Australia/Oceania: Australia

Special Broadcasting Service Codes of Practice

Current Status: outdated

Codes of Practice of the SBS  (The SBS is a most original and socially responsible branch of Australian Broadcasting, as described below).       


The SBS Codes of Practice sets out the principles and policies SBS uses to guide its programming. The Codes embrace the principal Charter function of SBS:

“... 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.”

SBS’s role as a multilingual and multicultural national broadcaster ensures that SBS’s services will be distinctive in Australian broadcasting. Across SBS’s services, audiences can expect a reflection of the diversity of Australia, and programming which is consistent with SBS’s Vision:

“Uniting and enriching our society by creatively communicating the values, the voices and the vision of multicultural Australia and the contemporary world.”

SBS believes that its audiences are best served by exposure to a wide range of cultures, values and perspectives. As a result, SBS’s programming can be controversial and provocative, and may at times be distasteful or offensive to some. SBS will present diversity carefully and responsibly, ensuring a balance of views over time. SBS is for all Australians. Accordingly, SBS aims to represent the different experiences, lifestyles, perspectives, cultures and languages within Australia.

SBS Television and Radio have different priorities and play complementary roles in pursuing SBS’s objectives. Nevertheless, the principles and policies of SBS programming are the same for Television and Radio and, except where indicated, these Codes of Practice apply to all SBS broadcasting and datacasting services.

SBS’s new media content is also selected and developed in accordance with these Codes. Online material is excluded from the jurisdiction of the Australian Broadcasting Authority for the purposes of complaints investigation.

SBS Television

SBS Television emphasises cross-cultural awareness by exposing audiences to a wide range of cultures and perspectives and by presenting the reality of Australia’s multicultural society. Most SBS Television programs are either in English or carry English subtitles. This recognises the role of English as Australia’s common language and gives SBS Television the widest possible reach across Australian society. In broadcasting programs from non-English speaking countries, SBS Television provides a medium where people from a non-English speaking background can watch programming which is in their first language.

SBS Radio

SBS Radio serves Australia’s cultural communities by broadcasting in more than 60 languages. Many programs serve audiences from different countries and cultures. Some programs and program segments are in English.

SBS Radio assists communities to participate as fully as possible in Australian society. Where possible, it also supports the maintenance and development of their cultural identities and provides cross-cultural links. While exploring issues relevant to all Australians, SBS Radio fulfils different roles, including information provider, news source, entertainer, educator, cultural vehicle, commentator and a medium for diverse community voices. Language groups endeavour to be responsive to the needs and expectations of community audiences while remaining impartial and objective.

SBS New Media

SBS New Media provides comprehensive text, video and audio services on the SBS website, The online services extend and enhance SBS Television and Radio programming, providing individual sites for SBS-produced television programs and SBS Radio’s language programs. New Media creates original digital content and takes SBS programming into new environments. SBS does not publish material on the Website that it would not be prepared to broadcast.


2.1 Prejudice, Racism and Discrimination 

SBS seeks to counter attitudes of prejudice against any person or group on the basis of their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, physical or mental disability, occupational status, or political beliefs. While remaining consistent with its mandate to portray diversity, SBS will avoid broadcasting programming which clearly condones, tolerates or encourages discrimination on these grounds.

SBS views racism as a serious impediment to achieving a cohesive, equitable and harmonious society, and is committed to its elimination. SBS seeks to correct distorted pictures of cultural communities and issues of race generally. It does this through programming which reflects the reality of Australia’s cultural diversity and exposes racist attitudes.

SBS aims to ensure that programs either counter or do not support individual or group stereotyping. SBS strives to eliminate stereotyping by presenting members of different groups in a variety of roles and by avoiding simplistic representations.

2.1.1 Women

SBS aims to promote a greater awareness of the contributions of women through programming which reflects the range of roles in which women are involved in society.

The portrayal of women should not create or reinforce sexual, gender or racial stereotypes. Programs which suggest that the exploitation of women is acceptable will be avoided.

SBS provides opportunities for women to direct, produce and present programs. A high level of involvement from women is sought in all program strands, particularly those dealing with issues of concern to women.

