Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (3.42 pm)-I move:
That this bill be now read a second time. I table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill. I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard. Leave granted. The speech read as follows-
Established in the 1970s, Australia's Special Broadcasting Service was the first multicultural broadcaster established in the world. Today SBS continues to be an important cultural institution that Australians can be proud of; SBS radio transmits in a different language every hour and 7 million viewers watching SBS TV in over 60 languages every week. From the outset, SBS was a publicly funded broadcaster and advertising was not permitted.
In 1991 a Labor Government introduced the Special Broadcasting Service Act, under which SBS became a corporation with a board and a charter. Under the Act advertising that run during periods before programs commence, after programs end or during natural program breaks for a maximum of five minutes was permitted.
The Special Broadcasting Service (Prohibition of Disruptive Advertising) Amendment Bill 2009 will prohibit the interruption of programs by advertisements and station promotions on SBS television. The bill puts the prohibition into effect by amending Section 45(2)(a) of the Special Broadcasting Service Act (1991) to omit the phrase ‘or during natural program breaks'.
First introduced by the Democrats in 2008, the Bill does not prevent SBS from generating advertising revenue nor from running advertisements and station promotions between programs.
The Bill has been taken up by the Greens due to the ongoing and widespread concern about the dangers associated with expanding advertising on a public broadcaster. SBS has been criticised for inserting in-program advertising and station promotions in these programs at points where there is no real break, scheduled or ‘natural'.
When in Opposition, Labor opposed the decision by SBS to introduce in-program advertising. On 14 November 2007, under the heading Labor's SBS Policy, ALP campaign headquarters sent emails to concerned SBS viewers stating "Labor has opposed and continues to oppose the decision by SBS to introduce in-program advertising." The day before the election, under the heading Labor's SBS Policy, Kevin Rudd signed an email to concerned constituents that stated, "Labor has opposed and continues to oppose the decision by SBS to introduce in-program advertising."
This Bill would allow the government to deliver on its election position.
SBS is unique but while its radio and television services are broadcast in more languages than any other network in the world its character is under threat from the shortfall in public funding. Australia already has a myriad of commercial radio and television alternatives. To ensure SBS remains a global leader in public broadcasting it must be protected from the creeping commercialisation that is now evident.
Senator LUDLAM-I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.