Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

SBS and Advertising - Sneaky Bastards Selling

Swinging back over to the media side of things for a bit, how sneakily did SBS introduce in-broadcast advertising breaks? This move, though announced with little fanfare a few months ago, was introduced last Monday. It received absolutely no mainstream media coverage that I can uncover, even despite representing a fundamental shift - some would say a deliberate misinterpretation - of the broadcaster's charter, which deems that advertisement be permitted only in `natural breaks' in the programme.

As former SBS staffer Emma Dawson suggests at New Matilda the move is potentially deleterious to SBS's status as main media provider to non-English speakers. Several news broadcasts catering for nationalities with small representations in Australia have already been cut, despite the notion of catering to small constituencies being the raison d'etre not only of the station since its inception, but of public broadcasting in general. It could even be argued that if SBS is receiving low ratings, it's fulfilling its charter. Concerns have grown in the past few years about SBS's continuing drift from its charter, with film critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton the highest profile defectors from the network. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the concept of multiculturalism has undergone significant political repositioning since SBS began in 1980.

The particularly silly thing is that research commisioned by SBS itself has revealed that the move is overwhelmingly unpopular. Free-to-air TV is already facing a crisis of relevance now that the sort of shows that once formed their bread and butter are now available (ad free) on DVD soon after - or even before - broadcast. If I wanted to sit through endless advertisements, I'd have subscribed to cable. Likewise, I wonder where the `natural breaks' will be found within SBS's well-regarded roster of world movies.

Errol Simper of The Australian suggests viewers vote with their remotes, but as one of the numerous whingers who let Channel 7 know of my displeasure at their introduction of the now-ubiquitous corner water mark station identifier, I can tell you that this doesn't work. They simply outsmarted me by making their entire prime-time lineup completely unwatchable.

Naturally, the next question will be how long the ABC will hold out before joining the bandwagon.

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