Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government


The vast majority of Australians can access television 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 digital television services. The majority of people living within Australia can receive or access ABC and SBS television services from either towers or via satellite through the VAST (View Access Satellite Television) service. You can even watch ABC or SBS over the internet or on various digital subscription platforms, including FOXTEL, Optus TV and TransACT.

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 Television

ABC television services are available to about 99 per cent of the Australian population. These services include; state and national news and weather, emergency warnings, and a mix of entertainment, including sport and regional or rural issues.

The ABC Board of Directors is guided by the ABC's Charter, editorial policies and the ABC Code of Practice. 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 Television

SBS is Australia's multicultural and multilingual national public broadcaster. SBS draws on international and local programming. About half of the programs are broadcast in languages other than English, and most have English subtitles.

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 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).

2018 National Broadcasters Efficiency Review

We have completed the efficiency review of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service.

The purpose of the efficiency review was to assist the ABC and SBS in determining appropriate ways of operating more efficiently. 

The report contains some details that are commercial-in-confidence and this information has been redacted (blacked out) at the request of the ABC and SBS.

2014 ABC and SBS Efficiency Study

The 2014 ABC and SBS Efficiency Study focused on identifying out-dated business and administrative practices and not the quality of programs, products and services.

The financial information in this report has been redacted (blacked out) at the request of the ABC and SBS.

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.