SBS seeks to challenge stereotypes by reflecting a wide variety of cultural mores and roles.

SBS understands that different cultural groups have different perceptions of women. SBS may broadcast programs which directly challenge these accepted cultural views.

2.1.2 Indigenous Australians

“Indigenous Australians” refers to the Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia. SBS recognises the social, cultural and spiritual integrity of Indigenous societies and acknowledges the diversity across and within these societies. SBS aims to promote and facilitate among all Australians an understanding of Indigenous cultures, values and aspirations, and supports the goals of reconciliation.

SBS aims, over time, to provide programming which caters for the diverse and changing needs of all Indigenous peoples and deals with contemporary issues of importance to Indigenous Australians. SBS strives for maximum involvement of Indigenous people in all aspects of the production and presentation of such programs.

In the production, commissioning and presentation of Indigenous programming, SBS will endeavour to ensure that proper regard is paid to the sensitivities, cultural traditions and languages of Indigenous peoples. SBS recognises the need of Indigenous communities to maintain their cultures, languages and traditions, and will seek to provide programs to that end.

SBS will be sensitive to the many cultural issues that surround media presentation of Indigenous people and issues.

It is critical that the cultural practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are observed in any media programming and news reporting. The bereavement practices of Indigenous people are re-gion specific. It is the responsibility of program makers, news editors and producers to verify and observe local practices when making programs that depict or represent recently deceased Indigenous people or reporting on recently deceased Indigenous people. Where appropriate, footage or sound recordings of deceased Indigenous people will be preceded by a warning.

Program makers, producers and journalists will refer to the SBS publication The Greater Perspective (1997) which contains the Protocol and Guidelines for the Production of Film and Television on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. The Greater Perspective sets out six principles which program-makers, producers and journalists should follow when making or producing programs relating to Indigenous Australians. These principles refer to the need for program makers and producers to:

  • Be aware of and challenge their own prejudices, stereotyped beliefs and perceptions about Indigenous people;
  • Be aware that an Indigenous view of Indigenous issues may differ from a non-Indigenous view;
  • Consult with Indigenous people in the making of programs about Indigenous people, particularly with those who are the subject(s) of the program;
  • Conduct dealings with Indigenous people openly and honestly, which includes informing Indigenous people involved of the consequences of any proposed agreements and of their right to seek independent legal advice;
  • Respect the lands and cultural property of Indigenous people, as well as the subject(s) of programs;
  • Be sensitive to the cultures of Indigenous people and undertake consultation and negotiation with the people concerned prior to and during the making of a program.

2.2 Language and Diversity

2.2.1 Introduction  

SBS’s Charter responsibilities include contributing to the retention and continuing development of language and other cultural skills and providing programming in people’s preferred languages. Many languages are spoken in Australia. As far as practicable, SBS aims to reflect this diversity in its programming, while at the same time remaining consistent with its other Charter responsibilities.

Accordingly, SBS embraces its role as an established medium through which Australia’s cultural communities retain and develop their individual languages. On both its Television and Radio networks, SBS seeks to provide programs in which people from a non-English speaking background can hear their first language.

SBS recognises English as the common language of Australia and therefore as a major vehicle through which SBS can promote cross-cultural awareness.

2.2.2 Allocation of Airtime for Community Languages – Radio

SBS Radio is a multilingual and multicultural broadcaster with a direct role in serving Australia’s diverse language communities. In recognition of this role, the allocation of airtime to particular languages on SBS Radio is based on the size of the community speaking that language and other criteria which are reviewed from time-to-time on the basis of Census data and in consultation with communities. These may include, for example, age, recency of arrival, English language proficiency and employment rates.

2.2.3 English and Non-English Language and Cultural Content – Television

SBS Television is a multicultural broadcaster serving all Australians. To reach across Australian society, SBS provides:

  • English language programming which is readily accessible to a general population;
  • English-subtitled non-English language programming which may serve the needs of particular communities and is accessible to a wider audience; and
  • Non-English language programming which directly serves the needs of particular communities and may be of some interest to other audiences.

SBS seeks in its yearly television schedule to achieve a balance between television programs in English and programs in languages other than English.

