The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is a hybrid-funded Australian public broadcasting radio, online, and television network. SBS operates four TV channels (SBS, SBS Viceland, Food Network and NITV) and eight radio networks (SBS Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4, Arabic24, SBS Chill, SBS PopDesi and SBS PopAsia). SBS Online (sbs.com.au) is home to SBS On Demand video streaming service. 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".[1] SBS is one of five main free-to-air networks in Australia.


In 1975, concerns that minority communities might require details in their own languages of the new Medibank health care scheme (renamed Medicare in 1984) led to the establishment of two ethnic-minority radio stations, 2EA in Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne. These started broadcasting in June 1975,[2], with pre-recorded messages in seven and eight foreign languages, respectively.

SBS programming content was initially imported from the countries-of-origin of Australia's major migrant communities, and subtitled in English.[3]

The following year, the Federal Government formed the Consultative Committee on Ethnic Broadcasting. Following the recommendation of this and subsequent committees, the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 was amended to form the Special Broadcasting Service. This legislation came into force on 1 January 1978, with the new broadcaster taking responsibility for 2EA and 3EA.[4]

SBS TV began test transmissions in April 1979 when it showed various foreign language programs on ABV-2 Melbourne and ABN-2 Sydney on Sunday mornings. Full-time transmission began at 6:30 p.m. 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 (pronounced as "oh" and not "zero"), 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 14 October 1983, the service expanded into Canberra, Cooma, and Goulburn 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 June of that year.

On 5 January 1986, SBS ceased broadcasting on the VHF channel 0 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.[5]

In August 1986, the government proposed legislation that would merge SBS into the ABC. This was highly unpopular with ethnic-minority 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. Eat Carpet, showcasing local and international short films, was also launched in 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, Darwin, northeast Tasmania, Cairns and Townsville.

The wall of the SBS carpark in Artarmon, showing the 'Mercator' logo, used from 1993 to 2008

In 1992, SBS's radio and television facilities were gradually moved to new headquarters in Artarmon, New South Wales, from their original studios at Bondi Junction (radio) and Milsons Point (television). The new building was officially opened on the 10 November 1993 by Prime Minister Paul Keating. A national radio network was launched in January 1994. The new service initially covered Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Darwin, 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 Hobart and Canberra, while SBS TV's coverage was further expanded to include the New South Wales North Coast and Albury.

South Park, SBS's most successful television series, was first aired in 1997. A time-delay system was installed for South Australia 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% average weekly audience share.[4]

SBS Radio dropped four languages, and added four others, in April 2003, while increasing the broadcast hours for Cantonese, Mandarin, and Arabic. SBS broadcast the 2004 Athens Olympics in partnership with the Seven Network. SBS broadcast the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

The SBS building in Melbourne's Federation Square

Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Arabic language broadcasts were added to SBS's WorldWatch television schedule in 2003.[6] The Vietnamese community protested the Vietnamese-language service, which was just taken from VTV4, Vietnam's government-controlled national broadcaster. They found the portrayal of the communist Vietnamese flag and Ho Chi Minh offensive, and the Vietnamese Community of Australia stated that its lack of reporting on political arrests and religious oppression were also offensive, especially to those who had fled the country following the Vietnam War.[7] This backlash prompted SBS to display disclaimers before all externally produced bulletins distancing it from the content.

In May 2008, SBS unveiled a new-look logo, as well as a new backronymic slogan: Six Billion Stories and counting.[8]

On 8 May 2012, SBS received $158 million in government funding,[9] of which $15 million would be used yearly, to fund the formation of a new free-to-air channel devoted to the indigenous peoples of Australia.[10] which would replace the existing National Indigenous Television on 12 December 2012, with 90% of its staff transferring to this new channel.[11] On 12 December 2012, NITV was re-launched as an SBS-operated free-to-air channel, replacing SBS4.[12]

SBS is a supporter of Marriage Equality[13] and pulled an anti-marriage equality ad ahead of its telecast of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.[14] Managing Director Michael Ebeid has defended the SBS position.[13]

On 17 November 2015, the new food channel Food Network was launched.

