I figured this speech from Mark Scott (ABC MD) today was worth discussing here, just from the somewhat radical (yet not unfamiliar) proposal he made to merge the ABC and SBS (article link below).
Now I’m prepared to put my neck out here and say that I think what he’s proposing is potentially a good idea, if done right. There is a lot of duplication, and even competition, between the networks, exacerbated by (in my opinion) SBS’s need to attract advertisers during primetime viewing.
The purpose of SBS should not be to rate high figures - it should be to service the minority ethnic communities in our society. This purpose has been bastardised somewhat by its screening of commercials, which makes it reliant on this revenue, which then makes it target a broader and less diverse audience than it otherwise should.
The SBS service, delivered as a multichannel of the ABC, would be free to provide for its multicultural audience. It would be free to air LOTE-content during prime time slots should it desire, and would be free to focus on its reason for being - to service multicultural Australia.
NITV being delivered as part of the current SBS suite of channels is a good example of how it could work. While I accept in part the argument from some that being subsumed by the ABC could see it lose its relevance, I think the current path the television side of the broadcaster is on, that process is already well underway. While programming like The Feed, South Park or Mythbusters might appeal to someone like me as a young male white Australian, does it really have a place on our national multicultural broadcaster? Somehow I think this might serve a better purpose being on the ABC or a commercial network, leaving the SBS to look after the audience it should be.
So what I say does not seek to undermine the SBS, but rather promote its initial reasons for existence. We are as culturally diverse a nation as we ever have been, and I believe we should have a broadcasting service that caters to that significant component of our community. I simply believe with the current SBS model this cannot be achieved, and through rationalisation by way of a merger between the two national broadcasters, if done right we could return the SBS to the place in our society that it should be.
As I said, I don’t expect all that much agreement on this, but I’d like to kickstart a debate. I’d be interested to hear some thoughts on this