SBS aims, as far as possible and over time, to provide programs on SBS Television across all languages spoken in the community and to present programming from a wide variety of cultural perspectives. Program selection will take into account variations in the availability and quality of programming from different television industries around the world, as well as the need to meet the range of SBS’s programming objectives.

2.2.4 Subtitling and Voice-overs – SBS Television

The main way SBS Television makes non-English language programming accessible to a wider Australian audience is through English subtitles. Most subtitles are produced in-house by SBS. SBS also uses voice-overs and re-narrations.

SBS seeks to reflect faithfully the cultural ambience of imported programs. SBS believes the interests of viewers are best served by subtitles and voice-overs which carry the impact of the original language. However, it is not always possible or desirable to make literal translations. In many languages, expressions in common usage which are not considered offensive or obscene could in English translation appear crude and vulgar, and vice versa. Where literal translations would distort the overall tone and intent of a program, more appropriate English expressions are substituted.

2.3 Self-Identification When Referring to Groups and Individuals 

SBS encourages different groups and individuals to express their cultural identity. Accordingly, SBS does not impose labels on cultural groups, but uses groups’ self-identification, if it is freely chosen. SBS is not subject to the desires of any one group as to how any other group is to be identified.

While SBS accepts self-identification of cultural groups, this policy has no implications other than recognition of group identity within the Australian community. It should not be interpreted as recognizing any historical or political claims, or conferring official authority on activities counter to the policies or practices of other governments. SBS recognises the nationality of people in accordance with their country of current citizenship.

In the production of programs, SBS will avoid the use of derogatory terms used by one cultural, national or religious group to describe another. In the transmission of purchased programs, SBS will take care not to endorse such usage.

2.4 News and Current Affairs

2.4.1 Introduction

Section 10(1)(c) of the SBS Act makes it a duty of the SBS Board to “... ensure by means of the SBS’s programming policies, that the gathering and presentation by the SBS of news and information is accurate and is balanced over time and across the schedule of programs broadcast.”

SBS believes in the right of its audience to make up its own mind after a fair, objective, balanced and professional presentation of the issues. SBS provides a forum for views on important issues to be communicated to audiences and seeks to present the widest range of opinion over time.

From time to time, SBS issues guidelines to assist broadcasters and journalists, particularly in handling controversial issues which could create tensions within the community. SBS journalists are also encouraged to work to the Code of Ethics of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

Accuracy is the highest priority of news and current affairs and SBS will take all reasonable steps to ensure timely acknowledgment and correction of any errors of fact.

SBS avoids sensationalised and exaggerated treatment of issues and events. In covering murders, accidents, funerals, suicides and disasters, SBS expects its program makers to exercise great sensitivity, particularly when approaching, interviewing and portraying people who are distressed. SBS will report suicides only when such reporting is in the public interest and in accordance with legal restrictions in some States prohibiting the publication of a finding of suicide by a coroner unless the coroner has made an order allowing publication. Any reporting of suicide will be in moderate terms, usually avoiding details of method. (See Code 3.3)

SBS has a policy of self-identification (see Code 2.3 above) and does not arbitrate on the validity of territorial claims.

SBS journalists will identify themselves and SBS before proceeding with an interview for broadcast.

2.4.2 Non-SBS Sources for News and Current Affairs Programming  

SBS draws on many sources for its television and radio news and current affairs programming. Sources include domestic and overseas stringers, international news agencies, national news services, services available on the Internet, newspapers and journals.

SBS journalists and producers are expected to draw on their specialized knowledge of homeland affairs to judge the news value and reliability of stories from outside sources.

All journalists and contributors gathering, processing or presenting news for SBS are required to observe the SBS Codes of Practice.

2.4.3 Overseas Television News and Current Affairs Programs

SBS Television broadcasts, substantially unedited, news and current affairs programs from other countries. Much of the material is in non-English languages and unsubtitled. In selecting such programming, SBS endeavours to ensure a level of quality which is appropriate to the SBS schedule. These programs are drawn from a variety of overseas sources – government, commercial and public – and are often produced and interpreted from particular editorial perspectives. Prior to broadcast, SBS will clearly identify the source of the programs so that audiences can exercise their own judgement about how issues and information are presented.

