SBS has unveiled a new schedule for its radio network which includes six new languages from Asia and Africa spoken by growing numbers of migrants and refugees.
The last time SBS embarked on such a review was 1994, and the broadcaster says Australian society has changed considerably since then and SBS needs to better reflect those changes in its programming in order to fulfil its Charter.
The new schedule also includes expanded programming for some existing communities with growing numbers of migrants, particularly from China and India.
Under the new schedule, SBS will expand the total number of languages it offers to listeners from 68 to 74, affirming its place as the most multilingual broadcaster in the world.
Three new Asian languages will be broadcast on SBS in April 2013: Malayalam, Hmong and Pashto.
Malayalam is principally spoken in the south Indian state of Kerala, while Hmong is spoken in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
Pashto is the native language of the Pashtun people and is spoken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India.
There will also be three new African languages with growing migrant and refugee communities: Dinka, Swahili and Tigrinya.
Dinka is mainly spoken in South Sudan; Swahili is the official language of Tanzania and Tigrinya is mainly spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia.
SBS Audio and Language Content Director Mandi Wicks says the multicultural broadcaster needs to adapt to the nation's changing migration patterns and ensure that new and emerging communities have the services they need.
"We have had approaches from some of those communities in the past. We also know that the federal government has been very interested in us providing services to those communities who may have a much lower English proficiency or lower incomes and therefore are in great need of a service in language to hear Australian news and information in their language and it really helps them to be able to settle into the community in which they now live."
The new SBS Radio Schedule was developed using language selection criteria supported by the 2011 Census.
In response to that data, the Mandarin and Cantonese speaking community will also see their combined broadcasting time increase from 16 to 28 hours per week under the new schedule.
The Hindi program will increase its broadcasting time from three to seven hours and the Punjabi program will broadcast its program five times per week, compared with once a week under the current schedule.
Larger languages with more broadcast hours had to have at least 20,000 speakers.
The communities with the largest populations - Cantonese and Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Greek and Italian - will all broadcast 14 hours of programming every week.
These larger programs will now broadcast one two-hour program every day, rather than two one-hour programs in the morning and in the evening.
They will also have a fixed time-slot every day, making it easier for listeners to remember when to tune in.
All languages on the new schedule have to have at least 1,000 speakers and 21 programs will be shifting from analogue to a digital format.
Mandi Wicks says an expansion in digital media over recent years has allowed SBS to expand the number of languages it broadcasts in, without having to shut down any existing programs.
"It's as a result of additional funding from the federal government earlier this year that we're able to retain all our languages.
"There are languages that don't fit on the analogue schedule, because we only have a certain number of hours on the AM and FM schedule, so once we've filled that, some languages will move to a digital only platform. So, they'll be available on digital radio, on digital television, on mobile phones and online."
In determining the make-up of the new schedule, SBS also looked at a number of other factors, including the level of English language proficiency in a particular language group, the level of unemployment and the proportion of recent arrivals.
It also factored in the number of refugees and the level of vilification faced by a particular community, based upon complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The changes have been welcomed by the nation's largest migrant community group, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA).
FECCA chairman Pino Migliorino says the schedule will help SBS better reflect multicultural Australia.
"I think it's incumbent on our structures to be responsive to those population changes. So I welcome the review. I think it's appropriate that SBS actually determines its own criteria and approach to its programming and its scheduling."
"I would suggest that it's important to do it at regular intervals as well and not wait another 18 years."
Some of the communities that will be broadcasting on SBS Radio for the first time say they believe the move will benefit many newly-arrived migrants and refugees as they settle into Australia.
The President of the Malayee Association of Western Australia Eipe Chundamannil says his community has been calling for a program on SBS for some time.
He believes the new program will serve an important role in helping to pass on the Malayalam language from one generation to the next.
"The new generation that's growing up here -- they don't have many ties with the homeland and for the older generation, we feel guilty that we are not passing on our roots and where we came from to the next generation. But it will help for them to understand the language when they go back and visit their native place - the motherland - where they can talk to people in our original language."
SBS expects to launch the new schedule at the end of April next year.
SBS Audio and Language Content Director Mandi Wicks says she believes the broadcaster has struck a fair balance that will help it reflect the needs of a wide range of migrant communities in the years ahead.
"We know that there'll be communities who will be disappointed by the outcomes. Equally there will be as many communities who will be very excited by the opportunities ahead.
"In all the conversations I've had, and I've had many conversations with community leaders and listeners and government, everybody has fundamentally agreed that this is the right thing to be doing in order to be fulfilling our charter and to help create a cohesive Australian society. SBS Radio absolutely needs to reflect the make-up of today's Australia."
You can find more information about the new schedule on the SBS website.
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