SBS has embarked on a review of its multilingual services as the broadcaster looks towards the celebration of its 50th birthday. The review will use the results of this year's Census to determine the make-up and content of its language programming for the next five years.
- The Language Services Review is a process undertaken every five years in line with the national Census
- The six-week public consultation runs from 5 October to 12 November 2021
- The results of the Language Services Review will be announced in October 2022 and any changes will be implemented by November 2022.
When SBS started in 1975, the multicultural broadcaster featured just eight languages.
Those initial broadcasts were enough, as Audio and Language Content Director David Hua recalls, to prompt spontaneous celebration on the streets.
"When a Turkish truck driver heard SBS radio and heard his first language for the first time on Australian media, he actually got out of the truck and danced at the intersection with joy."
Now, 46 years on, the number of languages broadcast by SBS stretches to over 60 across a range of different platforms.
Serving the needs of a multicultural and multilingual Australia
And its core purpose remains: to service the needs of a multicultural and multilingual Australia.
"SBS has a unique ability to reach and connect with Australia’s diverse communities through its multilingual services, across multiple touchpoints," says David Hua.
"For more than 45 years, we’ve been continuing to adapt the way we provide innovative and meaningful services to communities, and today we do so across radio, online, podcasts and apps in more than 60 languages.
To best do that, SBS conducts a Language Services Review every five years in line with the national Census, to ensure SBS Radio services reflect Australia’s rapidly changing and increasingly diverse society.
The results of this year's national Census will be out in June next year.
David Hua says it will help SBS to inform what language services it will be delivering as the community evolves.
"SBS absolutely needs to match that evolution and to provide the services which are most required for the community that we serve."
The Review will encompass SBS’s audio and language offering including radio, SBS On Demand, podcasting and other digital platforms.
This review will help shape SBS as we look towards turning 50 - David Hua.
Seven new languages added to SBS in 2018
Hakha Chin - mainly spoken in the Western Myanmar region of Chin State - was one of seven new language groups added in 2018 after the last review, along with Mongolian, Kirundi, Tibetan, Karen, Rohingya and Telugu.
Speaking from his Melbourne studio, Haka Chin producer, Cung Khukzawn, says SBS is his community's main source where they can get information.
"It’s quite unbelievable to have this good opportunity to have our language broadcast on SBS," he says.
"Most of our parents don’t speak or understand English. They can get to know what’s happening in Australia and what’s going on in Australia.”
New and emerging communities
According to Mohammad Al-Khafaji, chief executive of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, it's vital the review caters for new and emerging communities that may have smaller populations.
"SBS is really important to new arrivals in Australia, to refugee communities, especially to new and emerging communities," he says.
"Of course we would love to see more languages added rather than other languages taken off and Australia's cultural diversity is only growing and we hope that the government funding matches that for SBS to be able to provide additional languages."
David Hua also points to the vital role SBS’s multilingual services has played during the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering critical updates and health information to communities in their preferred language.
For more than 45 years, we’ve been continuing to adapt the way we provide innovative and meaningful services to communities - David Hua.
“Regularly updating our language offering enables SBS to better service the largest communities with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds," he says, "as well as offering services to emerging and high-needs communities.
The six-week public consultation begins on 5 October and concludes on 12 November 2021.
All feedback will be considered to establish the final selection criteria, due to be finalised by May 2022, with the revised SBS language services to be implemented before the end of 2022.
To view the draft selection criteria and submit feedback, go to sbs.com.au/consultation.