2.4.4 Violence in News and Current Affairs

The decision whether to broadcast certain pictures or sounds which portray violence is based on their newsworthiness and reporting value, together with a proper regard for the reasonable susceptibilities of audiences to the detail of what is broadcast. SBS will not sensationalize violent events, or present them for their own sake. Where appropriate, news segments will be preceded by a warning that the material may be distressing to some viewers or listeners.

The timing and content of newsflashes are unpredictable. Accordingly, particular care will be exercised in the selection of sounds and images, and consideration given to the likely composition of the audience.

News updates and news promotions portraying elements of violence will not be scheduled during obviously inappropriate programs, especially programs directed at young children.

2.5 Religions

SBS is aware of the need for a responsible examination of the role of religion in society. In broadcasting programs about religion, SBS will not support any particular religion over any other, nor intentionally provide a medium for one religion to denigrate another.

SBS recognises the importance of religion for the many communities that make up Australian society and the potential for programming dealing with religion to cause cross-cultural tensions. Accordingly, SBS will be sensitive and careful in dealing with issues of religion.

2.6 Interviews, Talkbacks and Audience Responses 

SBS will not transmit the words of an identifiable person unless:

  • That person has been informed in advance that the words may be transmitted; or
  • In the case of words which have been recorded without the knowledge of the person, the person has subsequently, but prior to the transmission, indicated consent to the transmission of the words; 
  • The manner of the recording has made it manifestly clear that the material may be broadcast.

2.7 Privacy

The rights of individuals to privacy should be respected in all SBS programs. However, in order to provide information to the public relating to a person’s performance of public duties or about other matters of public interest, intrusions upon privacy may, in some circumstances, be justified.

2.8 Closed Captioning for People Who Are Hearing Impaired or Deaf

In accordance with the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Schedule 4), as far as is practicable SBS will provide a captioning service for:

  • Television programs, other than non-English language programs, transmitted during the hours of 6.00 pm and 10.30 pm; and
  • Television news programs and television current affairs programs, other than non-English language programs, transmitted outside these hours.

Where programs have been closed captioned, this will be clearly identified on screen at the start of the program. Closed-captioned programs will be clearly marked when program information is provided to the press or when captioned programs are promoted. Where possible, open captioning advice will be provided if technical problems prevent scheduled closed captioning. SBS will endeavour to increase the amount of closed-captioning, as resources permit.


3.1 Introduction

The Television Classification Code covers all programs broadcast on SBS Television, with the exception of news and current affairs, general information, and sporting programs.

The SBS system of television program classification is based on the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videotapes issued by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC).

SBS believes that the integrity of programs is best retained if programs are broadcast unaltered. However, SBS will schedule programs or, if necessary, modify them in accordance with OFLC guidelines to ensure that they are suitable for broadcast, or for broadcast at particular times. SBS’s classification system gives special attention to levels of violence, sex and nudity, and use of language.

3.2 Violence 

SBS acknowledges that violence is part of everyday life which must be dealt with responsibly. SBS recognises that for many people, particularly children, the portrayal of physical and psychological violence has a unique potential to distress and disturb. Accordingly, it is SBS policy to keep violence in its programs to a minimum and not to present it gratuitously.

In assessing program content involving violence, consideration is given to numerous factors including:

  • Context;
  • Degree of explicitness;
  • Propensity to alarm, distress or shock;
  • Significance in relation to the ‘message’; and
  • Social importance of content.

SBS believes that violence should not be presented in such a manner as to glamorise it or make it attractive. It is important when violence is portrayed that, as a rule, its serious consequences are not glossed over.

Where violence is presented, SBS will, where appropriate, broadcast an advance warning to viewers. (Code 2.4.4 deals with violence in news and current affairs.)

The presentation of violence in drama requires careful consideration. SBS rejects the use of violence as an easy substitute for other dramatic values. However, violence has always been a powerful ingredient in the dramatic tradition and SBS accepts that there are occasions when authors and directors use violence to make a substantial point about society and human relationships.

