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Reality TV - SBS style

By Branko Miletic - posted Tuesday, 8 May 2007

From its inception in 1980, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) has never been far from controversy. Its very creation caused a stir within the mainstream press that considered it an unwelcome intruder into an already crowded media market. But unbeknown to many outside the murky world of ethnic politics, SBS was also causing imbalances in many other areas and from virtually the first day of its transmission, the multicultural broadcaster was locked in a dark game of undermining some of the very people it was created to represent.

The Fraser Government stacked the SBS board with its own appointees and those it considered to be “well-known ethnic personalities”. In other words, Greeks, Italians, so-called “Yugoslavs” and a tiny smattering of Asians, most of whom came from the various ethnic radio stations and had little or no training in television media, nor for that matter much understanding of the concept of a free and fair press. In fact some of these individuals were also working as operatives for a number of overseas intelligence services, a fact not lost on ASIO or the Australian Federal Police (AFP) at the time.

As such, SBS was and remains to this day a public service body whose rose-coloured views of the outside world are rarely tempered by reality and which permits no external criticism for fear of upsetting the apple cart. Much like the old Australian Soccer Federation, from the start SBS was beholden to an internal clan-like system relying on a Byzantine management structure and institutionalised cronyism.


However the main guilt of SBS is its perversion of its role as a media and news provider by aligning itself with foreign governments, many of which had human rights records that were simply appalling, which in turn has helped propagate various political and historical hatreds that have no place in 21st century multicultural Australia.

Melbourne freelance journalist Sasha Uzunov writing recently in the Crikey online newsletter said, “In 26 years there has not been one reporter or presenter from Australia's sizeable Turkish and Macedonian communities. This is a remarkable statistic. Members of the Turkish and Macedonian communities claim that SBS TV marginalises them because the broadcaster fears the influence of the powerful and politically-savvy Greek lobby. All of these ethnic groups do not get along because of historic tensions that have no place in peaceful Australia. SBS by playing favourites rather than showing toughness is in fact keeping these tensions alive.”

In 2003, SBS began broadcasting Vietnamese news direct from Hanoi. This angered and upset many in the Vietnamese community who fled the Communist regime for a freer life in Australia. The last thing they wanted was the voice of Hanoi, courtesy of the Australian taxpayer beamed into their living rooms.

Despite huge protests in front of SBS offices in Melbourne and Sydney, the management of SBS remained unmoved. In fact, in a sign of its arrogance, SBS management told the protestors to take their complaints to a “community advisory committee”.

But according to a report from the time by the ABC’s Lateline program, quoting Shaun Brown, Head of SBS TV, “They did ask that the program be suspended until the community advisory committee had met. And we didn't agree to that, I mean it is there according to policy and that's what we are operating on.”

Brown went on to claim that “What's difficult for us to judge is whether or not that's a majority view, a mass majority view. It's hard to work that out because we do get a number of people calling in every day: "We love the service, thank you for giving it to us."


The whole issue even achieved mainstream prominence and the Vietnamese community managed to attract supporters such as high-profile and conservative columnists and broadcasters like Alan Jones, Gerard Henderson, Andrew Bolt and Greg Sheridan.

However, this is just one example how SBS has managed to corrupt the very soul of Australian journalism. By forming quixotic alliances with some of the world’s most oppressive regimes, a media organisation which was supposed to promote multiculturalism has managed to do almost everything in its power to bury it. In its warped and twisted view of the world, running the official news service from the Communist government of Vietnam is somehow promoting multiculturalism within Australia.

Recently SBS has gone down the very same path with the Chinese news, which is basically the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, and again, it sees nothing wrong with this policy.

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About the Author

Branko Miletic has been a professional journalist for the past 11 years, working for a number of publications both in Australia and overseas. He specialises in a range of subjects including security, current affairs and technology.

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