SBS2 launching despite funding uncertainty

Rose Major

Australian multicultural broadcaster SBS has committed itself to launching a new digital channel, SBS2, from June 1, despite not knowing whether the government will give it increased funding in the May budget.

SBS offers multilingual and multicultural TV and radio services, reflecting Australia’s cultural diversity. It currently offers the SBS World News channel as its digital-only multichannel, broadcasting mainly non-English news programming from around the world. But SBS2 would aim to offer more of the type of programming the main channel screens such as documentaries, sport and “in-language” movies.

Shaun Brown, managing director of SBS, said that the broadcaster would launch the service ahead of government funding assurance “because we believe without new services like this the public will remain indifferent to digital take up.” SBS has asked for an extra A$70 million over three years to ramp up its digital TV operations.

“SBS2 means more of the world's best stories, more in-language and first-run films, more sport, more news and current affairs and more chances to engage with the best that the world has to offer. SBS2 will not simply be a time-shifted version of SBS1, although we aim to increase the opportunity for Australians to experience our quality news, current affairs and sports content that is so popular on our main channel."

SBS has plans to air some of its coverage of the forthcoming Ashes cricket series between England and Australia on the new channel, as well as some of its Tour de France cycling coverage.

But, Brown added, SBS2 will launch without its full range of planned content which will only become available if more money is put up for the new channel. SBS wants to offer English-language tuition, non-English-language children’s programming and news, and Asia-Pacific focused content.

Should SBS not receive extra funding for the service in the government’s May budget, the channel is likely to cease broadcasting, certainly in the form that SBS intends for it.