3.3 Suicide

SBS recognises that any portrayal of suicide requires a high degree of sensitivity. SBS will not broadcast material which is likely to incite or encourage self-harm or suicidal behaviour.

3.4 Sex and Nudity 

In assessing program content involving sex and nudity, consideration is given to factors including:

  • Judgement of a program’s bona fides;
  • The responsibility with which visuals and subject matter are treated, particularly
  • The treatment of sexual activity involving children or minors;
  • The degree of explicitness of visuals; and
  • The impact which visuals have in the context of a program as a whole.

Non-consenting sexual activities and the treatment of people as sex objects should not be presented or endorsed as acceptable behavior.

3.5 Variations of Language and Terminology 

SBS programming includes variations of language and terminology used by different groups and communities. Expressions used by one group may be distasteful to another. Accordingly, SBS will take into account use of language when classifying programs and deciding the kinds of warnings provided to viewers.

SBS believes that audiences should receive programs unaltered. Therefore, strong language will only be removed from original programs if SBS believes it is inappropriate to the classification time zone.

3.6 Classification Symbols

SBS will broadcast programs with the following classifications:

  • General (G),
  • Parental Guidance Recommended (PG),
  • Mature Audience (M),
  • Mature Adult Audience (MA) and
  • Mature Adult Audience – strong violence (MAV).

(These classification categories are explained at 3.9.)

With the exception of news and current affairs, general information, and sporting programs, the classification symbol of the PG, M, MA or MAV program being shown will be displayed at the start of the program.

3.7 Consumer Advice

The reasons for an M, MA and MAV classification will be shown before the program. SBS may provide other appropriate advice at the start of the program.

3.8 Time Zones

The time zones indicated for each classification in Code 3.9 (below) are guides to the most likely placement of programs within that classification. The recommended placements are not hard and fast rules and there will be occasions when programs or segments of programs will appear in other time slots. For example, an arts program or a segment of an arts program may appear during a weekend daytime program. There must be sound reasons for any departure from the time zone for a program classification.

Programs that deal in a responsible manner with serious moral, social or cultural issues may appear outside their normal classification period provided a clear indication of the nature and content is given at the beginning of the program.

Some individuals and groups choose to access programming directly from a satellite signal outside of the area for which the signal is intended. In these cases, SBS cannot guarantee that people will receive SBS programs in their local areas at the times for which the programs are classified and scheduled.

3.9 Classification Categories 

G – General (suitable for all ages)

  • G programs, which include programs designed for pre-school and school-age children, are suitable for children to watch on their own. They may be shown at any time.

PG – Parental Guidance (parental guidance recommended for persons under 15 years of age)

  • PG programs may contain adult themes and concepts which, when viewed by those under 15 years, may require the guidance of an adult. They may be shown between 8:30 am and 4.00 pm on weekdays; and 7:30 pm and 6:00 am on any day of the week.

M (Mature Audience), MA (Mature Adult Audience) and MAV (Mature Adult Audience – strong violence)

  • M, MA and MAV programs are those which, because of the material they contain, or because of the way the material is treated, are recommended for viewing only by persons aged 15 years or over. While most adult themes may be dealt with, the degree of explicitness and intensity of treatment will determine what can be accommodated in the M, MA and MAV classification categories.

M: The less explicit or less intense material will be included in the M classification.

  • M programs may be shown between noon and 3:00 pm on weekdays that are school days; and 8:30 pm and 5:00 am on any day of the week.

MA: The more explicit and more intense material will be included in the MA classification. MA programs may be shown between 9:00 pm and 5:00 am on any day of the week.

MAV: Material classified MAV is unsuitable for MA classification because of the intensity and/or frequency of violence. MAV programs may be shown between 9:30 pm and 5:00 am on any day of the week.

X and R (not suitable for television) X and R programs are those programs containing material which cannot appropriately be classified by SBS as G, PG, M, MA or MAV because the material itself, or the way it is treated, renders them unsuitable for television. X and R programs must not be shown at all.


Section 45 of the SBS Act provides that SBS may only broadcast advertisements or sponsorship announcements that run before or after programs or during natural breaks and that run in total for not more than five minutes in any hour of broadcasting. It is the responsibility of the SBS Board to develop and publicize appropriate advertising and sponsorship guidelines.

