SBS Radio enters its fifth decade

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

SBS Radio is 40 years old and federal politicians and supporters have united to wish it well for the future, and celebrate its past and its achievements.


They have paid tribute to the contribution the broadcaster has made to multiculturalism and underscored the importance of radio’s unifying effect in a time of geo-political uncertainty.

Amanda Cavill reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

It was a humble little broadcaster in 1975 when then immigration minister Al Grassby launched Radio Ethnic Australia with the aim of explaining the new Medibank scheme to migrant groups in different languages.

Now SBS Radio has expanded significantly, broadcasting in 74 languages including English, in digital and analogue radio and online.

The first language broadcast was Greek and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says it has been, and remains, a focus for the Greek community.

But Senator Xenophon says SBS radio is much more than just that.

“It’s a great station. It’s very good for Australia. It brings people together. Don’t underestimate it’s impact. I know my parents who have been here for over 50 years – 60 years rather, close to 60 years – still listen to it. And it just makes a big impact. And I think the second generation, people like me like listening to the Greek language program because it keeps that link to our culture and our heritage.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey too has praised the role of the broadcaster.

Mr Hockey says 40 years on air is quite an achievement and SBS Radio plays a special role in the Australian community.

“SBS reaches out to the community in way that few do. It is able to open the door to communities particularly those that have no strong English language skills and it helps them become a part of Australia and part of the Australian community. Now in my own community’s case I know there are a lot of Armenians that came to Australia and SBS Armenian radio has reached out to people in a way that no other media outlet does.

Former communications minister in the Rudd government Stephen Conroy says SBS has helped Australia become the great multicultural nation it is today.

Senator Conroy says communities rely on the efforts of the radio broadcasters to keep in touch and keep informed.

“I think it’s been an essential fabric. I think that the newer communities to Australia have been incredibly grateful for the service that’s been provided. I think their radio stations are passionately listened to, passionately followed and woe betide anybody that tries to take one away. Because the local communities will fight and kick and scream. It’s provided a lifeline at times for people to be able to get information, to be able to listen, to understand, to keep in touch. I think the radio stations have been a fabulous, fabulous jewel in the crown of multiculturalism in Australia.”

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson says SBS Radio is continuing the fine tradition it began in 1975.

He says it unites communities and the nation and inspires people to become their best.

“You’ve got to be optimistic. We’ve got a diverse community. SBS reaches out to those communities. You know what I love about that diversity and SBS? Enterprising people. men and women come from all cultures and all parts of the world. That shared ambition of running your own business, providing a better livelihood for your families. That’s the uniting value that runs right across our community and SBS can capture that and communicate that. Happy birthday SBS.”

Veteran broadcaster Quentin Dempster says SBS Radio’s role is perhaps more important today than it has ever been.

He says the multicultural broadcaster, in concert with migrant communities, is crucial in helping counter radicalisation and encouraging social inclusion.

Mr Dempster says SBS Radio brings a tangible benefit to a robust democracy which has engaged people of all ages.

“That’s what’s so important particularly at a time now of geopolitical tension which is sometimes visited back to Australia, particularly of terrorism, jihadi recruitment, all the things that we are concerned about in Australia, to have people who have come to Australia, here programming in the languages from the countries from where they came is so important to a sense of inclusion and it is a counter to isolation and it’s a counter to terrorism.”

And each and every one of its well wishers hopes SBS Radio continues long, long into the future.

“And happy birthday to SBS Radio for 40 fabulous years. This is great news for SBS Radio. A spritely 40. Happy Birthday to SBS Radio. It’s one of the things that makes me extraordinarily proud to be an Australian and may it continue for 40 more years and well beyond that. Happy 40th birthday SBS Radio. You only look 21!”