Just in time for our 30th anniversary this year, Shaun Brown dismantles the SBS subtitling unit.

What does the managing director have against SBS TV continuing to have an exemplary, world-renowned subtitling capacity? Why is he reducing the subtitling unit of SBS TV to dust?

The subtitling unit is one of the, if not the, finest subtitling units in the world. In 2007, the team won the AUSIT Excellence Award in recognition of its high standards and for its outstanding contribution to the translation and interpreting industry. The jury commented on its particularly high quality, its professional presentation and its contribution to multicultural society.

The SBS TV website even promotes the 2007 AUSIT Excellence Award. But why does it even bother to promote that any more? On Wednesday, May 19, we learned that the subtitling unit was to lose more than 10 staff, and this is on the back of a number of previous rounds of redundancies.

What’s left? Not much but a Clayton’s subtitling unit. It’s now an extremely minuscule department, with hardly anyone left in it — and this has been the only way that Brown was able to get around/get away with trying not to have a subtitling unit at all.

Never mind SBS TV is supposed to be a multicultural broadcaster, and never mind the fact it says so in the SBS charter, or the fact that SBS was built up from off the back of the subtitling unit. Brown wants to get rid of the subtitling unit, but he knows he can’t get away with getting rid of it completely. So he continues to hack away at it — whittling and hacking away — until very soon, there is going to be nothing left.

How apparent it was at that first-ever meeting Brown held with the subtitling staff, where he casually remarked to a room full of dedicated subtitling staff that he thought it was hard to eat your dinner and read subtitles at the same time. Quite the sophisticated, worldly reply, right there.

The dismantling and destruction of the subtitling unit has been deliberately orchestrated by Brown. Soon we will blink, and the wonderful, beautiful subtitles that have given so much joy and happiness to so very many people all over Australia will be gone. Thirty years of the most scintillating, glorious yellow subtitles down the drain.

I would much prefer to flush Shaun Brown down the drain.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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