TV & Radio

May 21, 2010

SBS cuts back on subtitling in ‘drift away from multiculturalism’

At least 10 staff from SBS Television's subtitling unit will be made redundant because of what the network's critics have long feared -- an apparent reduction in foreign language content, writes Crikey intern Matt de Neef.

At least 10 staff from SBS Television’s subtitling unit will be made redundant because of what the network’s critics have long feared — an apparent reduction in foreign language content.

SBS says the downsizing is the result of “significant over-capacity” uncovered as part of an external review of the subtitling unit. Crikey understands the redundancies were announced by managing director Shaun Brown on Tuesday in a meeting with the team.

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19 thoughts on “SBS cuts back on subtitling in ‘drift away from multiculturalism’

  1. jungarrayi

    Merde! (Damn!)… Living on a place where they speak one of the few remaining “strong” Aboriginal languages (Warlpiri), this doesn’t come as a surprise to me.
    The monolingual, ethnocentric, xenophobic forces of ignorance are in charge.
    To me, cultural and linguistic diversity is the crowning glory of human achievement.
    Die klootzakken willen dat verpesten (those silly people want to spoil it).
    Before you start picking on me, my watering down of the “sub-titles” is deliberate.

  2. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    I believe that we need a robust public debate but how well our public broadcasters are meeting their charter.

    The only times our politicians seem interested in the public broadcasters is when they perceive political bias in the reporting.

    Within the vacuum of public debate about meeting the charter, the management of both the ABC and SBS have increasingly acted as if the stations were THEIR stations.

    Both the ABC and SBS have lost track of what they should be doing according to their charters, and are becoming increasingly populist.

    That both the ABC and SBS watermark all their programs shows that marketing their brand is perceived as more important than quality broadcasting. SBS’s now and next graphics are designed to draw attention away from the program. Promotion over end credits is now common-place on both the ABC and SBS.

    A friend even saw the ABC put up a full-screen ‘coming up next’ information screen on-top of a still running interview on ABC2.

    The head of SBS has said that if the Government gave them the money to replace ad revenue for the ads in-between programs, that he would still show ads in-between programs.

    So what is the real reasons that SBS want ads in-between their programs if it is not for the revenue. It is because every ad break gives them an opportunity for more branding and station promotion. SBS management want SBS to look and feel like a commercial TV station (perhaps they think this will look good on their resume).

    They do not care what viewers think.

    Of course programming is the main way they are both moving away from their charter.

    Am I the only person who is sick and tired of most of the ABC drama budget being spend on yet another attempt to recreate the success of Sea Change?

    I’m sure that if you asked SBS viewers whether they like the current SBS or would prefer a return to the good old days, the answer would be an overwhelming wish to go back to the original charter.

    As an owner and viewer of the ABC and SBS there seems nothing I can do about my unhappiness with current management.

    We need some sackings at both SBS and ABC, and I’m not suggesting we sack the ordinary staff. It is the top management that needs to go.

  3. Meski

    “really unique” – qualifying an absolute.

  4. [email protected]

    This is sad indeed. I have often seen films on SBS a 2nd time having seen them at the cinema originally, and the work the subtitlers do is simply superb (I can only vouch for the French and Japanese, although I have no doubt the quality is strong across the board). If we are now to rely on the (usually) American original subtitles, God help us all.

  5. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    Another scandal with SBS is that they run World Movies.

    To maximize the profit from this, SBS shows movies on pay first, and then waits about a year before showing them on FTA TV.

    As an example, two non-repeat movies on SBS TV next week are from 2006 and 2007. I’m sure that when SBS was new, we did not have to wait so long to see these world movies on FTA TV.

    And as someone who has viewed several hundred foreign films in the cinema, I also have high praise for the work done by the SBS subtitlers.

  6. baal

    SBS’ stead demise a result of hiring New Zealanders to run it down.

  7. Michael Wilbur-Ham

    The demise of SBS, and it only gets comment from 5 SBS supporters (and one wannabe english teacher).

    Please post if you support the old-style SBS.

  8. Malcolm Street

    Michael- yes, I’ve been concerned about the transition of SBS from a genuine multi-cultural niche broadcaster to a wannabe equivalent of the UK’s Channel 4 for some time.

    Note to SBS – learn from what happened to Top Gear (and Mad Men). You try to play with the big boys, get good ratings, all that happens is that someone with more money will swoop down and pick the program up (and totally stuff it up if you look at what Nine has done to Top Gear…)

  9. Ian Rudd

    Yes, both SBS & ABC are about cloning themselves into commercial-like, lowest common denominator broadcast media. I don’t know how much of this is attributable to management or government funding restrictions or a combination. Does the government make appointments that they see as helping them towards the goal of more privatized public broadcasting outfits?

  10. mark

    What is the point of having another commercial channel? SBS was a brilliantly conceived and implemented idea. Where is the government when it is needed to protect a cornerstone of our cultural, dare I say it multi-cultural, fabric..

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