In June 2016 SBS announced that SBS 2 was set to be rebadged as SBS Viceland with content from US-Canadian youth Vice Media from November 2016.[15]



Regardless of state or territory, SBS television services always use the callsign "SBS". On 14 December 2006, SBS announced its intention to change to 720p as its high-definition transmission standard for SBS HD.[16] SBS had previously down converted its scheduled SBS high-definition content to the 576p standard. On 5 June 2012, SBS upgraded its HD format from 720p to 1080i.[17]

LCN Service Notes
3 SBS Original analogue channel
(simulcast until last ASO)
30 SBS HD 1080i simulcast of SBS
31 SBS Viceland HD 1080i simulcast of SBS Viceland
32 SBS Viceland Young demographic
33 Food Network Food and cooking channel
34 NITV National Indigenous Television

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.[18]

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 6:30 pm 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 7.30 pm broadcast of MythBusters.

Former SBS television services are SBS Essential (LCN 31, sporting events, and other digital-only projects, when available) and SBS World News Channel (LCN 32, foreign news service).

Subscription channels

In 1995, SBS launched a new division called SBS Subscription TV. In October 1995, the first subscription channel to launch was World Movies; the channel focuses on independent international films. It was closed in January 31st, 2018. In April 2010, SBS launched Studio (previously marketed at as STVDIO); that channel focused on arts programming such as classical and popular music, literature, film, visual arts and dance with documentaries and performances. However, Studio closed down on 27 March 2015 and was replaced by Foxtel Arts.


SBS Radio broadcasts in 74 languages in all Australian states, producing an estimated 13,500 hours of Australian programming for its two frequencies in Sydney and Melbourne as well as for its national network. Much like SBS TV, SBS radio receives funding from a mix of government grants, paid-for government information campaigns and commercial advertising.[19] SBS Radio broadcast the Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland.

Following "extensive community consultation" in 2003, SBS introduced a range of new programs, including services in Malay, Somali, and Amharic – in addition to the expansion of many existing programs.[19]

In April 2013 SBS rolled out a major overhaul of its radio schedule. The last major review of the SBS Radio Schedule had taken place in 1994, and since then Australia's demographics had changed significantly. With the new schedule SBS intends to better reflect Australia's ethnic composition. With the addition of six new languages: Malayalam, Dinka, Hmong, Pashto, Swahili and Tigrinya, SBS has brought the total number of languages from 68 to 74.[20][21]

SBS rolled out a trial of RDS (Radio Data Services) in the Melbourne and Sydney broadcast areas in November 2012. Radio listeners can identify the SBS Radio service by the "SBSRadio" identifier, and if their radio permits, by RDS scrolling text on their FM-capable RDS Radio.

NOW and NEXT data was progressively added to all Radio Services in 2012 and 2013. This now/next data is displayed on FM RDS Radio (Melbourne/Sydney) and DAB+ receptions areas for Radio's that can display metadata.

NOW and NEXT Radio schedule is also displayed on free-to-air Terrestrial Digital Television (DTV) Program Guides, and on TiVo and TBox where applicable.

SBS rolled out the 14-day rolling Radio Schedule over DTV Television in November 2012. A radio event (or program) can be viewed and booked/recorded to PVR or the listener reminded. The schedule adapts to daylight-savings changes as required.

Service Notes
with digital simulcast
SBS Radio 1 Original SBS Radio 1 broadcasts (usually on VHF band II)1
SBS Radio 2 Original SBS Radio 2 broadcasts (usually on MF)1
SBS Radio 3 Commenced April 2013. Radio 3 broadcasts the best of the BBC World Service and SBS Special events coverage including the 2014 FIFA World Cup
SBS Radio 4 Broadcasting BBC World Service news, live English Premier League commentary and special-events coverage.
SBS Chill SBS Chill provides a music break from the stress of work, the rush that is daily life.
SBS Arabic24 Arabic-language programming 24 hours a day.
SBS PopAsia Asian pop music in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean and more.
SBS PopAraby Arabic pop music. (Currently airs on Arabic24)
SBS PopDesi Bollywood, Bhangra and Desi pop music.

1 Different areas receive different programming, but they all for the most part follow the programming of a selected city's SBS service.


On demand

SBS on Demand is a video on demand and catch up TV service run by the SBS. In April 2016, SBS launched a video on demand application called SBS On Demand VR (later renamed SBS VR).


SBS has been providing multilingual services since 1975. The SBS in-language units in both Sydney and Melbourne, provide a range of language services for medium to large organisations, private and government businesses, including accredited translations, typesetting, voiceovers/re-narration, subtitling, and video services in over 68 languages.

