Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, May 27, 2004
AUNTIE'S ETHNIC COUSIN, SBS, has run into a brick wall.

SBS had lost 1.47 million viewers in the past year. Different commentators place this drop at anywhere between a 9.5 and a 14 per cent fall. The decline is the greatest among the audience that SBS is courting most keenly: young and female viewers. In the equivalent period, the ABC increased its audience by 16 per cent.

Should the multicultural broadcaster try to be a tower of televisual Babel, condemning most of its audience to using subtitles, or should it try to be the Channel 4 that Auntie TV needs to counterbalance its relentless trivialising?

Either way it is hanging by a thread. Only politics can save it.

I take particular exception to this ageist, sexist doctrine, advanced by its boss Shaun Brown:
When I came on board, it was emphasised to me that a public broadcaster couldn't build its future on the back of an over-50 male audience, particularly if that growth was disguising a decline in all the other areas. Much of the strategy that you're seeing unfolding is about trying to arrest the decline in those other areas, while trying not to create any adverse reaction in men over 50.

I can think of no firmer foundation for good programming than men over 50.