THE controversial documentary series Go Back To Where You Came From would need to be ”the new benchmark for SBS content” as the multicultural broadcaster strove to prove it remained relevant, the network’s chief Michael Ebeid said yesterday.
Speaking at the Screen Producers Association of Australia conference, the Egyptian-born Mr Ebeid, who has been at the helm since Englishman Shaun Brown’s tenure expired in June, promised to make SBS distinctive by returning the broadcaster to its roots.
”We need to be clear about who we are and what we stand for. Our purpose is simply to inspire all Australians to explore and appreciate our multicultural world, our diverse world, and, importantly, to contribute to an inclusive society,” he said.
Advertisement: Story continues below Leading the charge would be a second series of the documentary in which a group of Australians had their views on immigration challenged by retracing the journeys that brought refugees to this country. The series was SBS’s most successful ever, and the format has since been sold by production company Jigsaw to a number of European countries for localised versions.
Promising to be similarly challenging is the three-part documentary series Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, the Sydney suburb that is home to a large Vietnamese population and, for a period, a burgeoning heroin trade.
It is also where ALP MP John Newman was shot in 1994, in what is sometimes labelled Australia’s first political assassination.
”From a community that was once paralysed by fear, Cabramatta has really become a migrant success story,” said Mr Ebeid.
Spearheading SBS’s pitch for the youth audience is Danger 5, a six-part adventure-comedy series featuring sexy ’60s spies, dinosaurs and Adolf Hitler. The show goes to air on Monday, with an online-only prequel being released on Sunday.
SBS has struggled in recent times as its programming drifted from the multicultural remit.
It has also dropped drama production entirely, claiming its $220 million annual funding simply was not enough.
In spite of that, Mr Ebeid expressed a goal of tripling the level of Australian-made content on SBS.