Australian public broadcaster SBS is leading the way in providing quality news, information and educational content to the breadth of society.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, effective and well-funded public service media (PSM) are critical to providing universal access to accurate information, especially at times of crisis and emergency.

PSM are adapting in varying extensive ways to ensure effective coverage. Some contingency plans include refocussing local radio stations to become community call-in hubs and introducing virtual classrooms in the face of school closures.

Read more: Covid-19 and public media: Adaptation and contingencies

Yet there are concerns in this rapidly evolving crisis that information is not reaching those whose first-language is not that of the national public broadcaster, such as migrant and refugee communities. There is also the added issue of closed borders, with many isolated tourists unable to access locally relevant news in their own language.

Coronavirus information in your language

SBS is one of the few PSM organisations to specialise in offering a broad range of domestically-focussed in-language services. Now, prompted by demand from the country’s diverse communities, SBS Radio has announced a 63-language online portal to provide vital information on COVID-19.

By working with health experts to identify those most in need, the portal will provide vital information, updates and advice regarding the virus’s economic and health impacts as well as government policy.

Read more: Coronavirus: Resources and best practices

Director of Audio and Language Content at SBS, Mandi Wicks, said: “There is so much that people need right now and it is changing all the time. So we need to find a way to keep it simple, to keep it all in one place, so people have a one-stop shop to find the latest information in their language.”

The launch follows a surge in people accessing SBS services in recent weeks. Access to in-language websites is up 26% over the past month, while downloads of the SBS Radio app have increased 32% in the last week alone. According to SBS News, visitors to its Korean service is up 209% compared to its daily average.

While much of the content is aimed at those living in Australia, some is relevant to worldwide audiences and users, such as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Fact Sheet.

Year-on-year, SBS is ranked among the most trusted media outlets in Australia, with the organisation playing a significant role in tackling misinformation under its public mandate. The new portal highlights the necessity for public media to offer multiplatform services to ensure the greatest reach and provide a much needed source of fact-checked and sharable information for diverse communities.

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Header Image: SBS Radio’s multilingual coronavirus portal website. Credit: SBS Radio