15 August 2012


I was so infuriated by the decision of the new management of SBS in 2006 to introduce advert breaks into major programmes such as news and current affairs, that the following email exchanges took place between me and SBS. If it wasn't such a serious matter, what occurred is actually hilariously funny!


December 2006

josken_at_zipworld_com_au 12/20/06
Mannie De Saxe
PO Box 1675
Preston South
Vic 3072

Well, SBS finally lost me tonight (Tuesday 19 December 2006).
Adverts during the news and Cutting Edge!
No thanks!

Mannie De Saxe


On 20 Dec 2006 at 15:51, Sally Begbie wrote:
Send the speil.
------- Forwarded message follows -------
From: Self :josken_at_zipworld_com_au
To: Sally Begbie sally.begbie@sbs.com.au
Subject: Re: adverts in news and cutting edge
Date sent: Thu, 21 Dec 2006 01:06:29 +1100

I await the spiel with great interest!


21 DECEMBER 2006
Dear Mannie De Saxe

Clearly the festive season is upon us and our best wishes to you. But to more serious matters...

Thank you for your email concerning the introduction of advertising within SBS Television programs. The Managing Director has asked that I respond to your complaint.

SBS has taken this course of action following a great deal of consideration and investigation. It was not an easy decision to make, but the alternative was far less palatable. SBS could continue with its current format, but its ability to commission quality Australian productions and to purchase the world's best films, television programs and sporting fixtures would become more and more restricted due to limited Government funding and the prospect of diminished advertising revenue as a result of competition from Pay TV, the Internet and other media.

SBS obtains about 80% of its funds from Government. But in the May budget SBS suffered a $3m shortfall in its appropriation for this current year (excluding digital transmission and distribution costs) and received no extra funds at all for program making.

The remainder of SBS funding comes from advertising revenue. Even though that amount is relatively small it is vitally important revenue that goes exclusively to the purchase, commissioning and production of programs.

Under its Act, SBS is obligated to operate in an efficient and cost-effective manner and, importantly, it is required to actively pursue funding opportunities independent of Government funding.

Since 1991, SBS Television has broadcast a maximum of five minutes of ads per hour between programs and in natural breaks. This is far less than the average 13-15 minutes of advertising permitted on the commercial television networks.

Until now, SBS has broadcast up to five minutes of ads as well as several minutes of program promotions in a single block between programs, meaning 6-10 minutes would elapse before the next program began. During this time, we consistently lost more than 50% of our viewers. They would simply change channels or switch off.

With smaller audiences, SBS's advertising rates (already well below the commercial networks) had to be reduced still further. The result has been a curtailment of our program-making capabilities because less money from ads means less money for the commissioning and the production of original programs.

Under the new format the maximum of five minutes of ads per hour still applies, but the ads will be spread across the hour in three separate breaks, each containing 90 seconds of commercials. In half-hour programs, there will be two 60-second commercial breaks.

This will restore true commercial value to SBS's ad breaks. By placing short ads within programs, when SBS reaches its peak audiences, our advertising rates can be increased. We estimate that this will raise at least $10m in the first 12 months of operation. All of this additional revenue will go into program making and the commissioning of programs from independent Australian producers.

With this extra revenue we will launch a one hour news program in January that will expand our coverage of international and national news. The bulk of the additional funds will go to the commissioning of quality Australian drama, documentaries and other programs.

By dramatically reducing the time between programs, we believe SBS audiences will be encouraged to stay, especially because the in-program breaks will include program promotions about forthcoming programs. It is important that information about other programs on SBS reaches the largest possible audience. Currently these messages, in the form of promos, are lost in the middle of lengthy and cluttered breaks between programs. Too often our audience tells us they would have watched a particular program "if only I had known it was on". The placement of promos in a more accessible place helps overcome that communication failure.

I understand your concerns regarding in-program breaks, but these changes will enable us to continue to provide our viewers with the highest quality and most diverse programming available on free-to-air television in Australia.

Yours sincerely
Georgie McClean
Policy and Research Manager

The following article in The Age newspaper's Green Guide, together with a later article about the same topic, has prompted me to initiate a petition to inform SBS that viewers continue to be unhappy about the adverts during programmes and we request SBS' new management to consider their options and remove the mid-programme advertisements.

The petition web address is below the article.

SBS article in the Green Guide 8 March 2012 by Debi Enker

One of the dumbest decisions made by SBS in recent years was the introduction in late 2006 of advertising within its programs.

The desperate, short-sighted move by the cash-strapped network infuriated viewers, who were unanimous in their disapproval, and severely damaged the broadcaster’s standing, undermining its unique place in the media landscape.

Before 2006, ads on SBS appeared between programs, or during natural breaks in sporting events. The change in policy eroded precious goodwill and alienated viewers at a time when the free-to-air TV market was becoming increasingly competitive due to the proliferation of digital channels.

The intrusion of ads within programs made the multicultural broadcaster look like a cut-price commercial network.

Unsurprisingly, the initiative failed to provide the projected boost in revenue while also allowing governments that were not keenly committed to funding the broadcaster with a handy excuse to reduce their support.

Last week, a bill to phase out the disruptive breaks was introduced in the Senate by the Greens communications spokesman, Scott Ludlum.

This would be a good time to contact your local member of parliament, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy or shadow minister Malcolm Turnbull, urging them to fund the multicultural broadcaster properly, support moves to end a spectacularly unsuccessful initiative and bring to a close a bleak period that has succeeded only in driving SBS viewers to change channels.



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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm