SBS Australia’s language services review underway 

13 October 2021
As part of its ongoing commitment to reflect Australia’s increasingly diverse society, public broadcaster SBS has commenced its regular review of its language services, kicking the process off with a six-week public consultation. 
Melbourne, Australia- October 25,2015: Night scene at SBS in Federation Square in Melbourne. Federation Square, designed in 1997, with the distinctive architecture. Credit: Nokuro /

SBS is recognised as “the world’s most linguistically diverse public broadcaster”. With a specific remit to promote diversity, the broadcaster has undertaken innovative approaches to reach diverse communities across its platform in more than 60 languages. 

The 17-month review considers factors such as audience listening habits, demographics and financial parameters, the move to digital platforms, and the Australian Census data to ensure SBS’s language services are reflective of today’s Australia, SBS said. It occurs every five years to coincide with the national census, which began this year on 10 August. 

A key element of the review is the finalisation of the Language Selection Criteria – a set of guidelines that will be applied to the 2021 Australian Census data to ultimately determine which languages are part of SBS’s audio and language offering across radio, SBS On Demand, podcasts, and other digital platforms. The review will also help to inform the way those language services are delivered over the next five years.  

SBS Director of Audio and Language Content, David Hua, said, “Regularly updating our language offering enables SBS to better service the largest communities with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, as well as offering services to emerging and high-needs communities. Giving our audiences a voice in this process is a critical element, and we encourage communities across Australia to share their feedback. 

Currently, Australian audiences, communities, and stakeholders have until 12 November to provide feedback on a draft Language Selection Criteria. According to SBS, feedback from this six-week public consultation will be used in establishing the final selection criteria. Audience feedback on the draft Language Selection Criteria forms an important contribution to the future of SBS Radio services and the network’s broader audio and language offering. 

“Giving our audiences a voice in this process is a critical element, and we encourage communities across Australia to share their feedback.” 

With its history of reaching many diverse communities, SBS has also demonstrated its value during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the public broadcaster launched a multi-lingual coronavirus portal in 63 languages to provide vital information, advice, and updates on COVID-19. Before then, SBS developed a mobile-first website in 68 languages to aid in readability and adaptability to the needs of different languages.  

“SBS has a unique ability to reach and connect with Australia’s diverse communities through its multilingual services, across multiple touchpoints,” Hua said. “For more than 45 years, we’ve been continuing to adapt the way we provide innovative and meaningful services to communities, and today we do so across radio, online, podcasts and apps in more than 60 languages. This review will help shape SBS as we look towards turning 50.”