Senator Mitch Fifield – Estimates question about SBS broadcast of ‘The Promise’

photo of Senator Mitch Fifield
February 14, 2012

Questioned whether ‘The Promise’ aligns with the SBS Charter and codes of practice.

I did note in your answer to questions from Senator Ryan that you said that it is always the case when there are programs that cover the Jewish community or Israel or Palestine that there is controversy. You were not using that as some sort of justification for failure to examine the nature of a particular program.

Whole interaction with Mr Michael Ebeid (SBS Managing Director) during Senate Estimates (Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Portfolio).

Senator FIFIELD: Mr Ebeid, I would like to follow up on questions about The Promise. Is it part of SBS’s charter to do what it can to enhance community harmony?

 

Mr Ebeid : Absolutely. That is a key part of our charter. It is probably not part of our charter technically but it is certainly part of our purpose that we have in our organisation.

 

Senator FIFIELD: Would it be part of the SBS codes of practice?

 

Mr Meagher : It is not formally part of the codes of practice; I suppose it is expressed in a negative way. In the code it is more about what we will not do, et cetera.

 

Senator FIFIELD: Sure. Maybe this comes close. Section 1.6 says that SBS will not support any particular religion over any other—I am sure you do not do that—nor intentionally provide a medium for one religion to denigrate another. As this is a drama, I guess it could be construed that it was a dramatic depiction of one religion denigrating another. Do you think that The Promise possibly—

 

Mr Ebeid : No, I do not think it is about two religions. I think people who have taken that away from The Promise are actually missing the point of what it is about. That is not what the filmmaker set out to do. This is about the role of Britain during the process, and many people have said that if anyone comes out looking bad it is the British, it is not the Palestinians, it is not the Israelis, it is not the Jews. It is a very complex drama that has emotions flip-flopping during the eight hours and you do change your allegiances throughout the drama. That is why it is a very complex drama.

 

Senator FIFIELD: I did note in your answer to questions from Senator Ryan that you said that it is always the case when there are programs that cover the Jewish community or Israel or Palestine that there is controversy. You were not using that as some sort of justification for failure to examine the nature of a particular program.

 

Mr Ebeid : No, I was not inferring that at all. When our acquisitions team took the final product we went through it in detail. In fact, six different people reviewed it before it got to me. That is why I said in my opening remarks that The Promise was reviewed thoroughly. And I am very confident it was reviewed thoroughly from that perspective. We did take it quite seriously.

Link to full Hansard transcript.

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