SBS independent

SBS independent (SBSi) was the primary production unit of SBS programming, which existed from August 1994 to December 2007. At the end of 2007, SBS independent was merged with the SBS Content and Online Division.

Youth orchestra

SBS Youth Orchestra was an Australian premier youth orchestra, founded in 1988 by the now late Matthew Krel. It was disbanded in 2013.

SBS Sexuality

An online platform that celebrates "the diversity of sexuality in Australia and its multicultural communities".[22]

Film distribution

SBS once used to distribute films in the early 1990s. In 2014, SBS revived its film distribution division as SBS Movies, which then teamed up with SBS' home video distributor Madman Entertainment. Both SBS and Madman released the 2016 American film Hell or High Water in Oceania.



Managing Director

See also


  1. ^ SBS: Frequently Asked Questions SBS Corporation, accessed 26 May 2007
  2. ^ "Brief History of SBS" (linked from listing at [1]) in Making multicultural Australia: Teacher and student resources on multiculturalism, cultural diversity and tolerance by the Office of the Board of Studies (New South Wales, Australia), the NSW Department of Eduction and Training, and the University of Technology Sydney.
  3. ^ Hawkins, Gay (University of New South Wales) and Ien Ang (University of Western Sydney), "Inventing SBS: Televising the Foreign," 2007, ACH: The Journal of the History of Culture in Australia, 26: 1-14, Taylor & Francis, Australia.
  4. ^ a b SBS: History SBS Corporation, accessed 26 May 2007
  5. ^ The History of Australian Television: SBS Television, accessed 22 May 2007
  6. ^ "SBS Timeline". Special Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on 2 March 2007. Retrieved 20 May 2007. 
  7. ^ "Crunch time for SBS over Vietnamese news bulletin". Sydney Morning Herald. 2 December 2003. Retrieved 20 May 2007. 
  8. ^ SBS: Six Billion Stories and counting SBS Corporation, accessed 8 May 2008
  9. ^ "$158m funding boost for SBS". TV Tonight. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  10. ^ "New Indigenous TV channel for SBS". TV Tonight. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  11. ^ "SBS – but wait there's more..." TV Tonight. Retrieved 10 May 2012. 
  12. ^ "NITV: Launch Day". TV Tonight. Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Knott, Matthew (20 October 2015). "Senators accuse SBS of campaigning against Australian law by supporting same-sex marriage". The Age. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  14. ^ "Anti-marriage equality ad pulled from SBS TV". News Ltd. 9 March 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  15. ^ http://tvtonight.com.au/2016/06/viceland-to-replace-sbs-2.html
  16. ^ "SBS chooses 720p High Definition". Digital Broadcasting Australia. dba.org.au. 14 December 2006. Retrieved 14 December 2006. 
  17. ^ "SBS upgrades HD to 1080i format on 5 June 2012". sbs.com.au. 
  18. ^ Murray, Lisa (2 June 2006). "SBS caves in over ad breaks". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 November 2007. 
  19. ^ a b About SBS Radio
  20. ^ New SBS Radio Schedule has launched, accessed 14 September 2013
  21. ^ SBS Announces New Radio Schedule For 2013, accessed 14 September 2013
  22. ^ "SBS Sexuality Home". SBS Sexuality. Retrieved 2016-08-03. 
  23. ^ "Sklovsky, Grigorij Abramovitch (1915 - 1995)". Encyclopedia of Australian Science. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  24. ^ "New SBS Chair appointed" (Media Release). Special Broadcasting Service. 6 November 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  25. ^ "Nihal Gupta named new SBS chairman". SBS News. 17 October 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  26. ^ White, Dominic (10 February 2016). "SBS chair Gupta in sudden exit". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  27. ^ "Government announces new SBS board chairman". SBS News. 14 February 2017. Retrieved 14 February 2018. 
  28. ^ a b Brief History of SBS (PDF), 1997, Archived from the original on 24 March 2012 
  29. ^ Directors of Broadcast Australia, archived from the original on 26 January 2014, From 1993–97 he was Managing Director of SBS Corporation 
  30. ^ "SBS chief resigns". The Age. Fairfax Media. 5 August 2005. Archived from the original on 11 January 2007. 
  31. ^ Ingram, David (21 April 2011), Can this man save SBS?, archived from the original on 16 January 2013 

External links