The Office of the SBS Ombudsman received 332 contacts during 2019-20. Of these, 124 were identified as code complaints – which was 15 fewer than the previous year – and these were investigated by the SBS Ombudsman. The remaining 208 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 ACMA for external review.
During 2019-20, most code complaints (72) concerned television content broadcast on SBS, while 19 concerned SBS online content, including 15 complaints about SBS News articles. There were 13 complaints about SBS VICELAND content, eight complaints concerned SBS World Movies content, five concerned SBS Food content, four related to SBS Radio content and three complaints were received about content broadcast on NITV.
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 2019-20.
The most commonly raised code issues concerned Code 2 (News and Current Affairs), which attracted a total of 58 complaints. Complainants expressed a range of concerns about news and current affairs content, including 34 complaints that predominantly concerned accuracy and 23 complaints that predominantly related to impartiality and balance. There was also one complaint concerning the coverage of distressing events in news and current affairs content.
There were 29 complaints about the classification of programs, and 17 complaints about prejudice, racism and discrimination. There were also eight complaints concerning advertising, five concerning diversity of views and perspectives in general content, three that raised religion, two concerning editorial integrity, one complaint that raised the NITV code and one complaint about privacy.
SBS reports the activity that happens in a particular financial year; complaints received during the year and investigations completed during the year.
During 2019-20, the SBS Ombudsman completed 120 investigations, upholding 18 complaints, and dismissing 102 complaints.
Australian Communications and Media Authority
During 2019-20, the ACMA did not commence any program investigations relating to SBS content as a result of appeals from code complainants. The ACMA declined to investigate three such appeals during this reporting period.