FAQ's - Our Story

Our Story

As a national broadcaster of multicultural and multilingual programming, SBS is unique in the world.

In 1975, concerns that minority communities might require details in their own languages of the new health care scheme led to the establishment of two ethnic-minority radio stations. These started broadcasting in June 1975, with pre-recorded messages in seven and eight foreign languages, respectively.

In the following year the Federal Government formed the Consultative Committee on Ethnic Broadcasting. Following the recommendation of this and subsequent committees, the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 was amended to form the Special Broadcasting Service. This legislation came into force on 1 January 1978.

SBS TV began test transmissions in April 1979 when it showed various foreign language programs on Sunday mornings. Full-time transmission began on 24 October 1980 (United Nations Day). The first program shown was a documentary entitled 'Who Are We?', which was hosted by veteran news man Peter Luck.

On 14 October 1983, the service expanded into Canberra, Cooma, and Goulburn and, at the same time, changed its name to Network 0–28. Its new slogan was the long-running 'Bringing the World Back Home'. The network changed its name to SBS on 18 February 1985, and began daytime transmissions. SBS expanded to Brisbane, Adelaide, Newcastle, Wollongong, and the Gold Coast in June of that year. SBS was established as an independent statutory authority on 1 January 1978 under the Broadcasting Act 1942. In 1991 the Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991 (SBS Act) came into effect and SBS became a corporation.

What do the letters SBS stand for?

Special Broadcasting Service.

Does SBS have Programming Standards?

Yes. The SBS Act requires SBS to develop codes of practice relating to programming matters and to notify these to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the Australian government agency responsible for the regulation of broadcasting and the internet in Australia). The SBS Codes of Practice set out the principles and policies followed by SBS in fulfilling its Charter obligations, and our guiding principles and obligations concerning matters such as program classification, advertising and sponsorship, accuracy, impartiality and balance in news and current affairs, and complaints handling. Copies of the Codes of Practice are available on request or you can view them at Codes of Practice.  

How is SBS funded?

The majority of SBS funding comes from Government appropriation. The remainder of SBS's operating budget comes from SBS's commercial activities, which include advertising and sponsorship, and sales of goods and services.

When did SBS Radio begin?

The radio network began in 1975 with two experimental radio stations - 2EA in Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne - broadcasting four hours a day in seven and eight languages respectively. It was a three-month experiment in multilingual broadcasting, confined to Australia's two largest cities. SBS Radio today broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week on AM and FM frequencies in Sydney, Canberra, Wollongong and Melbourne, and is heard Australia-wide on a national signal that reaches all capital cities and many regional centres, as well as on digital radio and digital television (where available) and online.

When did SBS Television begin?

SBS Television began in 1980 and it too started first in Sydney and Melbourne. Gradually SBS added other cities and regional and rural centres to the network. Today SBS's digital service, which began in 2001, serves approximately 97% of Australians.


SBS VICELAND is SBS channel aimed at younger audiences. Previously called SBS 2, it features the best of SBS 2’s much-loved local and international shows such as If You Are the One, SBS Pop Asia, The Feed, South Park, Brooklyn 99, alongside exclusive, original and award-nominated programming from VICELAND – the distinctive channel of VICE-produced programs overseen by award-winning Director Spike Jonze – cherry-picked and curated by SBS. Bringing young Australians distinctive news, current affairs, documentaries, entertainment and movies from Australia and across the world, the channel’s slate of shows covers cultural issues, race, identity, gender, music, technology, fashion, food, travel, sports, and more.

How many people work at SBS?

SBS employs nearly 1400 people (full and part time), and currently over 42% of employees are from a non-English speaking background and over 48% were born overseas.

Do you have to come from a non-English speaking background to work at SBS?

No, though many of our jobs do require proficiency in languages other than English. Almost all our radio producers create programs in languages other than English, and our subtitlers prepare English-language subtitles for TV programs in languages other than English.

All jobs at SBS require an understanding of the SBS Charter, including an awareness of the contribution cultural diversity has in the continuing development of Australian society. Visit the SBS Careers website to see current vacancies.