirus. A total of 59 videos were produced, with more than 600,000 views. The videos were shared by the Department of Health YouTube pages, and have been amalgamated into on-channel promotions. They are prominent on SBS On Demand, and have been shared with thousands of community stakeholders. Consumption statistics indicate that these videos have been widely shared in both larger and smaller communities within Australia, and overseas.
Many of SBS’s distinctive and much-loved programs became available for more Australians to enjoy with the launch of audio description services. Audio description can provide meaningful benefits to people who are blind or vision-impaired by providing access to the full story being shown. In December 2019, the Government announced funding for SBS and the ABC to introduce audio description services, which provide an auditory narration of the non-verbal elements of a program. During gaps in dialogue, visual elements such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes are described. The Government announced that the national broadcasters were expected to begin offering audio description services to audiences by 1 July 2020.
On 5 April 2020, SBS launched a trial of its audio described television broadcast services, ahead of the formal launch of the full service on 28 June 2020. SBS’s main channel (standard definition and high definition) and SBS VICELAND now provide audio described programs.
SBS will continue its engagement with the Government, community, and industry to ensure the service best meets the need of audiences – including on issues such as programming, technical requirements and communications.
Digital Platforms Inquiry
Following the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry, and the subsequent Government response, the ACCC has undertaken the Digital Advertising Services (Ad Tech) Inquiry, exploring issues faced by market participants. The ACCC was also in the process of developing a mandatory code of conduct to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media businesses and the digital platforms. SBS participated in the ACCC’s consultations as part of this process, which was ongoing at the time of reporting.
Review of Australian Classification Regulation and Online Safety Legislative Reform consultation
As part of the outcome of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) conducted two concurrent consultations – the Review of Australian Classification Regulation and the Online Safety Legislative Reform consultation. SBS made submissions to both processes during the reporting period.
In its submission to the Australian Classification Regulation, SBS indicated its support for modernisation and harmonisation of Australia’s media regulation, noting that a harmonised regulatory framework does not require a “one size fits all” approach. SBS supported the current regulatory framework for classification categories and complaint handling processes as set out in the SBS Codes of Practice, including the current complaint escalation pathway to the ACMA for broadcast content.
In its submission to the Online Safety Legislative Reform, SBS indicated its support for a new online safety regulatory framework that mitigates online risks and ensures Australians can confidently take advantage of the benefits of the digital environment. SBS submitted that any new regulatory framework should work alongside and complement existing effective frameworks for media services, including SBS’s well-established and fit-for-purpose Codes of Practice.
SBS continues to be actively involved in national and international industry bodies and initiatives, promoting the importance of a diversity of media providers to contemporary society.
International Media Alliances
SBS is a member of the Public Media Alliance (PMA), and the International Institute of Communications.
The PMA connects SBS with public broadcasters around the world, providing the opportunity to share challenges and successes, and to promote the key role that these media organisations play in society. For example, the PMA shared information about SBS’s news coverage in 63 languages of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the 45th anniversary of SBS radio services; with its member organisations. In 2019-20, the PMA launched the Global Task Force for Public Media, aiming to promote the importance of independent public media, and journalism more broadly.
In 2019, the International Institute of Communications (IIC) marked its 50th anniversary, providing significant engagement opportunities for organisations involved in communications, technology and digital development, including the IIC Annual Conference, which focussed on the impact of digital convergence on policy makers; exploiting the growth of the digital economy; and supporting regulators to consider convergence in legislation. The IIC Australian Chapter has also held a range of events and seminars, covering topics ranging from digital platforms and the media; to governing AI in Australia.
In addition to its membership of formal organisations, SBS continues to provide informal opportunities for delegates of international media organisations to meet with SBS staff, and to learn about the unique role that SBS plays in the Australian media landscape.
NITV’s membership of the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (WITBIN) continues to provide content sharing and strategic partnership opportunities.
SBS works with the screen production sector including Screen Australia, state and territory screen agencies, Screen Producers Australia, the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and many other stakeholders and partners to further strengthen and support Australia’s screen industry.
The sector was severely impacted around the world by COVID-19, with a range of programs and productions immediately affected in the first half of 2020. This included unavoidable changes to SBS’s programming and productions. SBS is continuing to work closely with the Australian production sector and has been undertaking extensive consultation, and has approved and delivered new productions where it has been safe to do so. It has increased investment in production development, and is progressing content initiatives including Pitch to Pilot, R.I.D.E. (Respect, Inclusion, Diversity and Equality) feature film fund, Centralised, and Digital Originals (see Digital Originals). SBS also worked with production partners to support alternative and innovative ways of working, including virtual writers’ rooms.
SBS remains committed to increasing the representation of diverse Australian creatives, with initiatives such as the Diversity Talent Escalator providing tangible pathways for development (see Digital Originals) and employee opportunities supported by the SBS Inclusion Strategy (see SBS Inclusion Strategy).
The Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network (SDIN), of which SBS is a founding member, launched ‘The Everyone Project’ in late 2019. This is a significant new initiative to measure diversity in the Australian screen industry. It has gained support from broadcasters, screen agencies, guilds and education organisations. Several diversity initiatives for the screen industry are underway, and this project aims to support the targeting of these initiatives, as well as providing a standardised reporting mechanism.
SBS is a shareholder of Freeview Australia Ltd and participates in industry-wide collaboration towards new television platforms.
Truth, Power and a Free Press
The exhibition Truth, Power and a Free Press launched at the Museum of Australian Democracy on 14 November 2019. With SBS as a principal partner, the exhibition includes a special feature on some of Australia’s most respected journalists such as Ghassan Nakhoul, Jenny Brockie, Joanne McCarthy, Hedley Thomas, Chris Masters, Hamish MacDonald, Adele Ferguson and more.