Thursday, 8 June 2006

SBS funding rant

Firstly many thanks to Formal Neil of Ascot Vale for raising this topic by way of ‘rant request’ this week.
Reported recently, SBS (that is, the Soccer Broadcasting Station) “is a step closer to full commercialism, announcing it will insert advertising during programs from January.” Currently SBS is allowed up to five minutes per hour but this has been restricted to bunching the breaks in between programs. If you have to show ads, then show them when I don’t have to look at them. I can handle that. To start placing the advertisements inbetween programs is grievous news indeed.
Not surprisingly SBS experience “massive viewer drop-off” when they show their clumped advertisements inbetween programs and this is something they are keen to rectify. Foisting advertisements on viewers when they are watching something (as happens on commercial channels) should see an increase in advertisement revenue for SBS which hopefully will lead to better programs.
Channel 7 are probably the most cynical when it comes to addressing viewer drop-off by starting shows late (so that you miss the start of something else on another channel) and going straight into the next show without an intervening ad. break to get you hooked. Viewer backlash was fierce last year with the continual late start/late finish of their marquee shows, Lost and Desperate Housewives, that they got around the issue by advertising that their shows would run 840 to 940 thereby still running out of sync. with other channels. This shows the murky path upon which SBS are treading.
Naturally this leads various campaigners, such as Friends of the ABC (whom I support in principle) trotting out the old cliché, “you can’t be a little bit pregnant” which in this case is a ridiculous thing to say. Advertising on SBS (or the ABC for that matter) doesn’t bother me over much. The ABC (both radio and TV) have an enormous amount of advertising on them, more so since the latest head took over from the maligned Jonathan Shier. The advertising in question however is the promotion for their own shows which are just as irritating, invasive, repetitive and boring as an ad. for Toyota Avensis (just a little self-promotion there, too subtle for most) or Libra Fleur with wings.
The real issue is, I believe (winding up for big rant to conclude with) that the ABC and SBS do not get enough government funding, despite many, many submissions from the Boards of these institutions. They try to make their funds stretch across mediums and demographics, first person news and current affairs reporting (and not exclusively relying on the BBC for example) and produce quality Australian drama. Instead these government sponsored stations are left to make ends meet with meagre funding and put out indifferent fare like games shows, one tele-movie a year, a sports segment on the nightly news from Sydney and so forth. The ABC and SBS is left to fight their own battles from any other means such as sales from the SBS shop or on-air advertising.
It would be a pity to have advertising within shows however it continues to demonstrate the parlous state successive Federal Governments have left ABC/SBS funding.

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