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Feedback & Complaints

Feedback and Complaints

Feedback and complaints about SBS programs and services

SBS values all audience feedback and comments on its programs and services, whether complimentary or critical.

You may wish to complain about particular SBS programs and content. If you assert that SBS has breached its Codes of Practice your complaint will be treated as formal. SBS's Codes of Practice cover issues including prejudice, racism and discrimination, accuracy and balance in news reporting, and classification issues. Formal complaints will be investigated.

Other complaints are treated as informal. SBS is not required to investigate informal complaints. Examples of informal complaints include complaints about the discontinuation of a program, or comments about a program presenter.

How to make a comment or send an informal complaint to SBS

To make a comment or an informal complaint contact:

Phone:     Toll free - 1800 500 727 (toll free)
                TTY* - Call NRS on 1800 555 677 and ask for 1800 500 727

Mail:         Locked Bag 028, Crows Nest NSW 1585.

For complaints or enquiries regarding SBS transmission and reception please ring the toll free number 1800 500 727 (TTY 1800 555 677 - ask for 1800 500 727).

(* For people who are deaf or hearing impaired.)

Informal complaints

Your informal complaint, once received, will be sent to the relevant program or content area.

SBS will address your concerns where possible. You may not receive a written response, but your comments will be passed on to the area concerned for their information.

Formal complaints

To make a formal complaint about SBS programs or content you must follow the steps in Code 8.4 of the SBS Codes of Practice
All formal complaints must be in writing.

You will need to:

•    identify yourself (name and address);

•    identify the program concerned and the date of broadcast (if you are complaining about online or new media content, you will need to identify where you viewed it);
•    explain what aspect of the program you are complaining about; and
•    if possible, identify the Code of Practice which you believe applies to the program or content.


You will need to send your complaint within six weeks of the broadcast of the program (or when you viewed the online or new media content). SBS may (but does not have to) investigate complaints received after this time.

How to lodge your formal complaint

There are four options for lodging your formal complaint.

1.  Write to:
SBS Ombudsman
Special Broadcasting Service
Locked Bag 028
Crows Nest, NSW, 1585

2.  Send a facsimile to the SBS Ombudsman on (02) 9430 3047

3.  Send an email to

4. Use the online complaints form.

Complaints which will not be investigated

SBS will not investigate or respond to program complaints from persons not resident in Australia, unless the person is identified in the program.

SBS is also not required to investigate anonymous complaints or complaints which are frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith.

SBS does not investigate complaints about the content of advertisements. Complaints concerning this matter can be sent to the Advertising Standards Bureau (

(SBS will investigate whether an advertisement has been broadcast in its correct time zone. Such complaints can be made to the SBS Ombudsman.)

Complaints in languages other than English

SBS believes that all Australians should be able to communicate with SBS in their preferred language. If you send SBS a formal complaint in a language other than English, SBS will generally have the complaint translated into English.

In some cases, all or part of a program may also be translated. Where this is the case, SBS will advise you of any expected delay. In such cases, SBS appreciates your cooperation in allowing a reasonable period for the complaint to be addressed.

How formal complaints are investigated

The SBS Ombudsman investigates all formal complaints. The SBS Ombudsman reports directly to the Managing Director and is independent of all SBS programming departments.

The SBS Ombudsman is responsible for ensuring a proper and fair investigation, and determining whether the complaint is upheld or not. The Office of Audience Affairs, which is managed by the SBS Ombudsman, replies to complaints and manages enquiries and issues about the complaint handling procedures.

In some cases, for example, where a complaint raises complex issues about a Code, the complaint will be referred internally to SBS’s Complaints Committee for further consideration.

The Complaints Committee is made up of:

•    the Managing Director;

•    the Director Content (Television & Online);
•    the Director Audio and Language Content;
•    the Director News & Current Affairs;
•    the SBS Ombudsman; and
•    where required, one member independent of the Division being investigated.

This ensures that  your complaint will be dealt with objectively and on its merits.

What happens once SBS receives your complaint

Your complaint will be assessed as formal or informal. Once a complaint has been assessed as formal, the SBS Office of Audience Affairs will send you a letter:

•    acknowledging receipt of your complaint;
•    informing you that the SBS Ombudsman will investigate the matter;
•    providing an estimated response time; and
•    advising you about your rights to external review if you are not satisfied with SBS’s response.

If your complaint is upheld

If your complaint is upheld, SBS, at its discretion, may take action which includes:

•    acknowledging that a breach has occurred;
•    apologising for the impact of the breach;
•    placing a correction, retraction or apology on the SBS website;
•    broadcasting the correct information; or
•    broadcasting an apology for the impact of any breach.

External review

If you have made a formal complaint and:

•    you have not received a response within 60 days, or, in exceptional circumstances, within the appropriate time period as advised to you; or
•    you received a response within that period which you consider to be inadequate,
•    you may complain to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under section 150 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

ACMA can only investigate complaints about SBS Television programs and Radio programs. Online material is not included within the jurisdiction of ACMA for the purposes of section 150 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

If ACMA investigates a complaint and finds that it is justified, it may recommend SBS take action to comply with the relevant Code of Practice or other action relating to the complaint. If SBS does not take the recommended action of ACMA within 30 days, ACMA may give the Minister a written report on the matter, which will be tabled in Parliament.

Questions about SBS complaints handling

If you have any questions about how SBS handles audience feedback, please call the Office of Audience Affairs on
(02) 9430 2828.

A two-way story: Our policy with customer queries is to try and deal with most questions on the spot.  If we need to chase up more information, we’ll take details and call them back. Sometimes a caller has missed the end of a movie or episode and is asking how it ends.  We look up the subtitling sheets which usually give a fair idea.

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