It’s a case of back to the future with a report today that the Federal Government wants to revisit legislation to allow SBS to play more ads in primetime.
In case you’ve forgotten, SBS supported this idea some years ago after their funding had been cut under PM Tony Abbott. That was despite that infamous election promise of “no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”
SBS wanted to tip the balance of its allocated 2 hours of daily into primetime where it could charge a higher premium. There was never a plan for extra ads, only where they would play out.
But legislation was knocked back by Labor in 2015 who said any shortfall should be addressed politically by funding not through advertising.
The plan failed leaving SBS to rethink and launch SBS Food Network, and subsequently SBS VICELAND, in deals with North American media organisations. Those helped attract new revenue.
The plan also faces stiff opposition from commercial networks and lobby group Save Our SBS. Even former SBS presenter Margaret Pomeranz weighed in with an emotional campaign.
The Australian Financial Review reports with Parliament not sitting before the federal budget in May, it was not possible to argue the proposal. If the government does not provide the funding again, or a clear path to passing the legislation is not seen, there are likely to be implications for SBS services.
“SBS is focused on ensuring that our levels of Australian content and our radio language services are maintained,” an SBS spokeswoman said.
“This can only occur if either the legislation is passed or the government reinstates the funding that was cut as part of the Lewis review and was predicated on the legislation passing.”
A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the government does not comment on budget speculation.