The Board has determined that advertising and sponsorship announcements may be broadcast on SBS Radio and Television.

SBS has adopted the following definition of “Advertisement”:

  1. Matter which draws the attention of the public, or a segment thereof, to a product, service, person, organisation or line of conduct in a manner calculated to promote or oppose, directly or indirectly, that product, service, person, organisation or line of conduct.
  2. For the purpose of these conditions, the term advertisement does not include:
  • the broadcasting by SBS of matter of an advertising character as an accidental or incidental accompaniment of the broadcasting of other matter if SBS does not receive payment or other valuable consideration for broadcasting the matter;
  • an announcement of not more than 10 seconds duration at the beginning and end of a program giving the name and business of the sponsor of the program, if the program is not less than 15 minutes long
  • a community service announcement if SBS does not receive payment or other valuable consideration for broadcasting the announcement;
  • a station identification; and
  • a program promotion.

As an associate member of Commercial Television Australia (CTA), SBS takes account of the Classification and Placement of Commercials and Community Service Announcements contained in Section 6 of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice 1999, where it relates to Commercials.

Advertisements broadcast by SBS Radio must not be presented as news programs or other programs and must comply with all other SBS Codes of Practice so far as they are applicable. The SBS Board has also determined that SBS will take account of the applicable codes of advertising.

Advertising announcements must not detract from the value of SBS radio and television programs as a medium of information, education and entertainment. Natural program breaks, as referred to in Section 45(2)(a) of the SBS Act, include:

  • any pause during coverage of an event where audiences miss none of the proceedings that relate directly to the event (for example, rest periods in sports events);
  • and the junctions of the program segments that are contained in SBS Radio programs.

As far as possible, SBS ensures that potential advertisers are informed of SBS’s responsibilities as a national multicultural broadcaster. The aim is to equip advertisers with sufficient background to enable them to select advertisements appropriate for the schedule. SBS is aware that some advertisements broadcast by commercial stations may not be suitable for SBS because of SBS’s other programming policies and objectives. As with all programming, SBS reserves the exclusive right to determine what is broadcast on SBS services.

The following material is not considered to be advertising or sponsorship for the purposes of calculating the five-minute per hour limit:

  • publicity for SBS programs, products, services or activities;
  • material overlaid on the test pattern, or similar non-programming material; and
  • community information (see Code 5 below).


5.1 General

SBS allocates a limited amount of free airtime on the Television and Radio schedules to community and charitable organisations for the broadcast of community information. Section 46 of the SBS Act requires that SBS develop and publicise guidelines on the kinds of material that it is prepared to broadcast.

SBS will broadcast announcements and material on the basis that the public interest is being served. In the selection and placement of this material, SBS will take into account its role as a multicultural broadcaster, in particular its Charter duty to contribute to meeting the communications needs of Australia’s multicultural society, including ethnic and Indigenous communities.

SBS will decide the best way to communicate community information to its audiences. This may be as a separate community announcement and/or within other program segments as appropriate. SBS may edit any material provided.

SBS will not broadcast the following as Community Information:

  • Political matter (i.e. matter that promotes a registered political party or lobbies for a change in legislation);
  • Social, religious or any other matter that SBS considers to be controversial or potentially divisive to the community; and
  • Announcements that strongly promote a commercial organisation, either directly or indirectly.
  • Community information broadcast on SBS Television will generally be of national relevance. SBS may consider State-specific announcements where there are special public interest considerations. State-specific announcements may attract an administrative charge.
  • Pre-recorded material provided to SBS for broadcast must be of a production quality acceptable to SBS.
  • Placement of community service announcements in the schedules is subject to the availability of airtime.

5.2 Radio Only

SBS Radio also allows the following to be broadcast as Community Information:

  • Community announcements which are directed at listeners of a Language Program and deal with forthcoming events of a social, cultural, welfare or educational nature within the community. (For this sort of announcement, organisations may be charged some production fee if the form of the broadcast is other than a simple announcement.)
  • Program segments or interviews to discuss work and/or services provided by individuals or groups on a commercial basis, provided a special need for the information has been identified within the language community.
  • Campaigns by government departments and instrumentalities which provide information about, and access to, government services for people from non-English speaking backgrounds, particularly for new migrants. (Such announcements attract production and/or airtime charges, as appropriate.)


