Greens move to end SBS dependence on advertising

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The Australian Greens today stepped up their campaign to restore SBS to financial health with legislation to phase out the broadcaster's dependence on advertising.

Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam today urged the Senate to support the Greens' Special Broadcasting Service Amendment (Natural Program Breaks and Disruptive Advertising) Bill 2012.

"This law seeks to reverse the commercialisation of SBS. SBS was the first multicultural broadcaster in the world and Australia's success as a multicultural society is owed in part to institutions such as SBS which tell the stories of our cultural diversity and improve understanding in our community.

"In 2007, due to financial pressures the station moved - arguably in contradiction of its Act - to full in‐program advertising. This has degraded the SBS viewing experience. As long as advertising revenues continued to rise, the danger is that successive governments could get away with the structural under‐funding of the station.

"The troubled history of its hybrid funding model has now reached a dangerous new stage."

The Greens bill clarifies the definition of 'natural program break' to bring advertising practices at the station back into line with the Parliament's original intention when debating the Special Broadcasting Service Act (1991). The bill proposes a staged approach in which a proportion of additional funding in the forthcoming triennium will be set aside to retire advertising. The bill proposes to allow the Minister by regulation to set aside a proportion of SBS funding for this purpose sets up a scheme whereby the station can use a proportion of future funding increases to wind back advertising that runs during programs.

"We believe it is essential in the next funding triennium to reverse the tide of commercialisation, before declining advertising revenues and rising viewer discontent brings down the broadcaster. In addition, to thrive in an increasingly crowded and converging media market, SBS requires an injection of funds above and beyond that sufficient to end in‐program advertising," said Senator Ludlam.