The new schedule for the SBS Radio network will officially start on April 29.
It was announced late last year, after a review that showed there was a need for SBS Radio to introduce new language programs to reflect changing demographics in Australia.
The last time SBS embarked on such a review was in 1994, and SBS says the changes in programming are required so that the broadcaster can better fulfill its Charter which requires SBS to broadcast programs that reflect Australia’s multicultural society.
The new schedule also includes expanded programming for some communities with growing numbers of migrants, particularly from parts of Asia and Africa.
Peggy Giakoumelos reports.
SBS has expanded the total number of languages it offers to listeners from 68 to 74, and it continues to be the most multilingual broadcaster in the world.
There are three new African languages with growing migrant and refugee communities – Dinka, Swahili and Tigrinya.
The other three are the Asian languages Malayalam, Hmong and Pashto.
Pashto is the native language of the Pashtun people and is spoken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India.
Malayalam is principally spoken in the south Indian state of Kerala, while Hmong is spoken in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
SBS Audio and Language Content Director Mandi Wicks says a lot has happened since the announcement was made late last year.
“Since we announced the new radio schedule at the end of November a huge amount of work has gone into communicating to the community groups and to our audiences that we will be changing on the 29th of April. We’ve had many, many meetings and a lot of correspondence with our listeners and that’s really our primary focus now is to ensure that all our listeners understand the changes we’re making, when their program times will be and to ensure that we will be able to transition them across to those new times.”
The new SBS Radio Schedule was developed using language selection criteria supported by the 2011 Census relating to second languages spoken in the home.
The data shows the Mandarin and Cantonese-speaking communities have grown, which has resulted in an increase in their combined broadcasting time from 16 to 28 hours per week under the new schedule.
The Hindi program has also increased its broadcasting time from three to seven hours and the Punjabi program will broadcast its program five times per week, compared with once a week under the current schedule.
Larger languages with more broadcast hours had to have at least 20 thousand people who identified in the Census as speaking a second language.
The communities with the largest populations – Cantonese and Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Greek and Italian – will all broadcast 14 hours of programming every week.
These larger programs will now broadcast one two-hour program every day, rather than two one-hour programs in the morning and the evening.
They will also have a fixed timeslot every day, making it easier for listeners to remember when to tune in.
All languages on the new schedule have to have at least one-thousand speakers, and 21 programs will be shifting from analogue to a digital-only format.
Mandi Wicks says while the changes have occurred without having to shut down any existing programs, the process has still been difficult for programs which have seen their hours reduced because of changing demographics.
“We have spent many hours talking with community groups to explain the process and the outcome that we have reached with the new radio schedule. Hundreds of hours have been spent speaking to community groups and responding to community inquiries about the changes in hours. It has been a really difficult process but at the end of the day this is a process that hasn’t been done in 20 years. So we feel that it is very much the right thing to be doing so that we can be absolutely sure that SBS Radio reflects today’s Australia.”
In determining the make-up of the new schedule, SBS also looked at a number of other factors, including the level of English language proficiency in a particular language group, the level of unemployment and the proportion of recent arrivals.
It also factored in the number of refugees and the level of vilification faced by a particular community within Australia, based upon complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The changes have been welcomed by the nation’s largest migrant community group – the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia.
FECCA chairman Pino Migliorino explains.
“I think the reality is, is that it’s been a long, long time since the last rescheduling so there was a sense that organisations and communities have actually gotten used to the amount of airtime that they have. It’s a really precious commodity. I think it stands SBS in great stead that there’s such concern about losing any hours because of such an important part of community life. So as I’ve said on other occasions in terms of FECCA’s position, we’ve certainly not taken a position on which languages should or should not be in, but more in terms of the methodology that we believe needs to reflect the population shifts and changes and I think SBS has adopted a very strong methodology as well as indicating that it will review on a regular basis, so we don’t get these longer term anomalies developing into the future.”
Some of the communities that will be broadcasting on SBS Radio for the first time say they believe the move will benefit many newly-arrived migrants and refugees as they settle into Australia.
Originally from South Sudan, translator David Chiengkou speaks Dinka, one of the six new languages added to the new radio schedule.
He believes the new program is an important turning point for the Dinka-speaking community.
“They have always been looking for something that will engage them in terms of issues happening in Australia, in terms of news, in terms of anything to update them. So the introduction will be a milestone because it will just validate that society needs them, not just seeing them maybe as refugees, even if some of them are mostly Australian citizens. It was something that was the right decision.”
You can find more information about the new schedule at sbs.com.au/radio.
From April 29, World News Australia on SBS Radio will be broadcast at 6am and 6pm on weekdays.