SBS Australia Receives Major Funding Boost

Go Back To Where You Came From

The public broadcaster, which airs the Tour De France and created refugee reality series, "Go Back To Where You Came From," will get an additional $158 million over the next four years.

SYDNEY - Australian multicultural broadcaster, SBS (the Special Broadcasting Service) is to receive a funding increase of 27 percent, its largest ever, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Tuesday as part of the federal government’s annual budget allocations.

SBS will get an additional $158.1 million ($154 million) over five years, with $61.7 million of that to cover funding for a new indigenous free-to-air television channel that SBS will manage.

The new indigenous channel, designed to take over from the current National Indigenous TV (NITV) service, will launch later this year.

“In an increasingly multicultural society, the Australian Government recognizes SBS as one of Australia’s most important institutions,” Conroy said.

“This represents the most significant funding boost SBS has ever had, and will ensure SBS can continue to provide a unique broadcasting service that includes comprehensive television, radio and online services. This additional funding will allow SBS to address its immediate financial pressures, adapt to the changing media environment and build or upgrade its technology capabilities.”

The Labor government has funded SBS in total, for  $650 million over the last three years.

Conroy added that the increased funding would also provide a boost to the independent production sector, with the bulk of SBS “innovative, high quality, and unique programming,” acquired and commissioned from outside the broadcaster.  

SBS operates two free-to-air channels and two pay TV channels here: arts service Studio and foreign language film channel, World Movies as well as a raft of foreign language radio services.  

Unlike its fully publicly funded counterpart, the ABC, SBS is a hybrid commercial-public broadcaster carrying up to 5 minutes an hour of in program advertising. Ad revenues are around $50 million a year.

SBS managing director Michael Ebeid said increased funding would “ensure the sustainability of SBS as a major contributor in the Australian media.”

“The funding increase will offset the slower growth in commercial revenues experienced by SBS, in line with trends across the media industry. It’s the most significant funding boost SBS has ever received, and will support our work in developing news and content that breaks down language barriers and inspires and connects communities. 

Of the new indigenous TV service Ebeid said: "SBS is honored and excited to be delivering this new service which will vastly increase the opportunity for the telling of stories from and by Indigenous communities, and make those stories more accessible to audiences across the country.” 

SBS has been under significant funding pressure in recent years, with the introduction of digital multichannel, fragmenting audiences and increased competition from the new niche digital channels fro programming. Three years ago the multicultural broadcaster was seeking $70 million a year year to fund four channels and nine digital radio channels. Then it received just $20 million in additional funding over three years. Ad revenue remained flat in the last financial year.

This year SBS was forced to axe a major new drama series before it had gone into production.

SBS has achieved significant critical and audience success with programs like refugee reality series, Go Back to Where You Came from, police drama series EastWest 101 and a range of high end food programming, all of which sell well in international markets. It introduced Top Gear to Australian TV audiences and is the official broadcaster here for the Tour De France. It has the smallest audience of Australia’s five free to air broadcasters with the man channel receiving a weekly average share of between  5 percent and 6 percent and SBSTwo around 2 percent.

The ABC, which would normally receive a new round of funding for three years this year, has agreed with the government to defer its triennial funding arrangements until 2013.