Will SBS’ new Viceland channel, airing on what’s now SBS2, cause SBS to radically change the type of advertising it airs?

The announcement said the new channel would be ” owned and operated by SBS”, suggesting the agreement with Vice is just a content licensing deal. But an interview on Adnews suggested it could have something to do with advertising as well. “Advertising on Viceland will be completely different to what people are used to seeing,” Vice strategic planner Alice Kimberley is quoted as saying, in a piece exploring how traditional TV ads don’t work with millennials.

So, will Vice have a role in advertising on SBS? We asked, and Vice tells us the comments weren’t in relation to the local operation with SBS. The interview took place before the announcement and the comments weren’t made in relation to the local Viceland offering with SBS. A spokesman said:

“SBS’s partnership with VICE is to bring VICELAND content together with its great SBS 2 offering and as it will be on the SBS 2 channel spectrum it will be governed by the same rules that apply to its other free to air channels”

Whether or not SBS is allowed to air non-traditional ads is the subject of some ambiguity.

When former communications minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the SBS ad-averaging bill last year, he said one of the aims of the legislation was to provide clarity around how such in-program ads could work:

“SBS currently broadcasts acquired programming which already contains product placement from agreements made to the benefit of third parties, prior to SBS’ consideration of the program.

“However, SBS does not use product placement in its own commissioned programs due to a lack of clarity in the SBS Act regarding its use. A significant portion of SBS’ prime-time schedule, of course, does not lend itself to integrated branding such as Insight and other documentaries. However commissioned food and sport programming, for example, can provide opportunities for branded content.

“The bill amends the SBS Act to specifically allow SBS to earn revenue through having product placement in its programming. It also requires the SBS board to develop and publicise guidelines regarding the use of product placement and report on its use and earnings in the annual report. The same requirement exists in the SBS Act for the use of advertising and sponsorship announcements.”

Viewer lobby group Save our SBS was opposed to this clause (and the bill as a whole), saying that unless any provisions were included in the formal code of practice (as opposed to simply in guidelines), viewers wouldn’t be able to complain about the operation of such placements with the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The bill was defeated in in the Senate.

Peter Fray

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