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Aug 31, 2007

SBS: a Brown study of sad decline

You have to marvel at the ability of Shaun Brown to attempt to hoodwink the press in his address at the National Press Club this week and his advertorials in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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You have to marvel at the ability of Shaun Brown to attempt to hoodwink the press in his address at the National Press Club this week and his advertorials in the Sydney Morning Herald.

What was he thinking as he left his office the day before with his footsteps echoing in the rooms of former staff ”restructured” out of the organisation, past the huge wedding cake sitting in the reception area promoting Big Love and a switchboard lighting up like a Christmas tree with complaints about what he and his pals Matt Campbell and Paul Cutler have done to SBS.

Perhaps he’s thinking that he can keep the story going — after all the Minister for Communications and even the Senate Estimate Committees, believe him every time he tells them that advertising is going to save SBS and the viewing figures and advertising industry heavyweights support him.

Brown remembered to mention public broadcasting in Canada at the press club, but ”forgot” to note that in Canada a bipartisan Senate Inquiry has recommended that the public broadcaster remove advertising from their programs.

The transformation of SBS from a public broadcaster to one in which advertising between and within programs determines programming has been dramatic and disastrous. What are the real viewing figures? What advertising revenue has been raised and, if there is any, where has it been spent?

Should we assume forgetting to mention the failure of programs such as Big Love or Kick –– which have bombed with viewers and advertisers, was an oversight? What of the implosion in News and Current Affairs directed by his good mate Cutler? The flagship World News Australia has lost a third of its viewers following its transformation into the Stan Grant Light and Fluffy News Hour. The previous and popular format with a solid, uninterrupted half an hour of international news has been stretched to include three ad breaks, two sets of recaps, a few CNN stories with the logo smudged and a few sports stories to fill the last quarter.

Mary Kostakidis — one of Australias’ most enduring newsreaders is reduced to ”one of our World News presenters” at Brown’s Press Club address in response to questions regarding her absence from the station.

Is it all a reprise of his time at TVNZ,  where he and Cutler performed the same transformation of a national broadcaster and were only stopped when the Prime Minister-Helen Clark intervened?

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