Sunday, September 23, 2007

SBS must remain true to its founding principles

Peter van Vliet, Executive Officer of the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria, has published an excellent critique of the changes being imposed on Australia's Special Broadcasting Services, the multicultural radio and television broadcaster established by the Fraser Government.

His article can be accessed here.

When it was first established, SBS TV broadcast almost entirely in languages other than English, and was commercial free. Now, most of its prime-time viewing is in English, and the ads just keep coming and coming.

The demise of SBS reflects Howard's goal of assimilating all into the "mainstream". At a time when real leaders like Peter Cosgrove and so many in our business community are calling for greater awareness of other peoples and cultures, and a greater capacity for communicating with our near neighbours in their own languages, SBS is becoming an Anglophone commercial bore.

Gone are the days when, as a secondary school teacher of Chinese, I could direct my students to watch regularly-programmed Chinese language films or documentaries.

The corruption of SBS not only deprives Australians from non-English language backgrounds of a right to maintain an interest in, and exposure to, their languages and cultures; it also deprives many in the so-called "mainstream" of an opportunity to develop skills, including language acquisition, in intercultural understanding.

As a wise man once said: "The pump don't work 'cos the vandals took the handles".

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