True To Its Mission, SBS Reflects Our Nation’s Multicultural Diversity

 Wednesday 26 September, 2017

Dr Bulent Hass Dellal AO
SBS Chairman

Full opinion editorial

SBS’s relevance has come under attack of late, with critics questioning its value and suggesting that it’s moving further away from its Charter than ever before. It’s unsurprising that this criticism often comes from those with no connection to SBS or its purpose, and those who are unfamiliar with the public broadcaster’s offering in modern multicultural Australia.

Today, Australia has never been more culturally diverse. The latest Census results reveal that forty-nine per cent of us are either born overseas, have one or both parents born overseas, and that twenty-one per cent of us speak a language other than English at home. Migration continues to soar at a rapid pace growing the rich cultural diversity of faces that we see on Australian streets every day.

This diversity remains core to SBS and is the very reason that our TV, radio and digital services are resonating with more Australians than ever before, and in comparison to our media counterparts. At a time when global events are challenging social harmony, the role of a broadcaster dedicated to exploring and reflecting the diversity of contemporary society has never been more important.

As society has evolved, SBS has responded, and there is no better example of its Charter focus and commitment to Australia’s multicultural communities than the new and recently announced SBS Radio schedule.

SBS Radio is a cornerstone of Australia's multicultural story. For 41 years, its services have helped migrants and emerging communities navigate life in a new country, understand Australian culture and values and integrate into Australian society, informing them of their rights and also their obligations as Australians.

However across those 41 years, the media landscape has evolved significantly and changing audience consumption patterns are reflective of the fragmenting media landscape, now offering more choice and accessibility than ever before.

SBS’s in-language radio and digital services are already engaging with multi-generational migrants as well as those newly arrived, accessible anywhere, at any time, on the device of their choice. While live, linear radio is important to many of these communities; it is evident that audiences are increasingly consuming SBS’s in-language content via digital platforms, with a 110 per cent yearly increase on the number of visitors to SBS Radio websites, and podcast downloads growing 75 per cent across the same period. This multiplatform approach, focused on delivering services at communities’ convenience, remains vital for the nearly five million Australians who speak a language other than English at home.

Following extensive community consultation and in conjunction with the 2016 Census data, SBS’s new radio schedule builds on this past success and re-aligns services to ensure that they are tailored to different communities’ needs, with an increase in audio and online content available to consume via digital platforms. Seven new languages have been identified and added to the offering - Telugu, Karen, Tibetan, Hakha Chin, Rohingya, Mongolian and Kirundi (Rundi) - and with more than 50% of language speakers in each of these groups aged 20-54, will solely be catered for through digital services.

With multiplatform content in 68 languages, SBS Radio remains as the world’s most linguistically diverse public broadcaster and growing digital services to meet the needs and expectations of different audiences echoes SBS’s commitment to Australia’s multicultural communities.

And of course, SBS’s commitment reaches far beyond SBS Radio. The SBS Charter runs through the veins of the entire organisation and is once again the very reason that the network stands apart in the homogenous media market.
Across the whole spectrum of distinctive TV, radio and digital services, SBS remains as the only media organisation not just reflecting the reality of Australia on our screens, but exploring it through unique and authentic storytelling, with diversity and inclusion at its core.  

More than 1.3 million people migrated to Australia over the last five years, and as this cultural complexity increases, the need for a broadcaster where a diversity of views, voices and faces are represented has never been more relevant. Now more than ever, is a time where Australians can be proud of SBS and its ongoing symbol of our nation’s commitment to a cohesive multicultural society.