Section 70A(1) of the SBS Act allows SBS to determine to what extent and in what manner political matter or controversial matter will be broadcast by SBS.

  • SBS provides information to the community about elections through:
  • the allocation of free airtime to political parties; and
  • coverage of elections and election issues through regular SBS news and current affairs services.

During Federal election campaigns, SBS provides free airtime on Television and Radio to political parties for their policy speeches and statements on election issues. Free airtime is also available on Radio for State election campaigns. As a general guide, the Government and the Opposition are allocated equal time and minor parties are treated on the basis of their representation in the Federal or State parliaments as appropriate. Referenda are treated in a similar manner. Any additional time which political parties wish to be allocated on SBS Television and Radio is considered to be advertising for which parties are charged accordingly.

Further information on the allocation of free airtime is available from SBS on request.


7.1 Introduction 

SBS values audience feedback on its programming. Comments from viewers and listeners are immediate sources of feedback about SBS programming, and an important way for SBS to keep in touch with community opinion.

7.2 Making a Complaint that SBS has Acted Contrary to Its Codes of Practice 

Where a person believes that SBS has acted contrary to its Codes of Practice in its Television or Radio programming, the person should first contact SBS. Complainants who wish SBS to reply formally should put the matter in writing. To assist SBS’s investigation, the complainant should, where possible, identify the Code in question, and indicate how a breach may have occurred. It is also helpful if the complainant specifically identifies the program in question as well as the date and time of broadcast.

If the complainant does not receive a response within 60 days after making the complaint, or considers SBS’s response to be inadequate, the person may make a complaint to the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) about the matter, under Part 11 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

The ABA may then investigate the complaint and, if it believes that the complaint is justified, can recommend SBS take action to comply with the relevant Code.

It may also recommend SBS take other action in relation to the complaint, such as the broadcasting of an apology. The ABA will notify the complainant about the outcome of any investigation.

If SBS does not, within 30 days of the recommendation, take action that the ABA considers to be appropriate, the ABA may give the Minister a written report on the matter. This report will then be tabled in Parliament.

Complaints about SBS services other than Television, Radio and datacasting  cannot be referred to the ABA.

7.3 How SBS Deals with Complaints

7.3.1 Written Complaints

SBS will make every reasonable effort to address the major concerns of all correspondents, except where a complaint is clearly frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith. Written complaints will be promptly acknowledged and normally answered within six weeks from initial receipt by SBS. If appropriate, SBS will send a holding reply, acknowledging receipt of the complaint and promising a subsequent and more detailed response.

A person with appropriate editorial responsibility will deal with written complaints by assessing whether or not the broadcast is consistent with the Codes of Practice.

SBS may decide at its discretion whether to investigate anonymous complaints. Where complaints are received on a confidential basis, SBS may choose to protect the identity of the complainant.

7.3.2 Complaints by Telephone and Electronic Mail

SBS appreciates that, for many people, the telephone or email is the preferred way of expressing a view about programming.

Due to resource considerations and limitations on the availability of programming staff, SBS does not usually provide a detailed or written response to telephone calls or electronic mail about particular programs. However, comments received by phone or email will be noted and brought to the attention of management. To trigger SBS’s formal complaints procedures for the investigation of alleged breaches of the Codes of Practice, a fax or letter is required. (See Code 7.2/7.3)

7.3.3 Language and Translations

SBS believes that people should be able to communicate with SBS in the language with which they feel most comfortable.

SBS has linguistic specialists, mainly within Radio and Sub¬titling. Telephone comment in languages other than English can be handled if a request is made either in writing (in the non-English language) or through the SBS switchboard (initially in English to arrange details).

Letters in languages other than English may not be handled within the same time frame as letters received in English becau¬se of the need for translation.

In some cases, all or part of a program will need to be translated into English. Where this is the case, SBS will advise complainants of the delay. SBS seeks the cooperation of complainants in allowing for a reasonable period for the complaint to be addressed.