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The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is a hybrid-funded Australian public broadcasting radio and television network. The stated purpose of SBS is "to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society".


In 1975, concerns that minority communities might require details of the new Medibank health care scheme in their own languages led to the establishment of two ethnic radio stations, 2EA in Sydney and 3EA in Melbournemarker. These started broadcasting in June 1975, with pre-recorded messages in seven and eight foreign languages, respectively.

The following year, the Government created the Consultative Committee on Ethnic Broadcasting. Following the recommendation of this and subsequent committees, the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 was amended to found the Special Broadcasting Service. This legislation came into force on 1 January 1978, with the new broadcaster taking responsibility for 2EA and 3EA.

SBS TV began test transmissions in April 1979 when it showed various foreign language programs on ABV-2marker Melbourne and ABN-2marker Sydney on Sunday mornings. Full-time transmission began at 6.30pm on 24 October 1980 (United Nations Day), as Channel 0/28.The first program shown was a documentary entitled 'Who are we?',which was hosted by veteran news man Peter Luck. At the time, SBS was broadcasting on UHF Channel 28 and VHF Channel 0, with a planned discontinuation of the latter at some time in the future. Bruce Gyngell, who introduced television to Australia back in 1956, was given the task of introducing the first batch of programs on the new station.

On 16 October 1983, the service expanded into Canberramarker, Coomamarker, and Goulburnmarker and, at the same time, changed its name to Network 0-28. Its new slogan was the long-running "Bringing the World Back Home". The network changed its name to SBS on 18 February 1985, and began daytime transmissions. SBS expanded to Brisbane, Adelaide, Newcastle, Wollongong and the Gold Coast in the June of that year.

On 5 January 1986, SBS ceased broadcasting on the VHF0 frequency. Although many Australians at the time did not have UHF antennas, SBS's VHF licence had already been extended by a year at this stage, and not all antennas had worked well with the low-frequency Channel 0 either.

In August 1986, the Government proposed legislation that would merge SBS into the ABCmarker. This was highly unpopular with ethnic communities, leading Prime Minister Bob Hawke to announce in 1987 that the proposed amalgamation would not proceed. The SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra was launched in 1988 with founding conductor Matthew Krel.

Plans to introduce limited commercial-program sponsorship, and the establishment of SBS as an independent corporation with its own Charter, were put in place in July, 1989. The proclamation of the Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991 officially made SBS a corporation in 1991. Throughout the early 1990s, SBS TV coverage was expanded further to include new areas such as the Latrobe Valley, Spencer Gulf, Darwinmarker, north-east Tasmaniamarker, Cairnsmarker and Townsvillemarker.

In 1992, SBS's radio and television facilities were gradually moved to new headquarters in Artarmon, New South Walesmarker from its original studios at Milson's Pointmarker. The new building was officially opened in November, 1993 by Prime Minister Paul Keating. A national radio network was launched in January, 1994. The new service initially covered Brisbanemarker, Adelaidemarker, Perthmarker and Darwinmarker, while original stations 2EA and 3EA were renamed Radio Sydney and Radio Melbourne, respectively. The new national service was launched on a separate frequency in Sydney and Melbourne in July of that year. Throughout 1996, radio services were expanded to cover Hobartmarker and Canberramarker, while SBS TV's coverage was further expanded to include the New South Walesmarker north coast and Alburymarker.

South Park, SBS's most successful television series, was first shown on the network in 1998. A time-delay system was installed for South Australiamarker in May 1999, shortly before the establishment of the Transmission Services division (intended to manage transmission and self-help services). A New Media division, responsible for the SBS website, was established at the start of 2000, in time for the first webcast of the AFI Awards. Ratings continued to increase through 2000 to 2001 - increasing to an overall 5.2 per cent average weekly audience share.

Four languages were dropped, and four added, from SBS Radio in April 2003, while hours for Cantonese, Mandarin and Arabic language broadcasts (amongst others) were increased. SBS broadcast the 2004 Athens Olympics in partnership with the Seven Network.SBS broadcasted the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Arabic language broadcasts were added to SBS's WorldWatch television schedule in 2003.. The Vietnamese service, taken from the government-controlled channel VTV4, was protested against by the Vietnamese community, many of whom found the bulletin's portrayal of the communist Vietnamese flag and Ho Chi Minh offensive. The Vietnamese Community of Australia claimed that the program's lack of reports on political arrests and religious oppression were also offensive, especially to those who had fled the country following the Vietnam War.

The backlash resulting from these events prompted SBS to begin showing disclaimers before all externally-produced bulletins, distancing the broadcaster from each bulletin's editorial content.

In May 2008, SBS unveiled a new look logo, as well as a new slogan: Six Billion Stories and counting.


SBS Radio

SBS Radio broadcasts in 68 languages in all Australian states, producing an estimated 13,500 hours of Australian programming for its two frequencies in Sydney and Melbournemarker as well as its national network. Much like SBS TV, SBS radio is funded by a mix of government grants, paid-for government information campaigns and commercial advertising.SBS Radio will broadcast the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland .

