Screen Forever: SBS Viceland is on charter

SBS MD Michael Ebeid at the Screen Forever conference

This month has been a hectic one for SBS with its upfronts around Australia and the launch of SBS Viceland.

Ever since the latter was announced in June 2016, some news outlets said the broadcaster was wandering away from its charter. However, managing director Michael Ebeid said SBS is executing its purpose to represent multiculturalism and diversity on its platforms.

“It’s not just about importing a whole lot of American content. Vice is an international network. They are going to be launching in something like 50 countries. They are already operating in numerous countries around the world. We are going to have access to a lot of that content from around the world.”

At the core, Vice Media’s content is about exploring and understanding different cultures, religions and people. So the partnership is exactly on par with the SBS charter, Ebeid argued.

The partnership will allow SBS to commission more Australian content. “SBS 2 could not afford to do any commissions,” Ebeid admitted. “We’ve got The Feed and Pop Asia on there, but it was always an acquisition channel. Now, with the partnership with Vice we are going to start talking to them about Australian commissions. They want Australian content as well that they can then share with their other channels abroad.”

The partnership with Scripps Networks Interactive for the Food Network, which turns one this year, has allowed Australian content to be distributed overseas. Ebeid used an upcoming show as an example of this: “They [Scripps] are already buying some of our food shows and showing them overseas. We’ve just commissioned Ben and Andy Eat Australia and that they will show overseas. We may have not done that show without them.”

The Convergence Review, released in 2012, recommended that SBS should have an Australian content target of about 28%. Ebeid admitted that the part-government and part-commercial broadcaster does not have the means available to do this. It is currently meeting 13% of that target, excluding news, sports and current affairs programming.

However, he was optimistic, saying that SBS’ partnership with Scripps and Vice will mean more Australian content across its platforms.

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