Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

ABC and SBS radio

The vast majority of Australians can listen to radio programs from the national broadcasters—the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

The ABC and SBS provide a wide range of analog radio services, which are available to the majority of people living within Australia. Currently people in the mainland capital cities can also listen to ABC and SBS digital radio services. Radio programs can also be accessed over the internet, mobile apps or through the VAST (View Access Satellite Television) service. In addition, two SBS radio channels are also retransmitted on Foxtel.

The Australian Government funds the ABC and SBS as part of the budget each year. This funding covers their normal operations, and it can fund capital works and special projects. The government has no power to direct the ABC and SBS on programming matters. Parliament has guaranteed this independence to ensure that what is broadcast is free of political interference.

The ABC and SBS are required to develop codes of practice relating to programming matters and lodge the codes with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). In addition, the ABC and SBS are accountable to the Parliament through annual reports, corporate plans, financial and performance audits and appearances before Parliamentary Committees.

The editorial policies and codes of practice for each broadcaster are available from their websites (see contact details below).

ABC radio

More than 99 per cent of the Australian population can receive or access at least one ABC Radio station which broadcasts local and national news and weather, emergency warnings, and a mix of entertainment including sport, music and regional or rural issues.

The ABC also broadcasts its Radio Australia service to the Asia-Pacific region in English and seven other languages. Programs include news and current affairs, English lessons, sport and music from Australia, and the events and issues of the region.

The ABC Board of Directors is guided by the ABC Charter, editorial policies and codes of conduct. The main role of the ABC is to provide services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and it must reflect the diversity of interests in the Australian community through a range of distinctive programs of broad and specialist appeal.

SBS radio

SBS Radio is Australia's multicultural and multilingual national broadcaster. SBS Radio broadcasts programmes in 74 languages making it one of the most diverse services of its kind in the world.

Programs are based on language, not nationality, so the same Arabic and Spanish programs are listened to by people from many different countries and cultures. Programs include homeland, international, local and community news as well as current affairs, arts, culture, sport and music.

The amount of program time for each language is guided by the size of the community, its needs (for example, language proficiency, age, employment) and where the people who speak it live in Australia.

The SBS Board of Directors is guided by the SBS Charter, editorial policies and codes of practice. The main role of SBS is to inform, educate and entertain all Australians and reflect Australia's multicultural society.

ABC and SBS self-help retransmission arrangements

Smaller or more isolated Australian communities have a long tradition of providing their own retransmission equipment. It lets them receive and locally retransmit a broadcasting service (radio or television) from a nearby terrestrial transmitter or a satellite.

SBS helps these communities by funding some or all of the cost of establishing an SBS radio service (to a limit of $25 000 including GST) and up to 75 per cent of the costs of establishing an SBS digital television service (to a limit of $50 000 including GST). The Australian government gives SBS $500 000 each year for that purpose.

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These self-help services bring the ABC and SBS radio networks to more than 500 communities. They include more than 80 Remote Indigenous Broadcast Services, which add local content to mainstream broadcasts from satellite.

ABC and SBS board appointments

Current regulation requires that a merit-based selection process is used to appoint non-executive directors to the boards of the ABC and SBS, including the Chairs.

An independent Nomination Panel (the Panel) advertises vacancies and assesses applications against merit-based selection criteria. The Panel provides the government with a report nominating at least three people for each vacancy.

The government then makes a recommendation to the Governor-General who is responsible for appointing non-executive directors to the ABC and SBS Boards (other than the Managing Directors and the ABC staff-elected director).

Competitive Neutrality of the National Broadcasters Inquiry

On 29 March 2018, the Government appointed an independent panel to conduct an Inquiry into the competitive neutrality of the National Broadcasters. Mr Robert Kerr was chosen to chair the independent panel and was joined by Ms Julie Flynn and Ms Sandra Levy AO.

The panel provided its report to the Minister for Communications and the Arts on 28 September 2018. The Minister released the panel's report and findings in December 2018.

The Inquiry examined whether the ABC and SBS are operating in a manner consistent with the principles of competitive neutrality. These principles provide that government business activities should not enjoy net competitive advantages simply by virtue of their public sector ownership.

The panel consulted relevant stakeholders during the Inquiry and held a public consultation period between April 2018 and June 2018. A total of 6,839 submissions were received.

The panel was supported by our National Broadcasters Review Taskforce.

Review of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia Pacific

The Government has undertaken a review of Australian media services in the Asia Pacific, including the role of shortwave radio. All media distribution platforms—television, radio and online—were examined including commercial, community and publicly funded services. The review also looked at different types of technologies such as analogue, digital and satellite radio and television services and online services.

The review was conducted jointly by us and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Public consultation was conducted over 4 June to 3 August 2018. We received a total of 433 submissions to the review, 123 of which were unique submissions including 92 from private individuals and 31 from groups or organisations.

The report findings includes information drawn from public submissions to the review and subsequent targeted consultation. The report was released in March 2019.