On 30 November 2012 SBS published a new schedule for its radio network that will come into effect at the end of April 2013. Of the 68 languages covered in the current schedule, the Maltese language fared the worst with programs slashed from eight hours per week to only two hours in the new schedule, one hour on Tuesdays and the other on Fridays, both at 12 noon.
Of the twenty-two languages whose programs were reduced, Maltese was the worst hit with 6 hours less, followed by Polish 4 hours, Spanish 3 hours, and German, Turkish, Russian, Dutch, Hungarian, Khmer, Portuguese and Ukrainian 2 hours each. (See charts below).
Maltese community extremely disappointed
In a Media Release published yesterday, the Malta High Commission in Canberra yesterday confirmed that it has made representations with SBS expressing the disappointment of the Maltese community in Australia upon learning that broadcasts on SBS in the Maltese language are being severely cut.
The Malta High Commission said that it pointed out that the decision seems to be based on a misinterpretation of data provided by the 2011 census, which indicates that the number of persons of Maltese ancestry has in fact increased slightly since 2006, reaching close to 200,000 persons. The census also indicates that the ‘born in Malta’ population is ageing and this sector would tend to need more broadcasts in Maltese. While it is understandable that emerging large communities require more services, this should not be done at the expense of smaller yet highly significant language groups.
The Malta High Commission highlighted the fact that Maltese is one of the original seven ethnic languages that were broadcast by SBS since it went on air 35 years ago and the Maltese community has always supported SBS through thick and thin, and reducing broadcasts from 9 hours to two hours a week is not what the Maltese language deserves.
In the spirit of SBS’s Charter and in the spirit of the good relations that the Maltese have always had with SBS, the Malta High Commission has appealed to SBS to reconsider increasing the Maltese language broadcasts to the level previously enjoyed.
MCCV Council Meeting
The savaging of the Maltese language programs in the new schedule was discussed at length at the Council Meeting of the Maltese Community Council of Victoria held last Wednesday. The Council expressed its utter disappointment with the SBS decision and felt that the Maltese community was very hard done by. It was felt that, in making the decision to severely reduce Maltese language programs, SBS failed to adequately take into account the specific needs of the ageing members of the Maltese community in Australia and relied way too heavily on census numbers.
It was also felt that SBS should have at least consulted directly with representatives of the Maltese community in Australia before making such a savage cut to Maltese language programs.
The MCCV is organising a special consultation meeting with the Maltese community in Victoria which will be held on Thursday 13 December 2012 at 7.00 pm at the Maltese Community Centre in Parkville. The purpose of the meeting is to provide community members with an opportunity to discuss how the community should voice its disappointment and concerns about the SBS decision.
Complaints to SBS
At the meeting the Council recommended that all those members of the Maltese community who are disappointed about, or personally affected by, the reduction in hours allocated to Maltese language programs on SBS radio to express their disappointment to the management of the SBS by sending an email or a letter to:
Mr Michael Ebeid
CEO & Managing Director
PO Box 294
South Melbourne 3205
Another avenue for complaining directly to SBS is provided on the SBS website (http://www.sbs.com.au/radio/schedule2013/#pt3), which states that the new SBS Radio Schedule is now finalised and will launch on-air at the end of April 2013. However, anyone having any questions or comments on the new SBS Radio Schedule is invited to complete the form found at https://www.tfaforms.com/237408 .
The last time SBS carried out such a review was in 1994. According to the broadcaster, Australian society has changed considerably since then and there was a need to better reflect those changes in its programming in order to fulfil its Charter.
Under the new schedule, SBS will expand the total number of languages it offers to listeners from 68 to 74, affirming its place as the most multilingual broadcaster in the world.
Three new Asian languages will be broadcast on SBS in April 2013: Malayalam (principally spoken in the south Indian state of Kerala), Hmong (spoken in China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand) and Pashto (the language of the Pashtun people spoken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and India).
There will also be three new African languages with growing migrant and refugee communities: Dinka (mainly spoken in South Sudan), Swahili (the official language of Tanzania) and Tigrinya (mainly spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia).
The new schedule includes expanded programming for some existing communities with growing numbers of migrants, particularly from China and India.
The new SBS Radio Schedule was developed using language selection criteria supported by the 2011 Census. In response to that data, the Mandarin and Cantonese speaking community will also see their combined broadcasting time increase from 16 to 28 hours per week under the new schedule.
The Hindi program will increase 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 20,000 speakers. 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 in the evening. They will also have a fixed time-slot every day, making it easier for listeners to remember when to tune in.
All languages on the new schedule have to have at least 1,000 speakers.
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.
FECCA welcomes new SBS Radio schedule
The changes have been welcomed by the nation’s largest migrant community group, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA). FECCA chairman, Pino Migliorino, says the schedule will help SBS better reflect multicultural Australia. “I think it’s incumbent on our structures to be responsive to those population changes. So I welcome the review. I
think it’s appropriate that SBS actually determines its own criteria and approach to its programming and its scheduling,” he said.