The 40th Anniversary of the SBS

  • November 9, 2020

I rise to congratulate SBS on 40 years of outstanding broadcasting on television, a milestone it recently celebrated. It is a great privilege for me, alongside the member for Calwell, to be the convener of the Parliamentary Friends of SBS. Our group reflects the broad support SBS has across the parliament. I’m also proud to have SBS headquartered at Artarmon in my electorate. It was on 24 October 1980—appropriately, United Nations Day—that Australians were first able to tune into the new Channel 28. Since then, SBS has played a crucial role in our community in fostering social cohesion and understanding. It has engaged Australia’s multicultural and Indigenous communities, while also helping all Australians better understand our nation’s diversity.

Their wideranging and distinct programming has not only been a favourite of mine but a favourite of the millions of Australians who tune in to watch homegrown and internationally sourced productions and current affairs programs. Australians have become accustomed to tuning into SBS to watch favourites, such as the FIFA World Cup or international comedies and dramas such as Inspector Rex, DNA or The Killing. So many of us have enjoyed watching the occasional bleak, brooding and plot-twist-filled Scandinavian crime drama or dystopian dramas like my favourites The Handmaid’s Tale, Years and Years and War of the Worlds—and never more so than during the last 12 months as we’ve battled the pandemic.

We have been exposed to the food of the world, made accessible even in our own kitchens, by SBS Food. We have even become experts on complex European politics through the Eurovision Song Contest—and who doesn’t love Eurovision! This year we were very disappointed that Montaigne wasn’t able to perform, because Eurovision was cancelled, but we look forward to her performing and becoming a finalist in 2021. We’ve also benefited from SBS’s incredible World News Service, under presenters who have become icons—George Donikian, Lee Lin Chin, Anton Enus and Janice Petersen. Shows like Insight have brought some of the nation’s most important issues into our homes. I congratulate Jenny Brockie, who just a few weeks ago retired as host of that program, on her leadership.

SBS has also played a significant role during the recent bushfires and the current COVID-19 pandemic in reaching audiences via television, radio and online services in more than 60 languages and providing vital information. I suspect that the partnership between government and the SBS will only grow in providing multilingual messaging in areas like health and natural disasters in the years ahead. During the current pandemic, they have more than demonstrated their capability to play such an important role.

National Indigenous Television, or NITV, which is owned by SBS, provides thought-provoking and inspirational content for all Australians and particularly for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It has given new opportunities to Indigenous Australians in all aspects of television and screen production.

I also want to personally acknowledge the incredible role and support SBS has provided to the LGBTI community through its broadcasting, including of the Sydney Mardi Gras. I have no doubt that this has made a difference to the lives of many, particularly those who struggle with their sexuality, for whom SBS has become a home and a friend.

SBS Television was launched in 1980 by then Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who was a staunch believer in multiculturalism and was pivotal in ensuring the broadcaster’s success in those early days. In fact, Mr Fraser was perhaps the first Prime Minister to enunciate the importance of multiculturalism, which has been one of our nation’s greatest achievements. We have demonstrated that diversity is a strength not a weakness. Mr Fraser understood and valued SBS’s point of difference. He understood that at the core of SBS’s mission was to give Australia’s ethnic communities a voice in an increasingly diverse and changing nation.

SBS has evolved in its reach, content and programming over the four decades since. It has come a long way from the line-up that was captured so well by Marg Downey as the SBS woman on Fast Forward. Who will forget those sketches! It’s success in launching SBS On Demand has been particularly noticeable and important, and it has brought their reach to whole new audiences. Their online presence really has been groundbreaking.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with several leaders of SBS—the former managing director, Michael Ebeid; the current managing director, James Taylor; and the former chair, Dr Bulent Hass Dellal. Under the new chair, George Savvides, whom I met with via Zoom last week, I’m sure the same great and informative programming will continue.

On behalf of the entire community, congratulations to SBS on 40 years of brilliant, challenging and exciting television that has brought so much to so many. Happy birthday, SBS!