The SBS charter (section 6 of the Special Broadcasting Services Act 1991) provides:
The principal function of SBS is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio, television and digital media services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society.
When SBS was established, there was scant content available for Australia’s immigrants and it filled a need by providing foreign language programs and news.
That void no longer exists. Residents can obtain boundless foreign content through satellite television or, especially, the internet.
This is an organisation that cost the Australian taxpayer $247 million in 2012-13. Surely it is time to consider whether SBS should be shut down. The savings of a quarter of a billion dollars a year would be a significant help to reduce Australia’s debt and return the budget to surplus.
Some might argue that there is a need for a niche Indigenous broadcasting capacity. If so, the Government could offer – via tender – say $50 million a year to a broadcasting company to provide Indigenous programming.
But for the bulk of SBS’s activities, it is efficiently and widely provided through other channels and media.
SBS Australia started on 1 January 1975. We should celebrate the 40th anniversary of SBS by having its final broadcast on 1 January 2015. That will allow a year to manage its transition to retirement.