On Monday 5 December Executive Committee members from the Maltese Community Councils of Victoria and NSW met at the Maltese Community Centre in Parkville to discuss the draft SBS Radio Review language selection criteria that SBS recently published for public consultation.

The two community organisations agreed to work together on a joint submission to SBS in the interest of all Maltese living in Australia.

At the meeting, both Councils expressed their determination to make strong representations to SBS and address the significant imbalance among communities in terms of radio broadcasting hours that was implemented with the current set of criteria following the 2012 review. The Councils’ aim is to bring about a just, and much fairer, distribution of SBS radio broadcasting hours for those communities which were hard done by in the 2012 review, particularly the Maltese community.

In November 2012, without any prior consultation with Maltese community leaders, SBS published the new radio schedule, in which the Maltese programs fared the worst among all then existing broadcast languages with a savage cut of 7 one-hour programs, down from 9 hours to 2 hours per week.

In April 2013, after three-and-a-half months of persistent canvassing and negotiations led by Maltese community leaders in Melbourne and Sydney as well as Malta’s High Commissioner in Canberra and the Consul-General in Melbourne, SBS announced that two one-hour Maltese radio programs would be broadcast commencing on 29 April 2013 in addition to the two which were originally included under the new schedule, giving a total of 4 one-hour programs per week.

SBS also advised the Maltese community leaders that the additional two hours will be funded from within the existing SBS Radio budget. SBS indicated that funding of the additional two hours on SBS 3 digital was to be guaranteed only for two years (until the end of the 2014/15 financial year) and the funding situation was to be reviewed at the end of the two years.

In July 2015 SBS informed the Maltese Community Councils of Victoria and NSW of its decision to discontinue the two hours of Maltese radio programs that were added in April 2013. This was followed by strong protests made by both Maltese Community Councils to SBS, a petition they submitted to the SBS Board supported by over 3,000 signatures, and a meeting held between Maltese community leaders and SBS management representatives on 22 July 2015. SBS gave its funding situation as the reason for the cuts and explained that its funding no longer permitted the provision of these additional services.

The current period of public consultation ends on Sunday 11 December.