Network Highlights


Follow SBS

FAQ's - TV Programming

How does SBS choose its programming?

SBS Television chooses programming based on the SBS Charter and is committed to broadcasting programs that reflect a diversity of experiences, lifestyles, beliefs, cultures and languages within Australia.

To reach across all of Australian society, SBS seeks to strike an appropriate balance between:

-English-language programming which is readily accessible to the general population

-non-English language programming subtitled in English, which may serve the needs of particular communities, and which is accessible to a wider audience; and

-non-English language programming which directly serves the needs of particular communities, and which may be of some interest to other audiences.

SBS Television aims, as far as possible and over time, to provide programs across languages spoken in the community. SBS's program selection takes into account variations in the availability and quality of programming from different television industries around the world as well as the need to meet the range of our programming objectives. In its yearly schedule, SBS seeks to achieve a balance between programs in English and programs in languages other than English. With mostly SBS-produced English-language subtitles, these programs are accessible to the widest possible audience. Much of the English-language component comes from SBS-produced (news and current affairs) or commissioned programs which account for one third of SBS broadcasting time.

Is there a quota system for certain languages?

No. Programs are chosen on the basis of their suitability for the schedule, based on the SBS Charter. SBS is aware of the many languages spoken in Australia, but when we assess programs, in whatever language, we take into consideration their accessibility and relevance to people who don't speak that language.

Why do you have lots of programs from some countries and almost none from others?

Many countries, especially developing countries, produce programs specifically targeted to the local population that don't translate easily to the broader world audience. The limited number of programs produced in these countries, and the narrow range of program genres in other countries, can also mean that there are very few programs available that are suitable for the SBS schedule.

How often do you repeat programs, in particular movies and documentaries?

It is our practice to repeat documentaries once and movies twice. The second or third transmission is often at non-peak viewing times, although programs that have drawn a strong viewer response are often repeated in prime time. The average gap between transmission times is around twelve months, but this can sometimes vary depending on other factors, including timeliness or viewer demand.

Why do you show some movies with a black strip at the top and bottom?

Over the years, movies have been made in many different formats, with the ratio between the top-to-bottom and left-to-right dimensions varying considerably. A standard television screen is about the same aspect ratio as the classic 'Academy' cinema ratio which was the standard until the introduction of CinemaScope in 1953. Then came the 'European' widescreen and the 'American' widescreen, each with a wider shape than the standard television screen. Other networks solve the problem by cropping each side of the image and enlarging it, so that there is no black at the top and bottom. But this means that a good deal of the original movie frame, on the extreme left and right, is lost. We feel this is an unwarranted interference in the film's creative integrity and so we show as much of the left-right image as possible, resulting in a black strip at the top and the bottom. This is a process called 'letterboxing'. One advantage is we can run the subtitles in the black area beneath the image, thus keeping the entire movie image clear of text.

What are the sources of SBS programs?

Most SBS programs are purchased from program distributors and sometimes directly from producers around the world. A large proportion of our Australian-produced programs are commissioned by SBS. These programs include documentaries, dramas, comedies, and entertainment and animation. SBS News and Current Affairs produces SBS's daily news service, World News Australia, and the current affairs programs Dateline, Insight, and Living Black. SBS Sport produces a majority of SBS's sports coverage, covering Australian and international events.

Why are scheduled programs sometimes cancelled at short notice? Will they be shown later?

Unforeseen events, such as important breaking news, satellite problems and technical difficulties sometimes lead to programs being interrupted or cancelled at very short notice. In such instances, we endeavour to advise viewers with a 'crawl' at the bottom of the screen and to re-schedule any cancelled programs in the near future.

Can I get a transcript of a program you have screened?

Transcripts for some SBS-produced programs, including World News Australia, Dateline and Insight are available on their websites. Generally, for copyright and logistical reasons, scripts are not able to be made available to the public.

Why does the program schedule change from what is advertised in the TV guides or EPG'S?

Occasionally, SBS has to amend or change its programming at short notice, often due to reasons out of our control. When this occurs we send an amendment to the newspapers, TV guides, EPGs & other aggregators. These changes can usually be accommodated in the daily guides but as some weekly guides are printed in advance, it is too late to include these corrections in these publications.

If an advertised program is removed from the schedule, how long will it be before it is re-scheduled?

Generally, we try to include it as soon as possible. However, we have to be mindful of the printed TV guides and our own advanced scheduling plans in order to re-introduce the program without it adversely affecting the existing schedule.

Do you have an advance TV schedule on your website?

Our Schedule page gives a three- to four-week advance view of SBS Television, both SBS ONE and SBS TWO.

How can I send a media release to your TV or Radio newsrooms?

Media releases can be emailed to the chief of staff of TV News at: or faxed through to (02) 9430 3040 (TV News) or (02) 9438 1660 (Radio Newsroom).

Who do I speak to regarding a proposal for a new show?

SBS commissions a wide range of locally produced programs, from documentaries to dramas, and invites Australian producers to submit proposals all year round. Proposals should be addressed to the relevant production coordinator and should follow the submission guidelines on the website. SBS is also involved in funding initiatives, so please check back regularly for more information.

How do I complain about a program?

SBS recognises two forms of complaint: you may make an 'informal' complaint about a program, or a 'formal' complaint about a program that alleges a contravention of the SBS Codes of Practice. Refer to Feedback and Complaints or Code 8 in the SBS Codes of Practice for more detail.

An excellent story:  SBS's Subtitling Unit was formed when SBS first started broadcasting, back in 1980. The Subtitling Unit is one of the largest of its kind in the world and is renowned for producing quality subtitles. It won the 2007 AUSIT Excellence Award in recognition of the high standards it sets and for its outstanding contribution to the translation and interpreting industry.