Following "extensive community consultation" in 2003, a range of new programs were introduced, including services in Malay, Somali and Amharic in addition to the expansion of many existing programs.

SBS Television

SBS One & SBS Two are available nationally through a network of terrestrial transmitters in addition to the Optus Aurora satellite service. SBS One devotes a significant part of its morning television schedule to news bulletins in languages other than English as well as showing many subtitled, foreign-language films. Its own news and current affairs aim to have a higher concentration on international affairs than the ABC or the commercial networks. It also shows many documentaries and current-affairs programs, while its sports coverage has a strong focus on international sports.


On 1 June 2006, the SBS managing director Shaun Brown announced the corporation's desire to initiate in-show commercial breaks. He claimed that the move would raise $10 million in the first year, as he believes that SBS's current strategy of showing ads between programs "is unpopular with viewers". "On average we lose more than half our audience during these breaks - this is 30 per cent more than other broadcasters", claimed Brown upon announcing the new move.

SBS's commercial breaks remained at their existing statutory limit of five minutes per hour, as opposed to the fifteen minutes per hour permitted on Australia's fully commercial stations. An individual break lasted between one and two minutes. A related change was the launch of a one-hour edition of World News Australia, replacing the half-hour World News Australia and World Sport programs. In-show advertising commenced on 9 October 2006 during the broadcast of MythBusters.


Regardless of state or territory, SBS television services always use the callsign 'SBS'. In capital cities, SBS is broadcast on analogue UHF channel 28, while regional and digital television frequencies may vary.

Digital Television

SBS has been one of the most progressive networks with regard to digital broadcasting. Much like the ABC, this is primarily due to government restrictions on commercial multi-channelling . Since 2001, SBS One has been broadcast via digital television to Sydney, Melbournemarker, Brisbanemarker, Adelaidemarker, Perthmarker and Canberramarker, and since 2003, in Darwinmarker.

On 14 December 2006, SBS announced its intention to change to 720p as its high-definition transmission standard for SBS HD. SBS had previously up converted its schedule to the 576p standard. It is now using the 720p standard.

Current Services

SBS has 4 digital services:.On 1 June 2009, SBS TV was renamed SBS One to coincide with the launch of sister channel SBS Two.

As of Thursday 29 January 2009 SBS announced an Australia wide upgrade to their Digital service, with equipment that permit's SBS to increase the resolution of its High Definition programs, provide a 7 day Electronic Program Guide and give new logical channel numbers for all of SBS’s television services. The new SBS logical channel numbers are below.
2009 Channel Numbers and names
LCN Service Resolution Notes:
03 SBS One 720x576i SBS One (also broadcast in analogue).
30 SBS HD 1280x720p Simulcast of SBS One which Broadcasts in 720p HD
32 SBS Two 720x576i SBS Two which offers foreign news bulletins and other selections of programs such as Movies and Sports.
33 SBS Three 720x576i For Future use (Currently Broadcasts Simulcast of SBS One)
34 SBS Four 720x576i For Future use (Currently Broadcasts Simulcast of SBS One)
38 SBS Radio 1 N/A
39 SBS Radio 2 N/A

These services are available nationally through digital terrestrial television, only the primary SBS channel is available on the Optus Aurora satellite platform.

Former Services

  1. SBS Essential - LCN 31, Screened multi-view sporting events known as "Sports Highlights", and other digital only projects, when available
  2. SBS World News Channel - LCN 32, Foreign news service - former morning simulcast of the primary channel's morning WorldWatch mix of foreign-language news bulletins, which it then repeated in the afternoon and evening.

In October 2008, the SBS applied for funding to expand SBS News into an "SBS World" channel. This would be mainly in languages other than English, with an aim to expand Australia’s understanding of and exposure to the Asia Pacific region. It would also have children's programming for language learning and expand the World Watch news service.

Language services

SBS is one of the world's largest subtitling organisations, producing subtitles not just for films to be shown on its own television channel, but also for foreign film and documentary producers around the world. Services include translation from English to other languages, and from foreign languages to other languages, as well as to English.

Through its Language Services unit, SBS also provides a range of translation, typesetting, and voice-over services..


The network provides a rehearsal venue for the SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra, an orchestra that records many broadcasts for the network and tours regularly overseas.

See also


  1. SBS: Frequently Asked Questions SBS Corporation, accessed 26 May 2007
  2. SBS: History SBS Corporation, accessed 26 May 2007
  3. The History of Australian Television: SBS Television, accessed 22 May 2007
  4. SBS: Six Billion Stories and counting SBS Corporation, accessed 8 May 2008
  5. About SBS Radio
  6. SBS - WorldWatch, accessed 20 May 2007
  7. SBS Transmissions
  9. Media Release: SBS submits plans to Government for more services
  10. SBS Subtitling SBS Corporation, accessed 20 May
  11. SBS Language Services SBS Corporation, accessed 26 May

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